A Brief History of Liberia

    Liberia was founded by freed American slaves and became Africa's first independent republic in 1847. The settlers modeled their constitution and government after the United States, and their society on the antebellum South. The Americo-Liberians saw themselves as superior to the indigenous peoples of Liberia and often treated them unjustly.

    Although being fewer than 5% of the population, the Americo-Liberians controlled all key government positions until 1980, when Samuel Doe (from the Krahn tribe) staged a coup and declared himself president. After almost a decade of relative peace under Doe, the county was plunged into civil war in 1989 by Charles Taylor and his rebel forces. Hoping to put an end to the violence, Liberians elected Charles Taylor as their president in 1997 with people chanting on the streets, "You killed my ma, you killed my pa, I will vote for you!"

    This prospect of peace would be short-lived as various other rebel leaders mobilized their forces to fight for control of the country. Just as in the first phase of the war, incredible acts of brutality were carried out by rebel fighters, some as young as eight years old. In 2003 international pressure forced Charles Taylor into exile in Nigeria and the war was officially over. A U.N. military mission was sent to Liberia to establish order. By this time over 220,000 people had been killed and countless others were living in refugee camps in neighboring counties and IDP camps around Monrovia.

Slowly people began to return to their homes and rebuild their lives. In 2005 Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was elected as the first female president in Africa. Under her leadership the country has made remarkable progress towards reconciliation and development.