Country: Liberia; Capital is Monrovia located on the West Coast
Ø Size: 43,000 sq miles (111,370 sq km)
Ø 45% of the land used to be prime forest* (deforestation taking place due to increased logging activities and farming)
Ø 350 miles of coastline, mostly sandy beaches
Ø Population: 3,887,886 (July 2012 est. CIA World Book), with annual growth rate of 3.4%
Ø About a quarter million were killed during fourteen years of bloodshed
Liberia lies on the bulge of West Africa, bordering Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire [Ivory Coast]. It forms part of the West African Region of fifteen countries. The Capital Monrovia is named after James Monroe, fifth president of the United States of America. Situated on the Atlantic Ocean, at the mouth of the Saint Paul River, Monrovia is the nation's main port, along with Buchanan, Greenville, and Harper ports. Other major towns are Katata, Gbarnga, Ganta, Harbel, Yekepa, Zwedru, and Voinjama.
The official language of Liberia is English but several local languages are more widely spoken.
There are 15 subdivisions: Lofa, Nimba, Grand Gedeh, Sinoe, Bong, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Bassa, Bomi, Rivercess, Grand Kru, Maryland, Margibi, Montserrado, River Gee, Gbarpolu. Each county has a political headquarter where the county’s superintendent (appointed by the President) is based. They are further subdivided into chiefdoms, districts, clans, and towns/villages. The paramount chief is traditional leader elected by clan chiefs; the districts have commissioners, who are elected through an election process.
Independence and allies
Liberia was established around 1821 as a settlement for freed African-American slaves who longed for a place they could call home. During its early years, 15,000 people resettled to the continent of their ancestors. On July 26 1847, the settlement declared independence making it the first African Republic after Ethiopia.
During the First World War (1914-1918) and in 1944 during Second World War (1939-1945), Liberia became a key player to allies struggle against Germany, by declaring war on the latter, thus giving the Allies a base in West Africa.
Civil war (1989- 2003)
The country has been ravaged by a civil war started by Charles Taylor and cohorts that led to the brutal overthrow of dictator Samuel Doe in 1990. The war continued after Doe’s death, resulting in the deaths of more than 250,000 people, and destroying most of the nation’s infrastructure. Read about the war and coups!
The war temporarily subsided when Charles Taylor was democratically elected president in July 1997. By 2000, another planned rebel incursion, led by Taylor’s opponents, was well into Northern Lofa County. The International Community imposed sanctions on Taylor’s government in 2001. The Diamonds-for-arms embargo went a long way in weakening Taylor’s war machine.
August 2003, Taylor and the International Community worked out a deal. Nigeria played a crucial role in sending troops to Liberia and granting asylum to Taylor and his entourage. Charles Taylor shamefully bowed down and went into exile in Calabar, Nigerial. An interim administration stayed in power until general elections in October and November 2005, which Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf won.
Liberia’s shattered economy is currently being rebuilt gradually as the new government strives to get sanctions lifted to begin the export of key natural resources (gold, diamonds, and timber). Public infrastructure is almost inexistent.
Prior to the war broke out Liberia was one of the largest exporters in the world, the rubber industry was highly successful, and the iron ore deposits in the country attracted foreign investment. Bong Mines and Yekepa were booming mining towns. The economy still relies heavily on cocoa, coffee and rubber plantations, and diamonds and iron mines. However, companies linked to foreign mafia/gangs, who for the most part get backing from corrupt Liberian Politicians, mine most of the country’s resources.
The local currency is the Liberian dollar (L$) has significantly depreciated over the years, was officially at par with the US$ and coins. The currently exchange fluctuates between L$40-50 against $1 U.S. dollar. U.S. bills are legal tender in Liberia.
People and Culture
Liberia, especially Monrovia is the melting pot of Africa. Liberia is enriched with a multi-cultural population of diverse social, ethnic, economic, and political backgrounds. Each ethnic group (tribe) has a distinct dialect that has affinities with one or more other dialects. Cultures, customs, traditions and values are interwoven.
English is the official language. There are seventeen distinct indigenous tribes that speak more than 30 dialects. Liberia has evolved over the years and has developed a way of life (fashion and lifestyle) similar to Western culture. Ten years of refugee presence in neighboring countries also impacted these neighbors way of life.
Education in English is required in all public and recognized private schools. Some Traditional Education Societies are in existence, but less influential then in the early days: The men Poro Society and Women Sande Society are the most prominent practiced among many groups.
Sande is a kind of societal organization found among several ethnic groups who live in the West African Region. Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia share very similar practices. In Sande societies women receive non-formal education in farming, medicine cultivation, and child rearing. They are taught female values and trained for marriage, domestic life, and economic pursuits. Young girls are also introduced to songs, dances and the mysteries of women's society. They graduation with grandiose public ceremonies at which time most of the girls are proposed by young men for marriage.
A true tropical paradise with friendly and hardworking people, exotic fruits, valuable natural resources, raw materials, mountains, mangrove swamps, tropical woods, wild parks and kilometers long white sandy beaches with palm-trees.
Liberia is endowed with plentiful of water, natural mineral resources, forests and a favorable climate for agriculture, which remains to be developed.
Palm trees are important forest products in Western Africa. Their commercial value lies mainly in the oil that can be obtained from the kernel of the nut. Palm oil is primarily used for in food preparation (as oil, margarine, all soups) and also for non-food applications (soap-making, detergent, cosmetics, etc.). The tree is found in the wild and young forests. With agriculture improvements over the years, palm trees have become more visible in family plantations and corporative farms.
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