Facts about Liberia

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LiberiaSettlement of freed slaves from the US in what is today Liberia began in 1822; by 1847, the Americo-Liberians were able to establish a republic. William TUBMAN, president from 1944-71, did much to promote foreign investment and to bridge the economic, social, and political gaps between the descendents of the original settlers and the inhabitants of the interior. In 1980, a military coup led by Samuel DOE ushered in a decade of authoritarian rule. In December 1989, Charles TAYLOR launched a rebellion against DOE's regime that led to a prolonged civil war in which DOE himself was killed. A period of relative peace in 1997 allowed for elections that brought TAYLOR to power, but major fighting resumed in 2000. An August 2003 peace agreement ended the war and prompted the resignation of former president Charles TAYLOR, who faces war crimes charges in The Hague related to his involvement in Sierra Leone's civil war. After two years of rule by a transitional government, democratic elections in late 2005 brought President Ellen JOHNSON SIRLEAF to power. The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) maintains a strong presence throughout the country, but the security situation is still fragile and the process of rebuilding the social and economic structure of this war-torn country will take many years.

Geography of Liberia

Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Cote d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone
6 30 N, 9 30 W
total: 111,370 sq km
water: 15,050 sq km
land: 96,320 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly larger than Tennessee
Land boundaries:
total: 1,585 km
border countries: Guinea 563 km, Cote d'Ivoire 716 km, Sierra Leone 306 km
579 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 200 NM
tropical; hot, humid; dry winters with hot days and cool to cold nights; wet, cloudy summers with frequent heavy showers
mostly flat to rolling coastal plains rising to rolling plateau and low mountains in northeast
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Wuteve 1,380 m
Natural resources:
iron ore, timber, diamonds, gold, hydropower
Natural hazards:
dust-laden harmattan winds blow from the Sahara (December to March)
Environment current issues:
tropical rain forest deforestation; soil erosion; loss of biodiversity; pollution of coastal waters from oil residue and raw sewage
Geography - note:
facing the Atlantic Ocean, the coastline is characterized by lagoons, mangrove swamps, and river-deposited sandbars; the inland grassy plateau supports limited agriculture

Population of Liberia

3,334,587 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 43.1% (male 656,016/female 653,734)
15-64 years: 54.2% (male 816,443/female 832,152)
65 years and over: 2.8% (male 40,591/female 43,068)
Median age:
18.1 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
155.76 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 39.65 years
male: 37.99 years
female: 41.35 years
Fertility rate:
6.02 children born/woman
noun: Liberian(s)
adjective: Liberian
Ethnic groups:
indigenous African tribes 95% (including Kpelle, Bassa, Gio, Kru, Grebo, Mano, Krahn, Gola, Gbandi, Loma, Kissi, Vai, Dei, Bella, Mandingo, and Mende), Americo-Liberians 2.5% (descendants of immigrants from the US who had been slaves), Congo People 2.5% (descendants of immigrants from the Caribbean who had been slaves)
indigenous beliefs 40%, Christian 40%, Muslim 20%
English 20% (official), some 20 ethnic group languages, of which a few can be written and are used in correspondence
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 57.5%
male: 73.3%
female: 41.6%


Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Liberia
Government type:
Administrative divisions:
15 counties; Bomi, Bong, Gbarpolu, Grand Bassa, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, Lofa, Margibi, Maryland, Montserrado, Nimba, River Cess, River Gee, Sinoe
26 July 1847
National holiday:
Independence Day, 26 July (1847)
6 January 1986
Legal system:
dual system of statutory law based on Anglo-American common law for the modern sector and customary law based on unwritten tribal practices for indigenous sector
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Ellen JOHNSON SIRLEAF (since 16 January 2006); note - the President is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Ellen JOHNSON SIRLEAF (since 16 January 2006)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate
elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held 8 November 2005 (next to be held in 2011).
Legislative branch:
bicameral National Assembly consists of the Senate (30 seats - number of seats changed in 11 October 2005 elections; members elected by popular vote to serve nine-year terms) and the House of Representatives (64 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve six-year terms)
note: the current six-year term for junior senators - those who received the second most votes in the election - is mandated by the Liberian constitution to stagger Senate elections and ensure continuity of government
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court
Political parties and leaders:
Alliance for Peace and Democracy or APD [Togba-na TIPOTEH]; Coalition for the Transformation of Liberia or COTOL; Congress for Democratic Change or CDC [George WEAH]; Liberian Action Party or LAP [H. Varney SHERMAN]; Liberty Party or LP [Charles BRUMSKINE]; National Patriotic Party or NPP [Cyril ALLEN]; Unity Party or UP [Charles CLARKE]


Civil war and government mismanagement destroyed much of Liberia's economy, especially the infrastructure in and around the capital, Monrovia. Many businesses fled the country, taking capital and expertise with them, but with the conclusion of fighting and the installation of a democratically-elected government in 2006, some have returned. Richly endowed with water, mineral resources, forests, and a climate favorable to agriculture, Liberia had been a producer and exporter of basic products - primarily raw timber and rubber. Local manufacturing, mainly foreign owned, had been small in scope. President JOHNSON SIRLEAF, a Harvard-trained banker and administrator, has taken steps to reduce corruption, build support from international donors, and encourage private investment. Embargos on timber and diamond exports have been lifted, opening new sources of revenue for the government. The reconstruction of infrastructure and the raising of incomes in this ravaged economy will largely depend on generous financial and technical assistance from donor countries and foreign investment in key sectors, such as infrastructure and power generation.

$1.525 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 76.9%
industry: 5.4%
services: 17.7% 
Inflation rate:
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 70%, industry 8%, services 22% 
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
other: 0% 
nuclear: 0%
rubber processing, palm oil processing, timber, diamonds
rubber, coffee, cocoa, rice, cassava (tapioca), palm oil, sugarcane, bananas; sheep, goats; timber
rubber, timber, iron, diamonds, cocoa, coffee
Export partners:
Belgium 33.5%, Denmark 21.9%, Spain 9.4%, US 7.4% 
fuels, chemicals, machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods; foodstuffs
Import partners:
South Korea 38.4%, Japan 20.8%, Singapore 14%, Croatia 4.6% 
Liberian dollar (LRD)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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