Liberian, adj., n.
/luy bear"ee euh/, n.
a republic in W Africa: founded by freed American slaves 1822. 2,602,068; ab. 43,000 sq. mi. (111,000 sq. km). Cap.: Monrovia.

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Introduction Liberia
Background: Seven years of civil strife were brought to a close in 1996 when free and open presidential and legislative elections were held. President TAYLOR now holds strong executive power with no real political opposition. The years of fighting coupled with the flight of most businesses have disrupted formal economic activity. A still unsettled domestic security situation has slowed the process of rebuilding the social and economic structure of this war-torn country. In 2001, the UN imposed sanctions on Liberian diamonds along with an army embargo and a travel ban on government officials for Liberia's support of the rebel insurgency in Sierra Leone. Geography Liberia -
Location: Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Cote d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone
Geographic coordinates: 6 30 N, 9 30 W
Map references: Africa
Area: 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
Coastline: 579 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 200 NM
Climate: tropical; hot, humid; dry winters with hot days and cool to cold nights; wet, cloudy summers with frequent heavy showers
Terrain: 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
Land use: arable land: 1.97% permanent crops: 2.08% other: 95.95% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 30 sq km (1998 est.)
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 Environment - international party to: Biodiversity,
agreements: Desertification, Endangered Species, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94 signed, but not ratified: Climate Change, Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation
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 People Liberia
Population: 3,288,198 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 43.3% (male 714,563; female 709,582) 15-64 years: 53.2% (male 854,324; female 894,753) 65 years and over: 3.5% (male 57,925; female 57,051) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.91% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 45.95 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 16.05 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: -10.8 migrant(s)/1,000 population note: by the end of 1999, all Liberian refugees who had fled the domestic strife were assumed to have returned (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 1.02 male(s)/ female total population: 0.98 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 130.21 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 51.8 years female: 53.33 years (2002 est.) male: 50.33 years
Total fertility rate: 6.29 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 9% (2001 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ 125,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 13,000 (2001 est.)
Nationality: noun: Liberian(s) adjective: Liberian
Ethnic groups: indigenous African tribes 95% (including Kpelle, Bassa, Gio, Kru, Grebo, Mano, Krahn, Gola, Gbandi, Loma, Kissi, Vai, and Bella), 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)
Religions: indigenous beliefs 40%, Christian 40%, Muslim 20%
Languages: English 20% (official), some 20 ethnic group languages, of which a few can be written and are used in correspondence
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 38.3% male: 53.9% female: 22.4% (1995 est.) note: these figures are increasing because of the improving school system Government Liberia
Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Liberia conventional short form: Liberia
Government type: republic
Capital: Monrovia Administrative divisions: 15 counties; Bomi, Bong, Gparbolu, Grand Bassa, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, Lofa, Margibi, Maryland, Montserrado, Nimba, River Cess, River Gee, Sinoe
Independence: 26 July 1847
National holiday: Independence Day, 26 July (1847)
Constitution: 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
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Charles Ghankay TAYLOR (since 2 August 1997); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government head of government: President Charles Ghankay TAYLOR (since 2 August 1997); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term (renewable); election last held 19 July 1997 (next to be held NA July 2003) election results: Charles Ghankay TAYLOR elected president; percent of vote - Charles Ghankay TAYLOR (NPP) 75.3%, Ellen Johnson SIRLEAF (UP) 9.6%, Alhaji KROMAH (ALCOP) 4%, other 11.1%
Legislative branch: bicameral National Assembly consists of the Senate (26 seats; 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) elections: Senate - last held 19 July 1997 (next to be held NA 2006); House of Representatives - last held 19 July 1997 (next to be held NA 2003) election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - NPP 21, UP 3, ALCOP 2; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - NPP 49, UP 7, ALCOP 3, Alliance of Political Parties 2, UPP 2, LPP 1; note - the Alliance of Political Parties was a coalition of the LAP and the Liberia Unification Party or LUP
Judicial branch: Supreme Court Political parties and leaders: All Liberia Coalition Party or ALCOP [David KORTIE]; Free Democratic Party or FDP [George BORWAH]; Liberian Action Party or LAP [C. Gyude BRYANT]; Liberian National Union or LINU [Victor MOMOH]; Liberian People's Party or LPP [Koffa NAGBE]; National Democratic Party of Liberia or NDPL [Isaac D. DIKENAH]; National Patriotic Party or NPP [Cyril ALLEN] - governing party; People's Progressive Party or PPP [Weah A. WEAH]; Reformation Alliance Party or RAP [James THOMAS]; True Whig Party or TWP [Rudolph SHERMAN]; United People's Party or UPP [Wesley JOHNSON]; Unity Party or UP [Charles Clarke] Political pressure groups and NA
leaders: International organization ACP, AfDB, CCC, ECA, ECOWAS, FAO, G-
participation: 77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ITU, NAM, OAU, OPCW (signatory), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador William V. S. BULL consulate(s) general: New York telephone: [1] (202) 723-0437 chancery: 5201 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20011 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador
US: Bismarck MYRICK embassy: 111 United Nations Drive, P. O. Box 10-0098, Mamba Point, Monrovia mailing address: use embassy street address telephone: [231] 226-370 through 226-380 FAX: [231] 226-148
Flag description: 11 equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white; there is a white five-pointed star on a blue square in the upper hoist-side corner; the design was based on the US flag Economy Liberia -
Economy - overview: A civil war in 1989-96 destroyed much of Liberia's economy, especially the infrastructure in and around Monrovia. Many businessmen fled the country, taking capital and expertise with them. Some returned; many will not return. Richly endowed with water, mineral resources, forests, and a climate favorable to agriculture, Liberia had been a producer and exporter of basic products, while local manufacturing, mainly foreign owned, had been small in scope. The democratically elected government, installed in August 1997, inherited massive international debts and currently relies on revenues from its maritime registry and timber industry to provide the bulk of its foreign exchange earnings. The restoration of the infrastructure and the raising of incomes in this ravaged economy depend on the implementation of sound macro- and micro-economic policies of the new government, including the encouragement of foreign investment. Recent growth has been from a low base, and continued growth will require major policy successes and containment of armed rebellion.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $3.6 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 5% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $1,100 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 60% industry: 10% services: 30% (2001 est.) Population below poverty line: 80% Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: NA%
percentage share: highest 10%: NA% Inflation rate (consumer prices): 8% (2001 est.) Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 70%, industry 8%, services 22% (2000 est.)
Unemployment rate: 70%
Budget: revenues: $85.4 million expenditures: $90.5 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (2000 est.)
Industries: rubber processing, palm oil processing, timber, diamonds Industrial production growth rate: NA Electricity - production: 450 million kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 100% hydro: 0% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 418.5 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: rubber, coffee, cocoa, rice, cassava (tapioca), palm oil, sugarcane, bananas; sheep, goats; timber
Exports: $55 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.)
Exports - commodities: rubber, timber, iron, diamonds, cocoa, coffee
Exports - partners: Belgium 38.5%, Germany 17.6%, Italy 6.0%, US 5.8% (2000)
Imports: $170 million (f.o.b., 2000 est.)
Imports - commodities: fuels, chemicals, machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods; rice and other foodstuffs
Imports - partners: France 29.1%, South Korea 20.6%, Japan 15.8%, Singapore 8.4% (2000)
Debt - external: $2.1 billion (2000 est.) Economic aid - recipient: $94 million (1999)
Currency: Liberian dollar (LRD)
Currency code: LRD
Exchange rates: Liberian dollars per US dollar - 46.0400 (December 2001), 48.5833 (2001), 40.9525 (2000), 41.9025 (1999), 41.5075 (1998), 1.0000 (officially fixed rate 1940-97); market exchange rate: Liberian dollars per US dollar - 40 (December 1998), 50 (October 1995) note: until December 1997, rates were based on a fixed relationship with the US dollar; beginning in January 1998, rates are market determined
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Liberia Telephones - main lines in use: 6,700 (2000) Telephones - mobile cellular: 0 (1998)
Telephone system: general assessment: telephone and telegraph service via microwave radio relay network; main center is Monrovia domestic: NA international: satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) Radio broadcast stations: AM 0, FM 7, shortwave 2 (2001)
Radios: 790,000 (1997) Television broadcast stations: 1 (plus four low-power repeaters) (2001)
Televisions: 70,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .lr Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 2 (2001)
Internet users: 500 (2000) Transportation Liberia
Railways: total: 490 km (328 km single-track) standard gauge: 345 km 1.435-m gauge note: in 1989, Liberia had three rail systems owned and operated by foreign steel and financial interests in conjunction with the Liberian Government; one of these, the Lamco Railroad, closed in 1989 after iron ore production ceased; the other two were shut down by the civil war; large sections of the rail lines have been dismantled; approximately 60 km of railroad track was exported for scrap (2001) narrow gauge: 145 km 1.067-m gauge
Highways: total: 10,600 km paved: 657 km unpaved: 9,943 km note: there is major deterioration on all highways due to heavy rains and lack of maintenance (1996 est.)
Waterways: none
Ports and harbors: Buchanan, Greenville, Harper, Monrovia
Merchant marine: total: 1,513 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 51,912,244 GRT/ 79,297,046 DWT note: includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Argentina 9, Australia 2, Austria 15, Belgium 9, Brazil 5, Canada 4, Cayman Islands 1, Chile 7, China 39, Croatia 11, Denmark 4, Ecuador 1, Estonia 1, Germany 437, Greece 154, Hong Kong 69, India 5, Indonesia 1, Israel 1, Italy 5, Japan 90, Latvia 20, Man, Isle of 5, Monaco 56, Netherlands 12, New Zealand 1, Nigeria 1, Norway 103, Pakistan 1, Portugal 5, Russia 66, Saudi Arabia 21, Singapore 20, Slovenia 1, South Africa 1, South Korea 10, Spain 2, Sweden 9, Switzerland 17, Taiwan 29, Turkey 3, Ukraine 4, United Arab Emirates 12, United Kingdom 39, United States 113, Uruguay 3, Vietnam 1 (2002 est.) ships by type: barge carrier 3, bulk 313, cargo 89, chemical tanker 167, combination bulk 16, combination ore/oil 32, container 318, liquefied gas 99, multi-functional large-load carrier 4, passenger 23, petroleum tanker 302, refrigerated cargo 69, roll on/roll off 20, short-sea passenger 3, specialized tanker 13, vehicle carrier 42
Airports: 47 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 2 over 3,047 m: 1 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 45 1,524 to 2,437 m: 4 914 to 1,523 m: 6 under 914 m: 35 (2001) Military Liberia
Military branches: Army, Navy, Air Force Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 729,469 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 393,028 (2002 est.)
service: Military expenditures - dollar $7.8 million (FY01)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 1.3% (FY01)
GDP: Transnational Issues Liberia Disputes - international: rebels and refugees contribute to border instabilities with Sierra Leone
Illicit drugs: transshipment point for Southeast and Southwest Asian heroin and South American cocaine for the European and US markets

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officially Republic of Liberia

Republic, western Africa.

Area: 38,250 sq mi (99,067 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 3,288,000. Capital: Monrovia. Liberia's ethnic groups include the Americo-Liberians, descendants of the black freedmen who emigrated from the U.S. in the 19th century; and 16 indigenous peoples of the Mande, Kwa, and Mel linguistic groups. Languages: English (official), indigenous languages. Religions: Christianity, Islam, traditional religions. Currency: Liberian dollar. Liberia has coastal lowlands extending 350 mi (560 km) along the Atlantic; farther inland are hills and low mountains. Roughly one-fifth of Liberia consists of tropical rainforest. Less than 4% of Liberia is considered arable, but the country has rich iron-ore reserves, which are a major source of exports. The principal cash crops are rubber, coffee, and cacao; the staple crops are rice and cassava. Liberia is a republic with two legislative houses; its head of state and government is the president, assisted by the state minister for presidential affairs. Africa's oldest republic, Liberia was established on land bought from local peoples as a home for freed U.S. slaves by the American Colonization Society, which founded a colony at Cape Mesurado in 1821. In 1822 Jehudi Ashmun, a Methodist minister, became the director of the settlement and Liberia's real founder. In 1824 the territory was named Liberia, and its main settlement was named Monrovia. Joseph Jenkins Roberts, Liberia's first nonwhite governor, proclaimed Liberian independence in 1847 and expanded its boundaries. Border disputes with the French and British lasted until 1892, when its boundaries were officially established. In 1980 a coup led by Gen. Samuel K. Doe marked the end of the Americo-Liberians' long political dominance over the indigenous Africans. A rebellion in 1989 escalated into a destructive civil war in the 1990s. A peace agreement was reached in 1996, and elections were held in 1997, but conflict continued to flare up.

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▪ 2009

97,754 sq km (37,743 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 3,543,000
Head of state and government:
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

      Liberia's socioeconomic development achieved limited progress in 2008. The country ranked among the least developed in the world; almost 80% of the population lived below the national poverty line; unemployment stood at 80%; life expectancy was only 42 years; and electricity and potable water were in short supply. Widespread poverty and endemic corruption, coupled with political instability in neighbouring Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire, threatened national security. Consequently, the mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was extended to September 2009, retaining a force of about 13,000 peacekeepers in the country. In Pres. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's address to the UN General Assembly on September 24, she emphasized that the UNMIL was central to creating an enabling environment for national planning and implementation, but at the same time, she rebuked unspecified donor countries for their failure to follow through on aid commitments.

      On February 21, U.S. Pres. George W. Bush ended his five-country, six-day tour of Africa in Liberia; he was the third U.S. president to visit. Although government officials warmly welcomed him, many Liberians harboured deep resentment that Washington had ignored their plight during the 1989–2003 civil war. They also called for “more trade, less aid.” Disregarding widespread suspicion at home and on the continent about U.S. expansion in Africa, the Liberian government expressed its willingness to host the headquarters of the new and controversial U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).

      In January 2008 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established to investigate war crimes committed during the civil war, began proceedings. Modeled on South Africa's postapartheid body, the seven-member commission heard testimony from people around the country, including gruesome accounts of shattered lives, child-soldier recruitment, severed limbs, and rape. Former rebel commander Milton Blahyi (also known as General Butt-Naked) testified about taking part in human sacrifices. Meanwhile, international attention turned to two important war crimes trials: the first was that of former president Gen. Charles Taylor in The Hague, and the second was that of his son Charles (Chuckie) Taylor, Jr., in the United States, which in October resulted in a conviction on charges of torture and related war crimes; sentencing was set for January 2009.

LaRay Denzer

▪ 2008

97,754 sq km (37,743 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 3,750,000
Head of state and government:
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

 Despite the confinement of former Liberian president Charles Taylor in the The Hague, his spectre overshadowed an uneasy political situation in Liberia throughout 2007. Some Liberians believed that he had been unfairly singled out for prosecution, and some of Taylor's supporters, including Senators Jewel Howard-Taylor (his former wife) and Adolphus Dolo (former rebel commander), occupied influential positions in the legislature. Taylor's extradition remained a thorny issue for Liberian Pres. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who in 1989 had briefly backed him. Many believed that the U.S. had pressured her to demand his extradition rather than have her establish a South African-style truth and reconciliation commission.

      Taylor's war-crimes trial for murder, rape, and enlistment of child soldiers began in June in The Netherlands. UN officials on the peacekeeping mission feared that outbreaks of violence would occur during the trial. It was expected that testimony would incriminate important members of the political class. Such fears seemed to be borne out in July when former Liberian army commander Gen. Charles Julue (who in 1994 had led an abortive government coup) and four others were arrested on charges of treason.

      Despite fears about Liberia's potential for disrupting regional peace, in August the UN issued an encouraging report on the country's progress since the end of the civil war in 2003. Although the Security Council extended the mandate of its peacekeeping force for another year, it cut the mission's strength by 20% and also reduced the size of its police force.

      Economic conditions improved. In April the UN Security Council lifted the ban on Liberian diamond exports, which was imposed in 2001 to reduce the export of illegal “blood diamonds” that had helped finance the civil war. The country mourned the death of one of its foremost diplomats and jurists, Angie Elisabeth Brooks-Randolph (Brooks-Randolph, Angie Elisabeth ).

LaRay Denzer

▪ 2007

97,754 sq km (37,743 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 3,042,000
Head of state and government:
Chairman of the National Transitional Government Charles Gyude Bryant and, from January 16, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

      Liberians strongly hoped that the inauguration of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Johnson-Sirleaf, Ellen ) (see Biographies) as president on Jan. 16, 2006, meant economic reconstruction and an end to violence, but by year's end the reality of entrenched corruption and community violence had muted their optimism. In her inaugural speech Johnson-Sirleaf vowed to unite the nation, rebuild the infrastructure, and restore government accountability. During her first 100 days, the new regime made great strides in forming policy on internal security, development, corruption, labour, and education. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up to investigate human rights abuses between 1979 and 2003; the entire staff of the Ministry of Finance was fired, a warning that the government meant to enforce anticorruption measures; and a new program to expand female education was announced. Internationally, Johnson-Sirleaf made triumphal state visits to the U.S. (where she addressed a joint meeting of Congress), the U.K., and Nigeria.

      Former president Charles Taylor was arrested in Nigeria in late March, which marked the beginning of the end to a long campaign to bring him to trial before an international court. He was taken to Sierra Leone, where he was formally indicted before a UN-backed court on charges of crimes against humanity in both Liberia and Sierra Leone. Fears that proceedings in West Africa might lead to conflict led to his transfer to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which set a date in April 2007 for the trial to begin.

      Lawlessness remained a problem, especially in Monrovia. With unemployment running at 80%, many restive youths and former soldiers joined gangs of armed robbers known as Issakaba Boys. In September their blatant terrorization of local communities caused the Justice Ministry to advise communities to organize vigilante groups to ensure security and impose a night curfew.

LaRay Denzer

▪ 2006

97,754 sq km (37,743 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 2,900,000
Head of state and government:
Chairman of the National Transitional Government Charles Gyude Bryant

 In a runoff election on Nov. 8, 2005, Liberia made history when voters elected Africa's first woman president. With 59% of the vote, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf overturned the impressive lead that her opponent, international association football (soccer) star George Weah, had secured in the first-round voting on October 11. In that contest, according to a National Elections Commission estimate, about 1.3 million of an estimated 1.5 million eligible voters registered. Hundreds of thousands turned out to vote for a president, 30 senators, and 64 representatives. Observers, among them former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, were upbeat about the lack of violence and the apparent general desire for peace. The runoff election also took place peacefully, which clearly indicated that Liberians looked forward to an end to chaos and violence. Although Weah challenged the election results in the courts, his postelection statesmanlike behaviour set a high standard for democracy in the West African state; in December Weah dropped his fraud case.

      Meanwhile, a force of 15,000 United Nations peacekeepers remained in the country in a supervisory role. The new government faced the enormous task of restoring a stable democratic government, rebuilding the economy, ending corruption, and bringing about reconciliation among 17 ethnic groups. Public opinion identified education as the main priority.

      From exile in Nigeria the long hand of former Liberian head of state Charles Taylor stirred up political intrigue. Maintaining contact with his well-developed business network, Taylor contributed funds to some of the new parties and was suspected of involvement in corrupt activities. Throughout the year international pressure to review the terms of his exile intensified, but Nigerian Pres. Olusegun Obasanjo resisted calls to hand him over to the special court in Sierra Leone, which had indicted him on 17 counts of war crimes for his role in the civil war in that country.

LaRay Denzer

▪ 2005

97,754 sq km (37,743 sq mi)
(2004 est.): 3,391,000 (including about 325,000 refugees in neighbouring countries)
Head of state and government:
Chairman of the National Transitional Government Charles Gyude Bryant

      Most of 2004 was spent rebuilding Liberia after 14 years of civil war that had killed thousands of people, displaced 300,000, created a generation of child soldiers, destabilized Liberian society, and devastated the national economy. Demobilization efforts were threatened in late January when the leaders from Liberia's two rebel movements, the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia, issued a joint statement declaring that their soldiers would not disarm until transitional leader Charles Gyude Bryant had stepped down. The statement was considered an attempt to derail the UN disarmament program of 40,000 former combatants and the peace process. By April, however, more than 18,000 former combatants had been disarmed and 10,600 weapons collected. Demobilized soldiers rioted against the disarmament program in Monrovia owing to a dispute over insufficient payment for turning in their weapons. Bryant swore in the new 21-member cabinet that would lead the country until March 2005 elections.

      At a Lagos, Nigeria, conference of international leaders in February, the UN, the U.S., and the European Union pledged $520 million over a two-year period to rebuild Liberia. The UN Security Council passed a resolution in March freezing the assets of exiled former Liberian president Charles Taylor. Despite arguments by Taylor's lawyers that a court in one country did not have the right to try the head of state of another, in late May a UN-backed court in Sierra Leone ruled that Taylor could be tried by an international war-crimes tribunal on 17 counts of crimes against humanity for his alleged role in arming and supporting rebels in Sierra Leone. In May a Nigerian court began reviewing Taylor's right to asylum, and in September Amnesty International, in a brief given to Nigeria's Federal High Court, maintained that Nigeria was breaking an international law by harbouring Taylor.

Mary F.E. Ebeling

▪ 2004

97,754 sq km (37,743 sq mi)
(2003 est.): 3,317,000 (including about 300,000 refugees in neighbouring countries)
Head of state and government:
Presidents Charles Taylor and, from August 11, Moses Blah; and, from October 14, Chairman of the National Transitional Government Charles Gyude Bryant

      The three-year-old civil war that had gripped Liberia, killing or displacing thousands of citizens and contributing to the destabilization of the entire region, finally came to an end in 2003. In early February, Defense Minister Daniel Chea admitted that the armed forces were facing difficulties against the rebels because of an international weapons embargo. While government troops faced major shortages, rebels were apparently being supplied by neighbouring Guinea, which had ongoing border disputes with Liberia. In May the UN imposed an export ban on Liberian unsawn timber, further crippling the government's ability to fund military actions.

      In June, as rebel forces began closing around the capital, a UN-sponsored war-crimes tribunal indicted Pres. Charles Taylor for his part in sponsoring a bloody rebellion in neighbouring Sierra Leone. The indictment came while Taylor was in Ghana attending peace talks between his government and rebel groups. The Ghanaian government ignored the well-publicized indictment long enough for Taylor to attend a ceremony with other African leaders before traveling back to Liberia. Despite the fact that he had eluded capture, Taylor's indictment became a thorn in his side, limiting his travel and emboldening Liberians and foreign leaders, including U.S. Pres. George W. Bush, to call for his removal. By August an embattled Taylor seemed to have little choice but to step down.

      On August 11 Taylor went into exile in Nigeria, leaving Vice Pres. Moses Blah in charge. In anticipation of an end to pitched combat, Nigerian peacekeeping troops representing ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) began to enter Monrovia in early August. U.S. warships could be seen dotting the horizon off the Liberian shore beginning in August; however, U.S. soldiers offered only logistic support and help in delivering humanitarian aid. In October, as occasional gun battles still flared up in Monrovia, the UN took charge of Liberian peacekeeping. On October 14 Christian leader and businessman Gyude Bryant was sworn in to head a new transitional government.

      In December the UN launched a disarmament program, offering money and vocational training to an estimated 40,000 former soldiers if they surrendered their weapons. After fighting and rioting had broken out among people desperate for the promised remuneration, the UN was forced to pause the program after less than two weeks. As 2003 came to a close, UN peacekeepers began to spread out beyond the capital in an attempt to make the country safe for the return of refugees.

Andrew Eisenberg

▪ 2003

97,754 sq km (37,743 sq mi)
(2002 est.): 3,288,000 (including about 250,000 refugees in neighbouring countries)
Head of state and government:
President Charles Taylor

      The civil war between the Liberian armed forces and the rebel movement of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy continued throughout 2002. On February 8, as rebel forces advanced from the north toward Monrovia, Pres. Charles Taylor declared a state of emergency. Armed troops patrolled the capital's streets. Fighting intensified throughout late February and early March. Hundreds of people were killed, and more than 20,000 were displaced internally. Several thousand fled into refugee camps in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Guinea. Peace talks scheduled for early March collapsed because rebel leaders refused to negotiate with Taylor. April and May were marked by increased fighting, which displaced tens of thousands both internally and externally, and in April Taylor ordered a ban on political rallies. The government extended the state of emergency for six more months. Renewed fighting occurred in June in western areas of the country.

      On August 24 Taylor called a peace conference, which was again boycotted by the rebels and opposition politicians. The president criticized United Nations sanctions imposed in 2001 against his government for supporting rebels in Sierra Leone. On September 14, claiming advances against rebel forces, Taylor lifted the state of emergency. He also reiterated his opposition to an international peacekeeping force. Fighting continued throughout the final months of the year. No peacekeeping force intervened, and the UN sanctions—including a worldwide ban on Liberian diamonds, travel restrictions on senior government officials, and a ban on arms sales to the Liberian government—continued.

      The deteriorating situation throughout the country, sporadic fighting in different areas, and mounting insecurity hindered relief agencies' efforts throughout 2002. Some agencies withdrew from Liberia and instead focused their efforts on the swelling refugee camps in neighbouring countries.

Andrew F. Clark

▪ 2002

97,754 sq km (37,743 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 3,226,000
Head of state and government:
President Charles Taylor

      In March 2001 the UN Security Council voted to impose sanctions on Liberia unless it stopped supporting Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front rebels. The sanctions, which included a worldwide ban on Liberian diamonds and travel restrictions on senior government officials, took effect in May despite Liberian claims of compliance with UN demands. Some humanitarian groups called for sanctions against Liberian timber, alleging that Pres. Charles Taylor was diverting timber profits to military use.

      Beginning in April there was an increase in fighting between the army and antigovernment rebels in Lofa county in the north of the country. President Taylor claimed that Guinea and Sierra Leone supported the rebels and expelled those country's ambassadors, although they were later allowed to return. In September defense ministers from the three countries met in an effort to find ways to end the conflict. Though rebels captured two towns in Gbarpolu county, northwest of Monrovia, in November, the government forces later retook the towns. Fighting remained heavy at year's end, and some humanitarian organizations withdrew from the worst areas. According to humanitarian sources, more than 40,000 people had fled this latest round of fighting. The UN World Food Programme reported feeding nearly 300,000 people in Liberia, including internally displaced persons and refugees from Sierra Leone.

      The government imposed numerous restrictions on the press. Several newspapers were closed, and journalists were arrested after criticizing the government. In March security forces entered the University of Liberia and arrested students who were rallying in support of detained journalists. Students and faculty members reported being beaten.

      In April former deputy information minister Milton Teahjay disappeared after trying to leave the country. Teahjay, a former opposition activist, had been taken into the government by President Taylor but was later dismissed for opposing logging activities in parts of the country. Human rights organizations and opposition groups alleged a government role in Teahjay's disappearance and demanded a full investigation. Also in April the sports minister, François Massaquoi, also a former faction leader, was killed when rebels allegedly fired on his helicopter. President Taylor appointed a commission to investigate the killing, as some opposition figures charged government involvement.

Matthew A. Cenzer

▪ 2001

97,754 sq km (37,743 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 3,164,000
Head of state and government:
President Charles Taylor

      Relations between Liberia and Western governments remained tense in 2000. In March Pres. Charles Taylor reacted angrily to a U.S. State Department report critical of his regime's human rights record. He accused the U.S. of undermining his government. In June the European Union suspended aid to Liberia following British charges that Taylor's government facilitated the diamonds-for-arms trade of Sierra Leone's rebels. (See Angola: Sidebar, above.) The U.S. imposed diplomatic sanctions and travel restrictions on Taylor and his associates in October. Taylor denied all charges, and in October the UN began to investigate the matter.

      Throughout the year the government continued to battle rebels in the north of the country, especially in Lofa county. The government declared a state of emergency in the region and dispatched additional troops. They blamed the fighting, which escalated in July, on exiled former faction leaders Alhaji G.V. Kromah and Roosevelt Johnson. Liberia accused Guinea of supporting the rebel attack on the town of Voinjama. In September Liberia charged that the Guinean army had attacked northern towns, using heavy artillery. Guinea initially denied the charges and accused Liberia of armed incursions into its territory. In mid-October Guinea's interior minister said that the two nations were effectively at war and announced plans to arm Guinean villages along the border. The Economic Community of West African States attempted unsuccessfully to mediate the tensions between Liberia and Guinea.

      In August the Liberian government arrested four journalists of Britain's Channel Four and charged them with espionage. This action brought a storm of protests from journalists, foreign governments, and international organizations. After intense pressure the Liberian government released the journalists.

Matthew A. Cenzer

▪ 2000

97,754 sq km (37,743 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 2,924,000 (excluding Liberian refugees temporarily residing in surrounding countries estimated to number about 225,000)
Head of state and government:
President Charles Taylor

      In January 1999 several nearby nations, including Ghana and Nigeria, charged that Liberia was supporting Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Sierra Leone. Both Britain and the U.S. found the allegations credible and threatened to suspend international aid to Liberia as a result. Opposition members of Liberia's National Assembly were not satisfied with the government's denials and demanded a full inquiry. Continued insecurity in Sierra Leone resulted in refugee movements into Liberia throughout the year.

      In May Pres. Charles Taylor dismissed 13 members of his Cabinet for failing to attend a church service, although all were later reinstated. Local elections scheduled for April were postponed indefinitely because the government claimed it lacked the necessary funds. Taylor reshuffled the Cabinet again in September, replacing the ministers of commerce and industry, planning and economic affairs, and transport as well as other minor officials.

      Although Liberia's civil war officially ended and West African peacekeepers departed in January, the country experienced continued instability. The situation was most serious in the northwestern region of the country. In April armed men, believed to have crossed the border from Guinea, attacked the town of Voinjama. Although ultimately repulsed by government troops, the rebel forces looted the town and forced more than 5,000 residents to flee. By August more than 25,000 people had been displaced. Taylor's government charged Guinea with supporting the rebels, a claim denied by that nation. In September Guinea charged that Liberian forces had entered its territory and attacked the villages near the town of Macenta. Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States met in Nigeria in an effort to mediate the crisis.

Matthew A. Cenzer

▪ 1999

      Area: 97,754 sq km (37,743 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 2,772,000 (excluding Liberian refugees temporarily residing in surrounding countries estimated to number about 325,000)

      Capital: Monrovia

      Head of state and government: President Charles Taylor

      Despite 1997 elections and the presence of ECOMOG (Economic Community of West African States Cease-Fire Monitoring Group) peacekeepers, Liberia experienced continued insecurity throughout 1998. Seven years of civil war had left the country's economy and infrastructure in ruins. Nearly 80% of the government's 1998 budget of $41 million was allotted to defense.

      The ECOMOG commander accused Pres. Charles Taylor of filling the restructured Liberian army with members of his former militia. This claim was echoed by former faction leader Roosevelt Johnson, who charged that government troops had repeatedly tried to kill him. Opposition leaders continually complained of harassment and intimidation by security forces. The situation reached a climax in August when Taylor declared Johnson a security risk and accused Guinea and Sierra Leone of supporting plots to topple Taylor's government. Troops loyal to Taylor conducted extensive security operations in Monrovia, and Johnson took refuge in the U.S. embassy compound in late September. Monrovia became the scene of widespread looting and gun battles between soldiers and Johnson supporters. Johnson later fled to Nigeria.

      Throughout the year the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian groups attempted to repatriate Liberian refugees from neighbouring countries. Citing insecurity in Liberia, many refugees refused to return. Nearly half a million Liberians were refugees, and approximately 750,000 were internally displaced.


▪ 1998

      Area: 97,754 sq km (37,743 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 2,602,000 (excluding Liberian refugees temporarily residing in surrounding countries estimated to number about 650,000)

      Capital: Monrovia

      Head of state and government: Chairman of the Council of State Ruth Perry and, from August 2, President Charles Taylor

      On July 19, 1997, presidential and legislative elections were held throughout Liberia, and Charles Taylor, who had launched the Liberian civil war more than seven years earlier, won a sweeping victory. With 75% of the votes, his National Patriotic Front of Liberia Party won 21 of 26 seats in the Senate and 49 of 64 seats in the House of Representatives. Taylor's closest rival for the presidency, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of the Unity Party, won 10% of the votes; her party gained three seats in the Senate and seven seats in the House of Representatives.

      Taylor was inaugurated as Liberia's 21st president on August 2. He said that his first task was to heal the wounds of the civil war. Leaders of the neighbouring countries that had played a part in a peacekeeping mission for Liberia attended the inauguration ceremony, and Taylor thanked them for their efforts. President Taylor then established a nine-man National Security Council. The new government faced a bankrupt economy with no money in the state coffers and $2 billion of international debt.

      During the early part of the year, it had been touch and go as to whether the August 1996 peace agreement forged in Nigeria (the 14th such agreement) would work. Despite setbacks, however, the process of disbanding and disarming the armed forces of the different factions was carried out successfully.

      This article updates Liberia, history of (Liberia).

▪ 1997

      The republic of Liberia is located in West Africa, on the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 99,067 sq km (38,250 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 2,110,000 (excluding Liberian refugees temporarily residing in surrounding countries estimated to number more than 750,000). Cap.: Monrovia. Monetary unit: Liberian dollar, with (Oct. 11, 1996) an (inactive) official par value of L$1 to U.S. $1 and (Jan. 1, 1996) free/black market rate of L$38 = U.S. $1 (L$59 = £1 sterling). Chairmen of the Council of State in 1996, Wilton Sankawulo and, from September 3, Ruth Perry.

      The precarious truce achieved between Liberia's warring factions in 1995 collapsed in April 1996 when Monrovia was convulsed by renewed fighting; many thousands fled the city. The fighting began when forces belonging to Charles Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia and Gen. Alhaji G.V. Kromah of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (Ulimo-K) stormed the home of the dissident Gen. D. Roosevelt Johnson of Ulimo-J. Although the home was soon taken, Krahn tribesmen who supported Johnson resisted fiercely throughout the city. The Johnson forces took several hundred hostages. A new cease-fire went into effect on April 19, and Johnson released some hostages.

      In August the main faction leaders agreed to another truce. Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Mali, The Gambia, Niger, and Togo promised to supply troops for the West African peacekeeping force, and the U.S. agreed to provide $30 million. In November the peacekeeping force began disarming the rival factions. (GUY ARNOLD)

      This article updates Liberia, history of (Liberia).

▪ 1996

      The republic of Liberia is located in West Africa, on the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 99,067 sq km (38,250 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 2,380,000 (including Liberian refugees temporarily residing in surrounding countries estimated to number about 750,000). Cap.: Monrovia. Monetary unit: Liberian dollar, with (Oct. 6, 1995) an official par value of L$1 to U.S. $1 (free rate of L$1.58 = £1 sterling); a truer value of the L$ was on the free market, where (August 28) L$42 = U.S. $1 (L$65 = £ 1 sterling). Chairmen of the Council of State in 1995, David Kpormakor and, from September 1, Wilton Sankawulo.

      Liberia made slow progress toward a cease-fire and the formation of a new government in 1995. Negotiations held in Accra, Ghana, during January ended without the six main warring factions' agreeing on the composition of a Council of State. But the cease-fire held. In February Charles Taylor of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) proposed a new plan that included the appointment of an old traditional leader, Chief Tamba Tailor, as chairman of the Council and Taylor himself as first vice-chairman, but this was rejected. Fighting then broke out between Taylor's NPFL and the Liberian Peace Council, forcing 35,000 people to flee their homes and seek refuge in the port of Buchanan. Further fighting between the two factions in April led to a massacre of 62 people, mainly women and children, in Yosi in the south, though it was not clear who was responsible.

      Talks continued through the year in both Accra and Abuja, Nigeria, under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States committee on Liberia. The UN renewed the mandate of its Observer Mission, but Tanzania withdrew its 300 peacekeeping troops in frustration at the lack of progress. In July accusations were leveled at Taylor's NPFL for importing arms and for conducting raids across the border into Guinea. Also in July all the warring factions met in Monrovia for the first time since the civil war erupted in 1989, and by the end of August an agreement had been reached upon the composition of the Council of State; it was to include two neutral members and a neutral chairman, Wilton Sankawulo. A new Cabinet of 16 members was then sworn in, and Charles Taylor became one of six members of the Council of State. Renewed fighting was reported north of Monrovia at year's end, however.

      (GUY ARNOLD)

      This updates the article Liberia, history of (Liberia).

▪ 1995

      The republic of Liberia is located in West Africa, on the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 99,067 sq km (38,250 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 2,377,000 (including Liberian refugees temporarily residing in surrounding countries estimated to number about 700,000). Cap.: Monrovia. Monetary unit: Liberian dollar, at par with the U.S. dollar, with a free rate (Oct. 7, 1994) of L$1.59 to £1 sterling. President of the interim government in 1994, Amos Sawyer until March 7; chairman of the Council of State from March 7, David Kpormakor.

      During 1994 an uneasy semipeace prevailed in the aftermath of the civil war. In February the five-member Council of State elected David Kpormakor as chairman. The transition period began on March 7, when the Council of State and a 35-seat Transitional Legislative Assembly were inaugurated. Immediately afterward, however, there was a stalemate between the three principal political factions—Amos Sawyer's outgoing interim government, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), and the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy—concerning the allocation of Cabinet posts.

      After much delay the three groups formed a government, which met on May 16 even as the UN Observer Mission complained that fighting among the factions was preventing the disarmament process. On July 19 Charles Taylor alleged that his NPFL forces had been attacked by ECOMOG (the peacekeeping forces of the Economic Community of West African States), resulting in a heavy loss of life. The NPFL held talks with Organization of African Unity and UN delegations at its Gbarnga headquarters, and on August 3 representatives of five warring factions, including the NPFL, agreed to "cease hostilities" and facilitate the deployment of ECOMOG and UN peacekeeping forces. However, in August renewed fighting occurred between the NPFL and the Liberian Peace Council. On September 15 Gen. Charles Julue, a commander in the army of slain dictator Samuel Doe, attempted a coup. He seized the presidential mansion but was captured the next day. On December 21 all seven warring factions agreed to a cease-fire, effective on December 28. (GUY ARNOLD)

      This updates the article Liberia, history of (Liberia).

▪ 1994

      The republic of Liberia is located in West Africa, on the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 99,067 sq km (38,250 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 2,844,000 (including Liberian refugees temporarily residing in surrounding countries estimated to number more than 1,000,000). Cap.: Monrovia. Monetary unit: Liberian dollar, at par with the U.S. dollar, with a free rate (Oct. 4, 1993) of L$1.52 to £1 sterling. President of the interim government in 1993, Amos Sawyer.

      Fighting at the end of 1992 between units of the newly reinforced ECOMOG (the peacekeeping forces of the Economic Community of West African States—ECOWAS) and Charles Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) resulted in an estimated 3,000 dead and 8,000 wounded. The leaders of seven ECOWAS countries meeting at Abuja, Nigeria, gave ECOMOG carte blanche to impose a cease-fire by force. This followed U.S. pressures that included the withdrawal of its ambassador from Burkina Faso to protest that country's alleged support for Taylor. In January ECOMOG launched an apparently successful offensive against the NPFL forces in and around Monrovia. In February another 5,000 ECOMOG troops arrived in Liberia and captured Lofa county in the north of the country, an area deemed vital to Taylor.

      On June 6 a brutal massacre of refugees at Carter Camp just outside Harbel town left some 600 dead (many of them mutilated). A UN panel of inquiry reporting in September laid the blame on units of the Armed Forces of Liberia. In yet another peace bid, three groups—Amos Sawyer's Interim Government of National Unity, Taylor's NPFL, and, for the first time, Alhaji Kromah's United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (supporters of former president Samuel Doe)—met in Cotonou, Benin, in July. They agreed on a cease-fire from August 1 and the setting up of a Council of State (transitional government) composed of five representatives of the warring factions. The arrangement broke down in November, however, when Taylor and Sawyer provocatively replaced their councillors; Sawyer named Philip Banks to replace the head-of-state-in-waiting, Bismarck Kuyon. At follow-on talks in Cotonou, the sides could not agree on ministerial assignments.

      (GUY ARNOLD)

      This updates the article Liberia, history of (Liberia).

* * *

officially  Republic of Liberia 
Liberia, flag of republic of western Africa. Liberia is bounded by Sierra Leone to the northwest, Guinea to the north, Cote d'Ivoire to the east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south and west. Monrovia, a port, is the capital.

      Liberia is the only black state in Africa never subjected to colonial rule, and it is the oldest republic on the continent. In 1973 Liberia and Sierra Leone organized the Mano River Union for economic cooperation; Guinea joined in 1980.

The land


      The four physiographic regions of Liberia parallel the coast. The coastal plains are about 350 miles (560 kilometres) long and extend up to 25 miles inland. They are low and sandy, with miles of beaches interspersed with bar-enclosed lagoons, mangrove swamps, and a few rocky promontories—the highest being Cape Mount (about 1,000 feet [305 metres] in elevation) in the northwest, Cape Mesurado in Monrovia, and Cape Palmas in the southeast. Parallel to the coastal plains is a region of rolling hills some 20 miles wide with an average maximum elevation of about 300 feet; a few hills rise as high as 500 feet. It is a region suitable for agriculture and forestry. Behind the rolling hills, most of the country's interior is a dissected plateau with scattered low mountains ranging from 600 to 1,000 feet in elevation; some mountains rise to 2,000 feet. A striking feature of the mountainous northern highlands along the Guinea frontier is Mount Nimba.

      The Mano (Mano River) and Morro rivers in the northwest and the Cavalla (Cavalla River) in the east and southeast are major rivers and form sections of Liberia's boundaries. Other major rivers are the Lofa in the north and, moving southward, the St. Paul, St. John, and Cestos, all of which parallel each other and flow perpendicular to the coast. The Farmington River is a source of hydroelectric power. Waterfalls, rapids, rocks, and sandbanks occur frequently in upstream sections of most rivers, inhibiting river traffic, and limiting navigation inland to short distances. During the rainy season there is often severe flooding in the coastal plains.

      Liberia forms part of the West African Shield, a rock formation 2.7 to 3.4 billion years old, composed of granite, schist, and gneiss. In Liberia the shield has been intensely folded and faulted and is interspersed with iron-bearing formations known as itabirites. Along the coast lie beds of sandstone, with occasional crystalline-rock outcrops. Monrovia stands on such an outcropping, a ridge of diabase (a dark-coloured, fine-grained rock).

      Four types of soil are found in Liberia. Latosols of low to medium fertility occur in rolling hill country and cover about 75 percent of the total land surface. Shallow, coarse lithosols, in the hilly and rugged terrain, cover about 16 percent of the land. Infertile regosols, or sandy soils, are found along the coastal plains. Highly fertile alluvial soils represent only about 3 percent of the land area and are utilized largely for agriculture.

      The climate, especially on the coast, is warm and humid year-round, dominated by a dry season from November to April and by a rainy season from May to October. The dusty and dry harmattan (desert winds) blow from the Sahara to the coast in December, bringing relief from the high relative humidity. Deforestation and drought in the Sahel have affected the climate, lengthening the dry season by almost a month in some areas.

      Mean annual temperatures range between 65° F (18° C) in the northern highlands to 80° F (27° C) along the coast. Rainfall is irregular, and the rainy season varies in intensity and begins earlier at the coast than in the interior. The greatest amount of rainfall, 205 inches (5,200 millimetres), occurs at Cape Mount and diminishes inland to about 70 inches on the central plateau. The interior has hot but pleasant days and cool nights during the dry season.

Plant and animal life
      Liberia has year-round evergreen vegetation. Many trees—such as red ironwood, camwood, whismore, teak, and mahogany—are valuable, but occur with other species, preventing easy harvest. Other trees of value are rubber, cocoa, coffee, and the raffia palm.

      Liberia's rain forest abounds with animals such as the monkey, chimpanzee, small antelope, pygmy hippopotamus, and anteater. Elephants, bush cows (short-horned buffalo), and leopards are gradually disappearing. There are many reptiles, including three types of crocodiles and at least eight poisonous snakes. There are several unique species of bats and birds, and scorpions, lizards, and fish are numerous.

Settlement patterns
      The present pattern of population distribution in Liberia is both a reflection of its migration history and a response to such social, economic, and cultural factors as war, employment, and superstition.

      Migrants from north-central Africa, who began to arrive in the 13th century, originally settled in the hinterlands but were driven by overcrowding to the coast. Immigrants from the United States and the West Indies, and from neighbouring African countries, also settled on the coast. The former migrated mostly to selected areas such as Monrovia (the oldest immigrant settlement), Buchanan, Edina, Greenville, Harper, Robertsport, and Marshall. Scattered settlements were created along newly constructed or improved roads, while plantation and mining activities encouraged larger settlements in a few interior and coastal areas. There are more than 2,000 villages, the majority of which are concentrated in central Liberia, in the northwest, and in the coastal region near Monrovia. The predominantly forested regions of south-central and northern Liberia have remained sparsely populated. The trend toward urbanization has had little impact on these villages. The result has been the segmentation of Liberian society into two coexisting subsystems—traditional-rural and modern-urban.

       Monrovia, founded in 1822, is the focal point of political, economic, and cultural activities. Situated on the left bank of the St. Paul River on the ridge formed by Cape Mesurado, it commands an imposing view of the Atlantic Ocean and the coastal plains. The city and its outlying districts and suburbs occupy five square miles. The old style of architecture that once characterized it, reminiscent of that of the southern United States before 1860, is giving way to contemporary styles. All of the ethnic groups of Liberia are represented in its population, as are refugees, African nationals from other countries, and Europeans.

The people

Ethnic and linguistic composition
      The people of Liberia are classified into three major groups: the indigenous people, who are in the majority and who migrated from the western Sudan in the late Middle Ages; black immigrants from the United States (known historically as Americo-Liberians) and the West Indies; and other black immigrants from neighbouring western African states who came during the anti-slave-trade campaign and European colonial rule. The Americo-Liberians are most closely associated with founding Liberia. Most of them migrated to Liberia between 1820 and 1865; continued migration has been intermittent. Americo-Liberians controlled the government until a military coup in 1980.

      The 16 ethnic groups may be classified into three linguistic groups: the Mande (Mande languages), Kwa (Kwa languages), and Mel (southern Atlantic (Atlantic languages)). The Mande are located in the northwest and central regions of Liberia and also in Senegal, Mali, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. Prominent among them are the Vai, who invented their own alphabet and who, in addition, use Arabic and English; the Kpelle, the largest Mande group, who are also found in Guinea; Loma (also found in Guinea); Ngbandi; Dan (Gio); Mano; Mende; and Malinke. Kwa-speaking peoples include the Basa, the largest group in this category and the largest ethnic group in Monrovia; the Kru and Grebo, who were among the earliest converts to Christianity; the De; Belleh (Belle); and Krahn. The Kwa-speaking group occupies the southern half of the country. The Mel group includes the Gola and Kisi, who are also found in Sierra Leone and are known to be the oldest inhabitants of Liberia. These people live in the north and in the coastal region of the northwest.

      Liberians are a religious people. About one-fifth of the people are Christian, about 15 percent are Muslim, and almost two-thirds profess other religions, primarily traditional beliefs. The largest number of Christians are the Kpelle, followed by the Basa. The Muslims are found predominantly among the Mande peoples in the northwest region of the country.

Demographic trends
      More than two-fifths of the population of Liberia is under 15 years of age; less than 5 percent is older than 65. The annual rate of natural increase is one of the highest in sub-Saharan Africa, and, because emigration is negligible, the country's annual rate of population growth is one of the highest in the world. Life expectancy, about 50 years for males and 53 years for females, is high by African standards. About 45 percent of the population lives in urban communities, and there is a high rural-to-urban movement, especially to Monrovia. Other destinations include enclaves around rubber plantations and mines.

The economy
      The Liberian economy is predominantly agrarian, and raw materials, equipment, and consumer goods are imported. Production for export is carried out on a large scale through foreign investment in rubber, forestry, and mining. Foreign ships registering under a Liberian “flag of convenience” have made Liberia the world's foremost nation in registered shipping tonnage. Liberia nevertheless remains a primarily agricultural and underdeveloped country. The distribution of wealth is uneven, the coastal districts receiving a greater share of economic benefits than the hinterland, after which the administrative centres are the next beneficiaries.

      After the mid-1970s the once-vibrant economy took a sharp downturn. Between 1976 and 1980 sluggish demand and low prices stagnated the economy and the annual growth rate plunged. But gradual signs of recovery appeared, especially in agriculture and forestry. In the early 1990s, however, civil war disrupted Liberia's economy.

      Liberia's economy is mixed and there is no nationalization of industry. The government, which is the largest single employer, operates several public corporations. There is a national Federation of Labour Unions, a federation of trade unions, and several other employees' unions, but no employers' association.

      About 70 percent of the work force is employed in agriculture; the rest work in manufacturing, sales, services, and administration and management. About 40 percent of the total labour force is made up of women. More women than men are employed in agriculture.

      The U.S. dollar, previously legal tender in Liberia, is no longer in circulation. The value of the local Liberian dollar retains parity with the U.S. dollar, however. Government revenues are derived from income, profits, property, domestic transaction, foreign trade, and maritime taxes. About one-third of economic development funding has generally been derived from foreign sources, both bilateral and multilateral.

      Liberia is a member of two regional economic unions—the Mano River Union, a free trade group to which Sierra Leone and Guinea also belong, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

      Liberia is rich in natural resources. It is among the leading producers of iron ore—which it has produced since 1951—in Africa, and it is one of the principal exporters of iron ore in the world. Its sizable reserves are found primarily in four areas: the Bomi Hills, the Bong Range, the Mano Hills, and Mount Nimba, where the largest deposits occur. Other minerals include diamonds, gold, lead, manganese, graphite, cyanite (a silicate of aluminum, with thin bladelike crystals), and barite. There are possible oil reserves off the coast.

      There is vast potential for the development of hydroelectric power. About half of Liberia's electricity is from hydroelectric sources. The Mount Coffee hydroelectric station outside Monrovia on the St. Paul River is the country's largest hydroelectric installation.

      Water supplies have been improved in both rural and urban areas so that some 40 percent of the population has access to potable water. Surface water is abundant, and groundwater reserves are ample and regularly replenished by the country's heavy rainfall.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
      Agriculture is the fastest-growing sector of the economy. About half the land area is suitable for cultivation, though less than 5 percent is actually cultivated. Commercial farms are often operated by foreigners. Traditional farms, which comprise the largest number, are usually cultivated by slash-and-burn methods. Traditional farming, though less capital-intensive, contributes nearly twice as much to Liberia's gross domestic product as commercial farming.

      Traditional farmers practice mixed cultivation of rice, cassava, and vegetables. They also raise goats, sheep, chickens, and ducks. Cultivation of cash crops such as coffee, cocoa, oil palm, sugarcane, and swamp rice is increasing. Domestic rice production meets about 75 percent of the country's needs. The rest is imported, principally from the United States.

      Liberia's climate is suitable for rubber production; the necessary plants thrive on the country's poor soils. In 1926, the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company of the United States obtained a concession for rubber cultivation. Rubber has become by far the country's most valuable commercial crop, with coffee and cocoa increasing in importance. Kola nuts, peanuts, and cotton are also produced, and cattle and pigs are raised.

      Rain forests produce fine hardwood timber, especially in the east of the country, but also in the centre and in the west. Timber concessions operate in the southeast and northwest. Substantial amounts of timber are produced, but exploitation of the forest resources is difficult because of poor roads and shortage of labour. Of the approximately 250 species of forest trees about 90 are marketable. Forest depletion continues despite government reforestation regulations.

      Deep-sea fishing is important, and the catch is largely mackerel, barracuda, and red snapper. Kru and Fanti fishermen, the latter from Ghana, have traditionally been the suppliers of fish to coastal areas but are supplemented by Liberian fishing companies. Inland fish-breeding ponds provide a source of protein.

      To export the ores, iron interests have built railroads connecting the mines with Monrovia and Buchanan. Iron ore is extracted by open-pit mining, while gold and diamonds are extracted by placer mining. Traditional, small-scale mining for gold and diamonds continues.

      Manufacturing enterprises have increased greatly since 1960. Predominantly private and foreign-owned, most serve the local market. Near Monrovia there is a petroleum refinery as well as a cement plant. There are also explosives, paint, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics plants. Bricks, tiles, cement blocks, lumber and furniture, soap, and footwear are also manufactured, and there are several distilleries. The problem of foreign exchange and the high cost of raw materials for these industries cause frequent market shortages, and the failure rate among manufacturing businesses is high.

      Instability and civil war have held Liberia's potentially lucrative tourist industry in check. Tourist facilities are concentrated near beaches in Monrovia and Robertsport and near Lake Piso. The Lakpazee Zoo and the National Cultural Center at Kendeja, Providence Island near Monrovia, and the Kpatawee Waterfalls on the Zor River near Suakoko are the principal tourist attractions.

Finance and trade
      Among the several government-sponsored banks are the National Bank of Liberia, the National Housing and Savings Bank, the Agricultural and Cooperative Development Bank, and the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment. In addition there are private banks, insurance companies, and credit unions.

      Countries of the European Union, especially Germany, and the United States are the principal markets for Liberian exports. Iron ore and rubber account for almost 75 percent of Liberian export earnings, followed by logs and timber, diamonds, coffee, and cocoa. Food is the primary import; others include machinery and transport equipment, beverages, tobacco, manufactured goods, fuels, lubricants, and chemicals. The United States and Germany are the largest suppliers of imports.

      Only a small percentage of Liberian roads are paved. Primary roads connect administrative and economic centres and provide access to the road systems of neighbouring countries.

      Monrovia is the principal commercial port, and it also has facilities for transshipping iron ore and liquid latex. Nimba Range iron ore is shipped from Buchanan, while the ports at Greenville and Harper are used primarily for the shipment of rubber and forest products. All ports are administered by the National Port Authority.

      Liberia has two major airports, Robertsfield International, and James Spriggs Payne Airport, both near Monrovia. More than 100 airfields and airstrips dot the country's interior.

Administration and social conditions

      Liberia's government was patterned after that of the United States, with executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Political parties were legalized in 1984, and civilian rule was established in 1986. However, considerable political unrest and violence precluded any stable leadership in power from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. A power-sharing agreement in 2003 largely ended the fighting and created a National Transitional Government (NTG). The NTG, supported by United Nations peacekeeping troops, replaced the government under the 1986 constitution and ruled until a democratically elected administration was installed in 2006.

      According to the 1986 constitution, the country is led by a president who is directly elected for a six-year term. Members of the bicameral National Assembly, who serve six-year terms in the House of Representatives and nine-year terms in the Senate, are also elected directly. The judicial system comprises the Supreme Court, an appeals court, magistrate courts, and criminal courts. There are also traditional courts in some communities; the ethnic groups are allowed, as far as possible, to govern themselves according to customary law.

      The 1986 constitution calls for a multiparty system. Major political parties and organizations include the National Democratic Party of Liberia, the Unity Party, the Liberian Action Party, the Liberia Unification Party, the United People's Party, the National Patriotic Party, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia.

      For administrative purposes, Liberia is divided into 15 counties. Each of the counties is headed by a superintendent, who is appointed by the president.

      Since 1939 education has been compulsory for children between the ages of 7 and 16 and is free at the primary and secondary levels. Institutes providing higher education include the University of Liberia (1951) in Monrovia, Cuttington University College (1889; Episcopalian) in Suakoko, and the William V.S. Tubman College of Technology (1970) in Harper. There are several vocational schools, including the Booker Washington Institute at Kakata, a government school.

      The years of civil war and strife that began in the late 1980s and continued into the early 2000s disrupted education in Liberia: students were forced to flee with their families from the violence, and the majority of educational facilities and supplies were destroyed. After the peace accord of 2003, Liberia began the arduous task of rebuilding the country's educational system.

Health and welfare
      Conditions in Liberia were poor prior to the civil war, and they deteriorated further after years of war and unrest. Although much progress had been made in providing better health facilities, after the conflict subsided, the majority of these facilities were left in shambles or completely destroyed, especially in the areas beyond Monrovia. International relief organizations operated makeshift hospitals to serve the country's health care needs, and reestablishing the health care infrastructure was a priority of the government.

      Malaria and measles are major health problems, and yellow fever, cholera, tuberculosis, and malnutrition are also prevalent. Dysentery, malaria, and diarrhea are major causes of infant mortality, which, at about 130 per 1,000 births, is high by world standards.

      Housing in much of the country was damaged or destroyed by civil war and the following years of unrest; hundreds of thousands of Liberians were displaced. The country's utilities infrastructure was also destroyed. When the fighting subsided in 2003, privately owned generators were, for the most part, the only source of power in the country. Water delivery and sanitation systems were adversely affected by warfare as well, and unsafe water conditions were a major source of disease during and after the conflict.

Cultural life
      Traditional and Western lifestyles coexist; however, traditional values, customs, and norms influence the Western type considerably. In cities both Western and African music and dancing styles are in vogue, but in rural areas traditional rhythms are favoured. Schools instruct students in the legends, traditions, songs, arts, and crafts of African culture, and the government promotes African culture through such agencies as the National Museum in Monrovia, the Tubman Center for African Culture in Robertsport, and the National Cultural Center in Kendeja, which exhibits architecture of the 16 ethnic groups of Liberia. Mask making is an artistic pursuit that is also related to the social structure of some ethnic groups. Music festivals, predominantly religious, are held in most communities. The University of Liberia has an arts and crafts centre. There are several libraries, including a children's library in Monrovia and a National Public Library.

      Football (soccer) is the most popular sport. An intercounty football competition is held for the annual championship. The University of Liberia and Cuttington University College hold annual sports competitions.

      Monrovia has five daily newspapers, including the Daily Observer, the largest and most prestigious. A few magazines are published annually. Officially, there is press freedom, but newspapers are banned occasionally for violating government policies on information.

      There are four radio stations and one television station. International telecommunication services are available through direct satellite links between Liberia, the United States, Italy, and France.

Abeodu Bowen Jones

      Outsiders' knowledge of the west of Africa began with a Portuguese sailor, Pedro de Sintra, who reached the Liberian coast in 1461. Subsequent Portuguese explorers named Grand Cape Mount, Cape Mesurado (Montserrado), and Cape Palmas, all prominent coastal features. The area became known as the Grain Coast because grains of Melegueta pepper (grains of paradise), then as valuable as gold, were the principal item of trade.

      In the beginning of the 19th century the tide started to rise in favour of the abolition of slavery, and the Grain Coast was suggested as a suitable home for freed American slaves. In 1818 two U.S. government agents and two officers of the American Colonization Society (founded 1816) visited the Grain Coast. After abortive attempts to establish settlements there, an agreement was signed in 1821 between the officers of the society and local African chiefs granting the society possession of Cape Mesurado. The first American freed slaves, led by members of the society, landed in 1822 on Providence Island at the mouth of the Mesurado River. They were followed shortly by Jehudi Ashmun, a white American, who became the real founder of Liberia. By the time Ashmun left in 1828 the territory had a government, a digest of laws for the settlers, and the beginnings of profitable foreign commerce. Other settlements were started along the St. John River, at Greenville, and at Harper. In 1839 Thomas Buchanan was appointed the first governor. On his death in 1841 he was succeeded by Joseph Jenkins Roberts (Roberts, Joseph Jenkins), the colony's first black governor, who was born free in Virginia in 1809; Roberts enlarged the boundaries of the territory and improved economic conditions.

The early republic
 When the American Colonization Society intimated that Liberia should cease its dependency on it, Roberts proclaimed it an independent republic in 1847. Independence was recognized in 1848–56 by most countries, though formal recognition by the United States did not come until 1862.

      At the time independence was declared, a constitution based on that of the United States was drawn up. Roberts, who had been elected the first president of the republic, retained that office until 1856. During that period the slave trade, theretofore illicitly carried on from various nominally Liberian ports, was ended by the activity of the British and U.S. navies.

      In 1871 the first foreign loan was raised, being negotiated in London nominally for £100,000. The loan was unpopular, and still more unpopular was the new president, Edward J. Roye, who was deposed and imprisoned at Monrovia. Roberts was called back to office. He served until 1876.

      The early days of Liberia were marked by constant frontier troubles with the French on the Ivory Coast and the British at Sierra Leone. The Liberians tried to extend their authority inland, although they were still unable to control all the coastal area they claimed. Efforts to end the frontier disputes resulted in treaties with Great Britain in 1885 and with France in 1892. In 1904 President Arthur Barclay, who was born in Barbados, initiated a policy of direct cooperation with the tribes. Having obtained a loan from London in 1907, he made real efforts at reform. The foreign debt, however, was a burden, and the government was unable to exert effective authority over the interior for more than 20 miles (32 km) inland. In 1919 an agreement was signed transferring to France some 2,000 square miles (5,200 square km) of hinterland that Liberia had claimed but could not control.

Outside intervention
      In 1909 a commission appointed by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt (Roosevelt, Theodore) investigated political and economic conditions in Liberia and recommended financial reorganization. A loan of $1.7 million (U.S.), secured by customs revenue, was raised by an international consortium of bankers in 1912, and a receivership of customs was set up, administered by appointees of the British, French, and German governments and a U.S. receiver-general. A frontier police force was organized by officers of the U.S. Army, with the result that Liberian authority was better maintained. However, this promising new regime was upset by World War I. Revenues dropped to one-fourth of their previous level, and the financial situation steadily deteriorated.

      The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company obtained a concession of 1,000,000 acres (400,000 hectares) for a rubber plantation in 1926. At the same time, a loan was arranged through the Finance Corporation of America, a Firestone subsidiary. Using this private loan, the Liberian government consolidated and bonded all its external and internal debts and placed the country's finances on a relatively stable basis. Administration of the customs and internal revenue was placed in the hands of a U.S. financial adviser. In 1952 the government was able to liquidate its foreign debt for the first time since accepting the English loan of 1871.

      An investigation by the League of Nations of forced labour and slavery in Liberia, involving the shipment of Africans to the Spanish plantations in Fernando Po, brought about the resignations of President Charles King and Vice President Allen Yancy and the election of Edwin Barclay to the presidency in 1931. Liberia appealed to the Council of the League of Nations (Nations, League of) for financial aid, and a commission of inquiry was established. The next three years were marked by unsuccessful attempts to work out a plan of assistance involving appointing foreign administrators, declaring a moratorium on the Firestone loan, and suspending diplomatic relations with Great Britain and the United States. After the League Council had finally withdrawn its plan of assistance, the Liberian government reached an agreement with Firestone along lines similar to the league's recommendations.

World War II and after
      The new significance of Liberia became apparent after the outbreak of World War II. During the war Liberia's rubber plantation was the only source of natural latex rubber available to the Allies, apart from plantations in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). In 1942 Liberia signed a defense agreement with the United States. This resulted in a program of strategic road building and the construction of an international airport and a deepwater harbour at Monrovia. U.S. money was declared legal tender in Liberia in 1943, replacing British West African currency. In 1943 William V.S. Tubman (Tubman, William V S) was elected to his first term as president. Liberia declared war against Germany and Japan in January 1944 and in April signed the Declaration of the United Nations. In December 1960 Liberia became a member of the UN Security Council, and from that time it took an active part in African and international affairs. In 1963 the country became a member of the Organization of African Unity (since 2002 the African Union) at its inception.

      In 1963 Tubman was elected to his fifth term as president, and the following year the United States and Liberia signed an agreement to transfer the free port of Monrovia to the government of Liberia. Tubman was again elected president in 1967, the only candidate for the office; he died in London on July 23, 1971, shortly after his election to a seventh term as president. He was immediately succeeded by Vice President William R. Tolbert.

      A decline in world prices for Liberia's chief exports, iron ore and natural rubber, brought financial hardship to the country during the 1960s and early '70s. Foreign loans helped sustain the economy during that period.

Decades of strife
      In April 1980 Tolbert was killed in a coup led by Master Sergeant (later General) Samuel K. Doe (Doe, Samuel K), who became head of state and chairman of the People's Redemption Council (PRC). The PRC promised a new constitution—which became effective in 1986—and a return to civilian rule. Elections were held in 1985 with several parties participating but were widely criticized as fraudulent. Doe was inaugurated as the first president of the Second Republic in January 1986. His rule ended in 1990 after civil war—primarily between the Krahn and the Gio and Mano peoples—erupted. A multinational West African force, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Monitoring Group, attempted to restore order, but the leaders of two rebel groups, Charles Ghankay Taylor (Taylor, Charles Ghankay) and Prince Johnson, contended for power after Doe's downfall and execution. The war dragged on for seven years as new factions arose and neighbouring countries became enmeshed in the strife. The toll on the civilian population and the economy was devastating. After a series of abortive attempts, a truce was achieved in 1996. In elections held the following year, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia Party, led by Taylor, achieved a clear majority.

      At first, Taylor's government was able to maintain a shaky peace, buoyed by the presence of ECOWAS peacekeeping forces. However, those troops left in early 1999, and by the end of the year rebels were on the attack in northern Liberia. The country's economy, already in shambles, was made worse in 2001 when the UN Security Council imposed sanctions for Liberia's support of rebel forces in Sierra Leone; Taylor's alleged role in Sierra Leone's civil war also resulted in his June 2003 indictment by a UN-sponsored war crimes tribunal. Meanwhile, the rebel insurgency in Liberia had slowly spread southward, killing thousands and displacing tens of thousands in the fighting. Government troops could not stop the rebel advance, and in August 2003 Taylor fled the country and went into exile in Nigeria. In March 2006 the Liberian government requested Taylor's extradition, and Nigeria announced it would comply with the order. Taylor subsequently attempted to flee Nigeria but was quickly captured. Charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, he was later sent to The Hague; his trial before the Special Court for Sierra Leone began in June 2007.

Return to peace
 After Taylor fled Liberia in 2003, the National Transitional Government (NTG), headed by Liberian businessman Gyude Bryant and supported by United Nations peacekeeping troops, was established and ruled until a new administration was democratically elected and installed. Presidential elections were held in late 2005, and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Johnson-Sirleaf, Ellen) was declared the winner; she became the first woman to be elected head of state in Africa. Johnson-Sirleaf focused on rebuilding the country's economy and infrastructure, both of which were devastated from decades of conflict and instability, and worked to promote unity and reconciliation within the country. To that end, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established in 2006. Johnson-Sirleaf also addressed the culture of corruption that had been rampant for some time: she fired the entire staff of the Ministry of Finance and promised to investigate and prosecute anyone responsible for graft. In December 2007 Bryant, the former NTG head, was arrested for failing to appear in court to face corruption charges stemming from his time as leader of the transitional government; he was accused of embezzling more than one million dollars, charges that he vehemently denied.

Donald Rahl Petterson Svend E. Holsoe Ed.

Additional Reading
An overview is found in Harold D. Nelson (ed.), Liberia, 3rd ed. (1985). Physical features are described in Willi Schulze, A New Geography of Liberia (1973). Afro-American 19th-century settlement patterns are analyzed by Tom W. Shick, Behold the Promised Land (1980). Economic and political studies include Christopher Clapham, Liberia and Sierra Leone (1976); and R.W. Clower et al., Growth Without Development (1966). D. Elwood Dunn and Svend E. Holsoe, Historical Dictionary of Liberia (1984), provides an introduction. J. Gus Liebenow, Liberia: The Evolution of Privilege (1969), is supplemented by his Liberia: The Quest for Democracy (1987). D. Elwood Dunn and S. Byron Tarr, Liberia (1988), traces the political development of modern Liberia. Abeodu Bowen Jones Svend E. Holsoe

      city, northwestern Costa Rica. It lies along the Liberia River, a tributary of the Tempisque, at the foot of the Cordillera de Guanacaste and approximately 45 miles (70 km) south of the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border. Liberia is a commercial centre and a transportation hub for several nearby national parks, nature reserves, and beach resorts on the Nicoya Peninsula. Livestock is raised, and fruits, grains, and sugarcane are cultivated on the surrounding agricultural lands. Liberia's Museo del Sabanero (“Cowboy Museum”) explores the cattle-and-cowboy culture of the region. No railroad serves the city, but it is on the Inter-American Highway (Pan-American Highway); another highway leads southward to towns on the Nicoya Peninsula. The international airport is located 7 miles (12 km) to the west of the city. Pop. (2005) 44,451.

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