Country Briefing
  Liberia  
     
  Overview

“Liberia was established as an independent state by freed slaves from America in 1847. For more than 130 years from its founding, politics were dominated by the small minority of the population descended from these original settlers, known as the Americo-Liberians. During that era, Liberia was renowned for its stability, its functioning economy and the large amount of foreign investment it attracted largely in the rubber plantations and the iron ore mines. A strong Masonic network linked the Americo-Liberian elite. But the indigenous Africans were largely excluded from political power. That changed quite suddenly.

“In 1980 Master Sergeant Samuel Doe, a member of the indigenous Krahn ethnic group, seized power in a violent military coup. Key members of the Americo-Liberian elite, including the President and his Cabinet were summarily executed in public on the beach. Over the next 25 years, the state of Liberia, its institutions and its economy collapsed. The USA, a traditional strong ally of Liberia, withdrew its support. Doe mismanaged the economy and transformed the armed forces into an ethnic Krahn militia which committed extensive human rights abuse [sic] against Liberia’s other ethnic groups.”

“On December 24, 1989, a small band of rebels led by Doe’s former procurement chief, Charles Taylor, invaded Liberia from the Ivory Coast. Taylor and his National Patriotic Front rebels rapidly gained the support of Liberians because of the repressive nature of Samuel Doe and his government. Barely 6 months after the rebels first attacked, they had reached the outskirts of Monrovia.”

“The 1989 - 1996 Liberian civil war, which was one of Africa’s bloodiest, claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Liberians and further displaced a million others into refugee camps in neighboring countries. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) intervened and succeeded in preventing Charles Taylor from capturing Monrovia. Prince Johnson--who had been a member of Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) but broke away because of policy differences--formed the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL). Johnson’s forces captured and killed Doe on September 9, 1990.”

“In 1996, ECOWAS made a final and successful effort to get the factions to reach a peace agreement. Known as the Abuja Accord, it provided for democratic elections. These were held in July 1997. Taylor won, due to his control of large parts of the country and the perception that his election was the ‘price of peace’. However, the elections bought only temporary respite. Taylor’s government set about plundering the state of its assets and stifling opposition activity.

In 1999 fighting began again as anti-Taylor rebel groups emerged or re-formed. Fighting escalated and by July 2003 Taylor had lost control of most of the country, including much of Monrovia. Peace talks in Accra in August [2003] led to the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in September [2003]. A new ECOWAS peacekeeping force was deployed, which has since been replaced by the 15,000 strong UN force (UNMIL). Taylor was forced into exile in Nigeria. He has been indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for his role in the conflict in Sierra Leone but remains in Nigeria.”

“Two years after former Liberian President Charles Taylor fled Liberia for exile in Nigeria, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo should no longer allow Taylor to escape prosecution for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during Sierra Leone’s civil war, the Campaign Against Impunity said today. Nigeria should immediately surrender Taylor to face trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.”

“Newly inaugurated President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has announced the first ministers to join her 22-member peacetime government.

“The key positions of Finance and Defence were among the first nine released by statement from the president’s office, late on Monday [16 January 2006], and both were non-partisan appointments based on professional criteria.

“Finance went to Sirleaf’s former World Bank colleague Antoinette Sayeh while the Defence portfolio was handed to one-time chief of police turned UN-worker Brownie Samukai.

“Tackling corruption was singled out as a peacetime priority by Sirleaf at her inauguration on Monday [16 January 2006]. And the 67-year-old grandmother also promised neighbouring states that she would allow ‘no inch of Liberia’ to be used to foment conflict as had been the case during the country’s 14-year civil war, that ended in 2003.

“So far, the appointments have been well received in the war-blackened capital Monrovia, where citizens gave Sirleaf’s preference for technocrats the thumbs up.

 

 



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Capital: Monrovia
Area: 111,370 sq km
Population: 3,452,000

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