Liberia – The Republic of Liberia is a state in West Africa

Liberia

Anthem of Liberia.

Liberia is the oldest independent state in West Africa, formed in 1847 by black immigrants from the United States. The territory of Liberia stretches for 500 km along the Atlantic coast and occupies 111,369 km². The official language is English. The administrative-territorial division is divided into 13 counties.

The coastal lowland plain, a few tens of kilometers wide, is poorly dissected, marshy in places. Rivers are numerous, but they are short, porous. Even the largest of them: Mano, Loffa, St. Paul, St. John, Cess, and Cavalli, are unsuitable for navigation. As the distance from the coast, the plain becomes more hilly and turns into the Leono-Liberian highlands with isolated mountains, the highest of which is Mount Nimba (1752 m) . On the slopes of this mountain is Liberia’s only nature reserve, created to protect rare local flora.

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Video: Liberia

General Information

Despite the tense situation in the country, Liberia’s coastline is very popular with surfers

The country’s population (about 4.5 million people) is ethnically diverse, with more than 20 nationalities. In the north live the peoples of the linguistic subgroup of the Mande: Kpelle, Loma, Mano, etc., in the south – the peoples of the Guinean subgroup (Kru, Grebo, Malinke, Krahn, Guere). The descendants of Liberia’s founders, immigrants from the United States, now make up less than 1%. The majority of the population adheres to traditional local beliefs and traditional way of life. Main occupations – agriculture, cultivation and harvesting of rubber, precious woods, fishing. There is also industry, mainly mining (iron ores) . Low taxes and an open-door economic policy have resulted in the largest merchant fleet in the world flying the Liberian flag (owned, of course, by shipowners from other countries).

The largest city and capital of Liberia is Monrovia (about 1 million people), founded in 1822. Another major city is Buchanan, a major port and center of rubber plantations.

The capital of Liberia is Monrovia

Since 1821 settlements of freed blacks – natives of the United States, who united in 1839 and founded the state of Liberia – began to appear on the territory of Liberia. (1847) . American-Liberians dominated the government and economy of Liberia until 1980, when the country was overthrown by a coup d’état and other ethnic political factions came to power. Liberia’s transition to civilian rule ended in 1986. In 1989 the National Patriotic Front began an armed struggle against government troops. With the help of the Inter-African Peacekeeping Force, a transitional government was established in Liberia in 1990, but the struggle between the warring factions continued. In 1993 a cease-fire, a three-party transitional government and free elections were signed between them.

Climate, flora and fauna

Liberia’s climate is subequatorial, hot and humid: average monthly temperatures do not drop below 23 ° C, rainfall is mainly in summer (up to 5000 mm on the coast and 1500-2000 mm inland).

About a third of the country is covered by dense evergreen humid tropical forests, which, among others, contain red and rosewood trees, guava, wine and oil palms. Closer to the Guinea border, the forests turn into tall grass savanna with groves of umbrella acacias and baobabs. On the coast, mangrove forests grow.

Liberian forests are inhabited by a variety of insects (from termites to the tsetse fly), snakes and monkeys. On the savannah there are buffalo, antelope, boars and leopards. The coastal waters are rich of fish.

History

The history of Liberia as a political unit begins with the arrival of the first black American settlers – the Americo-Liberians, as they called themselves, in Africa – on the coast of which they founded a colony of “free men of color” (free men of color) under the auspices of the American Colonization Society in 1822. Under the agreement with the leaders of the local tribes, the settlers bought more than 13 thousand square kilometers of territory for goods valued at 50 American dollars.

In 1824 this colony was named Liberia; its constitution was adopted. By 1828 settlers captured the entire coast of modern-day Liberia (a length of about 500 kilometers), and then also occupied parts of the coast of modern-day Sierra Leone and Cotdivoire.

On July 26, 1847, American settlers proclaimed the independence of the Republic of Liberia. The settlers perceived the continent from which their ancestors had been taken as slaves as the “promised land,” but they did not seek to join the African community. When they arrived in Africa, they called themselves Americans, and both the natives and the British colonial authorities of neighboring Sierra Leone considered themselves Americans. The symbols of their state (flag, motto and seal) as well as the chosen form of government reflected the American past of the Americo-Liberians.

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The religion, customs, and sociocultural standards of the Americo-Liberians were based on the traditions of the pre-war American South. Mutual mistrust and animosity between “Americans” from the coast and “natives” from the hinterland gave rise throughout the country’s history to attempts (quite successful) by the Americano-Liberian minority to dominate local blacks, whom they considered barbarians and people of inferior quality.

The founding of Liberia was sponsored by private American groups, mainly the American Colonization Society, but the country received informal support from the U.S. government. Liberia’s government was modeled on that of the United States, and was democratic in structure but not always in substance. After 1877, the True Whig Party monopolized power in the country, and all important positions were held by members of that party.

Three problems faced Liberian authorities – territorial conflicts with neighboring colonial powers, Britain and France, hostilities between settlers and locals, and the threat of financial insolvency – challenged the country’s sovereignty. Liberia retained its independence during the colonial division of Africa, but lost much of the territory it had previously seized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to annexation by Britain and France. In 1911 the borders of Liberia with the British and French colonies were officially established along the Mano and Cavalli rivers. Economic development in the late 19th century was constrained by a lack of markets for Liberian goods and the debt obligations under a variety of loans, the repayment of which drained the economy.

Beach in Liberia A woman walks from the marketplace

At the outbreak of World War I, Liberia declared its neutrality, hoping to maintain trade relations with Germany, which by 1914 accounted for more than half of Liberia’s foreign trade. However, the naval blockade imposed by the Entente deprived Liberia of its most important trading partner. The importation of manufactured goods almost ceased completely, and serious difficulties with food supplies arose.

In 1926, U.S. corporations gave Liberia a large loan of $5 million.

A Street in Monrovia

In the 1930s, Liberia was accused of complicity in the slave trade, and as such was seen as allowing the recruitment of labor in Liberia for plantations in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon; the workers recruited were mistreated and practically treated as slaves. The then president, Charles King, was forced to resign, and Britain even raised the issue of trusteeship over Liberia. A League of Nations commission confirmed the main points of the charges.

After the outbreak of World War II, Liberia again declared neutrality, but its territory was used to move American troops into North Africa. In 1944 Liberia officially declared war on Germany.

After World War II, the U.S. extended loans to Liberia, and soon Liberia became a major exporter of rubber and iron ore. In 1971, President Tubman, who had served five terms in the post, died and his place was taken by his predecessor, William Tolbert, who had been Vice-President for 19 years. Continuing the domestic policies of his predecessor, Tolbert maintained close ties with the United States, but at the same time sought to increase Liberia’s role in African affairs by opposing apartheid and improving relations with socialist countries. His economic reforms had some positive effects, but corruption and mismanagement negated them. In the 1970s, political opposition to Tolbert emerged, and the worsening economic situation led to increased social tensions. Prices were rising and this led to numerous “rice riots,” the largest being in April 1979, at which time Tolbert ordered fire on a rioting crowd, resulting in riots and a general strike.

Children playing soccer

On April 12, 1980, a coup took place in Liberia. Tolbert was assassinated, his comrades-in-arms executed, and Sergeant Samuel Doe of the Krahn tribe led the country and promoted himself to the rank of general. While at first the change of power was welcomed by the citizens, Doe’s continued efforts to consolidate his power and the continuing economic downturn led to a decline in his popularity and a series of unsuccessful military coups. In 1985, Liberia returned to civilian rule, and Doe won the election, having previously added a year to meet the declared minimum presidential age of 35 and having conducted extensive fraud; according to independent polls, the opposition candidate won with about 80% of the vote.

In 1989 a civil war broke out in the country. The forces of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, headed by Charles Taylor, crossed the border from Côte d’Ivoire and in one and a half years of fighting seized 90% of the country. An anarchist group led by Yedu Johnson broke away from it and fought against both government troops and Taylor. The Economic Community of West African Countries sent a contingent of 3,000 men to Liberia. Johnson, under the pretext of negotiations, invited Doe to the UN mission; on the way, the dictator is kidnapped and then brutally murdered – his arms are broken, his legs amputated, castrated, his ear cut off and forced to eat him, then murdered.

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In the early ’90s there was a large-scale conflict in the country, involving several factions divided along ethnic lines. The conflict involved neighboring states that supported different groups for different reasons, including Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire in the first phase of the war, and Togo and Libya from states far away from the theater of war. As a consequence, these countries’ opponents supported Taylor’s opponents. For neighboring Sierra Leone, this resulted in the outbreak of a civil war on its territory, to which Taylor made a considerable effort, de facto becoming the founding father of the United Revolutionary Front. The hostilities were fought with great cruelty, and torture was used on a massive scale. By the most conservative estimate, the war resulted in the flight of more than half a million refugees to neighboring countries. The outcome of the first round was the signing of a peace agreement and the 1997 presidential election, which Taylor won. The world community chose to ignore the election fraud and the massive violence against the opposition.

After the election, Taylor’s opponents organized a small-scale insurgency war, with several incursions into Liberia from neighboring countries. In 2002, with the active assistance and support of Guinean President Lansana Conte, the major opposition movement LURD was formed, which after a year and a half of military campaign managed to depose Taylor and expel him from the country.

In the 2005 presidential elections, George Vea, a well-known soccer player, was considered the favorite, winning the first round by a narrow margin, but Harvard graduate and former employee of the World Bank and many other international financial institutions, Hélène Johnson Sirleaf, won the second round.

On August 6, 2014, a state of emergency was declared in Liberia because of Ebola. As of September 16, 2,407 people had contracted the virus and 1,296 had died.

Economy

The main sectors of Liberia’s economy are the cultivation of food crops, mainly rice and cassava, by indigenous Liberian smallholders, as well as iron ore mining and natural rubber production for export by foreign companies. Foreign-owned companies control almost all foreign trade, most of the wholesale trade, and, together with Lebanese entrepreneurs, much of the retail trade. Foreigners own the banking system and construction, the railroads and some of the highways. The country has to import almost all manufactured goods, fuel, and much food.

Five Liberian Dollars.

Prior to the civil war in 1989, Liberia’s per capita national income was estimated at $500. UN experts estimate that in 1995 that figure rose to $1,124.

Liberia has a wide range of types of agricultural production, from rice cultivation on rain-fed land in indigenous Liberian consumer farms (3/4 of the population works) to export crops in foreign-owned plantations where hired laborers are employed. The advantages of wage labor led to the exodus of peasants from the subsistence sector to plantations, leading to a significant reduction in rice production, the shortage of which necessitated a sharp increase in rice imports. Rice cultivation on irrigated land did not produce the desired results. Cultivated throughout Liberia, cassava plays an important role in the diet of the southern coastal population. Cereals, fruits and vegetables are grown for domestic consumption. The oil palm produces a thick orange-colored oil used for cooking. Livestock is very poorly developed because of the abundance of tsetse flies and limited pasture.

Monrovia from the air.

The mainstay of export agriculture is rubber production. In the mid-1980s its production averaged 75,000 tons per year. Rubber production for export was established thanks to a 1926 agreement in which the Liberian government granted the U.S. company Firestone a concession for 99 years. Until the end of World War II, the company brought the largest revenues to the country. In the 1980s, the Firestone and B.F. Goodrich plantations were sold to Japanese and British companies, respectively. Until now almost all of Liberia’s rubber production is concentrated there.

Oil palm, coffee tree, chocolate tree, and piassava also produce exports. Timber of valuable tropical species is of great export importance.

Liberia

Green mamba, Liberia

Green Mamba, Liberia. Photo by Conrads Bilderwerkstatt.

The Republic of Liberia is a state located in the western part of the African continent. The history of this country, which derives its name from the word liberty (freedom), is radically different from the history of neighboring states: Liberia has no colonial past, and its founders are freed slaves who moved from the United States and whose ancestors were forcibly removed from Africa by slave traders.

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The Republic of “Free Colored People”

Long-nosed cusimansa, Liberia

Long-necked cousimansa, Liberia. The author of the photo is Karol.

By the twelfth century, the territory of modern Liberia was inhabited by Negro tribes. This region of plains and low mountains, washed by the waters of the Atlantic, was not conquered by European colonizers, but in the XV-XVII centuries there were commercial settlements, founded by natives of Portugal, Britain and Holland.

The history of Liberia goes back to 1822, when the American Colonization Society, which sought to purge the United States of emancipated slaves, began to settle descendants of natives of Africa in the homeland of their ancestors. To house the black settlers, the Americans purchased a 13,000-square-kilometer tract of land from the local tribes in exchange for $50 worth of goods.

In 1824, the colony of former slaves, who called themselves “free people of color”, was named Liberia, and 23 years later was proclaimed an independent state. The form of government and state symbols of Liberia were copied almost entirely from the United States.

Although black immigrants called Africa their homeland, they did not seek to adopt the local customs and way of life, but proudly called themselves Americo-Liberians. The immigrants from the United States spoke English and practiced Christianity, but considered the natives savages and treated them as inferior.

From Slave to Slave Owner

Ancystrochilus rothschild orchid, Liberia

Rothschild’s Ancystrochilus orchid, Liberia. The author of the photo is John Varigos.

The freed slaves, returning to Africa, began enslaving indigenous tribes and trading people. Unlike the European colonizers, who sought to “civilize” the local population, the Americo-Liberians paid no attention to the issue. As a result, the indigenous tribes of Liberia remained underdeveloped even by the standards of other West African states.

Slavery in the country flourished until the end of the last century. In the 1930s, Liberia supplied labor to the plantations of Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, where people were brutally treated and deprived of all rights. Liberia’s accusations of slave trafficking, which were confirmed by a League of Nations commission, provoked a wide response, and Britain demanded that the international organization place the African republic under guardianship.

Human trafficking, which is internal to Liberia, has not been eradicated to this day. Despite the fact that Liberian law provides for severe penalties for this crime, perpetrators are hardly ever prosecuted.

Women and children are the most frequent victims of human traffickers. In Liberia, where African traditional beliefs are strong, ritual murder is common. As a rule, children who have not yet reached the age of ten are sacrificed. The sellers of the children are often their relatives, who are not deterred by the fact that the child may be condemned to death when sold. It is possible to buy a child for ritual murder in Liberia for 100-150 American dollars. A sick and weak child is even cheaper – many parents are willing to part with their son or daughter for only 50 dollars.

Not a second America

Monrovia, Liberia

Monrovia, Liberia. Photo by Bryant Freehart.

Despite the fact that Liberia copied the constitution and the structure of government from the United States, which implies the presence of democratic institutions, the Americo-Liberians did not succeed in building a developed legal state, and at the end of the 19th century the power in the country was monopolized by one of the political parties. The situation was complicated by territorial conflicts with neighboring states, constant military clashes of immigrants from the United States with local inhabitants, as well as the instability of the economy, which was exhausted by the need to repay multimillion loans and the absence of markets for Liberian products.

In the early twentieth century, Germany accounted for more than half of Liberia’s foreign trade. Hoping to retain a trading partner, the republic’s government declared neutrality in World War I, after which the Entente countries blocked maritime routes from Liberia to Germany. This led to a halt in Liberian exports, disruption of food supplies, and starvation.

Liberia also tried to maintain its neutral status during World War II. However, as the United States used Liberian territory to move its troops into North Africa, the country was forced to join the anti-Hitler coalition and declared war on Germany in 1944.

After the end of the war, the U.S. granted large loans to Liberia, which contributed to the development of the country. The Republic became one of the leading exporters of iron ore and rubber. In the 1970s the government attempted economic reforms, which failed due to ineffective management system and rampant corruption. As the economic situation deteriorated and food prices rose, popular discontent grew. In 1979, the violent suppression of one of the many riots provoked massive unrest in the country and led to a general strike.

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Drunken putsch.

Surfing, beach, Liberia

Surfing, beach, Liberia. Photo by bestlib1.

In 1980, there was a military coup in the republic, which went down in history as a “drunken putsch. A group of servicemen drinking alcohol in a local bar decided to stage a coup d’etat. Led by Sergeant Samuel Doe, the men, drunk with alcohol, went to storm the presidential palace. The effect of surprise and the inability of the head of state’s guards to fight back allowed the attackers to capture the president and his family. The putschists killed all the members of the presidential family, and the head of state was quartered. The entire government of Liberia was also shot – the execution of ministers took place on a beach in the capital.

Sergeant Samuel Doe, who came to power as a result of the “drunken coup,” was the first member of the indigenous people who had long endured the oppression of the Americano-Liberians. The population welcomed the new president, but the euphoria was short-lived as Doe quickly turned from an ardent advocate of democracy into a bloody dictator.

Under President Doe, Liberia’s economy wreaked havoc, turning even affluent Liberians into paupers. To maintain his reputation, Doe gave “showdowns” by periodically accusing high-ranking officials of embezzlement. One of the defendants was former Minister of Infrastructure Charles Taylor, who managed to escape to the United States. In 1989, the former minister showed up in one of Gaddafi’s military camps in Libya, where he began to form paramilitary units of the so-called National Patriotic Front of Liberia. In December of that year, Taylor and his supporters crossed into Liberia from Côte d’Ivoire and headed towards the capital.

Taylor’s offensive led President Doe, anxious to retain power at any cost, to seek allies. Seeking support, the head of state agreed in September 1990 to meet with the former field commander of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, Prince Johnson. The meeting was scheduled on neutral ground at a UN mission.

However, the meeting turned out to be a trap – the head of state was wounded and taken to an unknown destination. The kidnappers subjected Doe to brutal torture: the president was beaten for a long time, breaking both arms, then cut off his ear and forced to eat it, then castrated and killed. The executioners filmed the entire process on video, which was made publicly available.

The assassination of the president led to a confrontation between several paramilitary groups who began their struggle for power with extreme cruelty. The massacre, which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and forced 1.5 million people to flee the country, lasted seven years.

President Cannibal

Greenville, Liberia

Greenville, Liberia. Photo by Brittany Danish.

A peace agreement between the warring parties was signed in 1997. At the same time Liberia held a presidential election with mass falsifications and fraud. As a result, former minister Charles Taylor came to power in the country, who at the time was considered one of the most influential warlords in West Africa.

Taylor took over Liberia in 1997. During his rule, Taylor supported and armed rebels in the neighboring state of Sierra Leone, where civil war was raging. This led to the UN Security Council imposing sanctions on Liberia and pressing charges against Taylor.

Because of the civil conflict that broke out in Liberia, Taylor was forced to resign from the presidency in 2003 and leave the country. Soon after, the former president was detained and sent to the dock. An international tribunal sentenced Taylor to 50 years in prison.

In addition to war crimes charges, the former president of Liberia was charged with cannibalism. As investigators found out, Taylor forced subordinates to eat human meat under the threat of the death penalty. Captured enemies were beheaded, the bodies were dismembered and then cooked in cauldrons with salt and spices. In all, according to the prosecution, 68 people were eaten, most of whom were members of the Krahn nation to which Taylor’s predecessor, President Samuel Doe, belonged. Also among those eaten were several UN peacekeepers.

From soccer to big politics

In the 2017 presidential elections, the renowned former footballer George Vea, who played for Milan, PSG, Olympique de Marseille, Manchester City, Monaco and Chelsea, was elected leader of Liberia. In 1995, the athlete was awarded the most prestigious soccer award “Golden Ball”. Vea is known for the fact that twice changed his religion – in 1989, the footballer converted from Christianity to Islam, and 10 years later he became a Protestant again.

During his election campaign, Vea promised to help the poor and get rid of corruption. However, critics accuse the head of state of total inaction. Runaway inflation that is impoverishing people, numerous scandals, lack of investment in the economy, unfulfilled pre-election promises and questionable spending of budgetary funds, and the refusal to publicly declare his income are causing discontent among the population. In addition, the president restricted the rights of the press – taking advantage of the quarantine because of the spread of COVID-19, Vea forbade private media to make more than 3 inquiries to the authorities. Because of this a number of NGOs accused the ex-football player of dictatorship and violation of freedom of speech. It becomes obvious that the former sports star is not doing a good job as the president of the country: Vea often forgets key facts, gets confused during interviews and falls asleep during important meetings and events.

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The poorest country in the world.

Nimba, Liberia

Nimba, Liberia.

Civil wars have severely damaged the economy of the country, which is now considered one of the poorest nations in the world, with a per capita GDP of $900. More than 63% of Liberians live below the poverty line, the unemployment rate exceeds 85%.

Meanwhile, the nature has generously endowed Liberia with large deposits of iron ore, gold, diamonds and other minerals. Liberia also has hydropower, agricultural and forest resources.

Seventy percent of the working population is employed in agriculture, while the industrial sector employs only 8%.

Liberia’s economy is import-oriented, with more than 3 times the exports. Liberia exports iron ore, rubber, timber, cocoa, coffee and diamonds.

One of Liberia’s largest revenue streams is duties levied on shipowners for the use of the Liberian flag by foreign merchant ships. The Liberian flag is currently the second most common flag of the merchant fleet in the world.

Aborigines and descendants of slaves

Ministry of Agriculture banner, Liberia

Liberia. The author of the photo is Der Berzerker.

Liberia is home to 4.8 million people. English is the official language in the country, but only a fifth of the population speaks it. The rest of the country’s residents speak tribal languages, most of which are unwritten.

Liberians live in Liberia:

  • Aboriginal blacks, 95 percent of the population;
  • descendants of black slaves from the United States, 2.5% of the population;
  • descendants of black slaves from the Caribbean, 2.5% of the population.

Life expectancy in the country is 63.3 years, but the birth rate in Liberia is one of the highest in the world.

About 1% of the population is infected with HIV. And only 30 percent of adults and 18 percent of children with AIDS have access to drugs that help keep them healthy. The country also has one of the highest infant mortality rates of 70 per 1,000 children.

Liberia has very frequent outbreaks of various diseases, including Ebola. There is also a high risk of malaria.

The level of medicine in the country is unsatisfactory – most of the population does not have access to quality medical care. In the case of serious illnesses, patients must be evacuated, since effective treatment is only possible in other countries. Many humanitarian organizations, including Médecins Sans Frontières, are trying to improve the health care situation.

One of the most pressing problems in Liberia is unsanitary conditions. Most people in the country do not have access to toilets, so they are forced to urinate in the street. Abundant rainfall and lack of storm drains cause poor areas of Monrovia to have standing water with excrement and garbage floating in it. This situation leads to an increase in infectious diseases among the population.

Because of the high crime rate in Liberia, it is necessary to move around the streets at night by car. For safety reasons, it is not recommended that members of the white race enter some areas of the capital unprotected.

Religion and Sacrifice

Liberia

Liberia. The author of the photo is Der Berzerker.

40% of Liberians are Christians, 20% are Muslims. The remaining 40% are followers of aboriginal cults, which involve human sacrifice to the gods to achieve commercial or life luck. Ritual murders are most common in villages and the interior of the country where there is no Christian population.

The country criminalizes sacrifice, but age-old traditions are stronger than the fear of punishment. The catalyst for this situation is the attitude to ritual sacrifice on the part of law enforcement agencies, which often turn a blind eye to such cases, resulting in most religiously motivated crimes going unsolved.

Not only uneducated peasants, but also members of the ruling elite resort to the practice of sacrifice. For example, in 1989 the Minister of the Interior of Liberia was convicted of ritual murder.

Kistehoe Pig, Liberia

Kistehoe Pig, Liberia. The author of the photo is Martin Wetherweird.

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