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National Parks and wildlife
Settlement of freed slaves from the US in what is today Liberia began
in 1822; by 1847, the Americo-Liberians were able to establish a republic.
William TUBMAN, president from 1944-71, did much to promote foreign
investment and to bridge the economic, social, and political gaps
between the descendents of the original settlers and the inhabitants
of the interior. In 1980, a military coup led by Samuel DOE ushered
in a decade of authoritarian rule. In December 1989, Charles TAYLOR
launched a rebellion against DOE's regime that led to a prolonged
civil war in which DOE himself was killed. A period of relative peace
in 1997 allowed for elections that brought TAYLOR to power, but major
fighting resumed in 2000. An August 2003, peace agreement ended the
war and prompted the resignation of former president Charles TAYLOR,
who was exiled to Nigeria. After two years of rule by a transitional
government, democratic elections in late 2005 brought President Ellen
JOHNSON SIRLEAF to power. The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), which
maintains a strong presence throughout the country, completed a disarmament
program for former combatants in late 2004, but the security situation
is still volatile and the process of rebuilding the social and economic
structure of this war-torn country remains sluggish.
The Republic of Liberia is a country on the west coast of Africa,
bordered by Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Côte d'Ivoire. It has
recently been afflicted by two civil wars, the Liberian Civil War
(1989–1996), and the Second Liberian Civil War (1999–2003),
that have displaced hundreds of thousands of its citizens and destroyed
the Liberian economy.
The history of Liberia as a political entity begins with the arrival
of the black American settlers — the Americo-Liberians, as they
were to be known — who established a colony of “free men
of colour” on its shore in 1822 under the auspices of the American
Colonization Society. The historical roots from which a majority of
present-day Liberians derive their identity, however, are found in
the varied traditions of the several tribal groups of indigenous Africans
whom the settlers confronted in their struggle to gain a foothold
in Africa and, later, extend their control into the interior.
On July 26, 1847, the Americo-Liberians declared the independence
of the Republic of Liberia. The settlers regarded the continent from
which their forefathers had been taken as slaves as a "Promised
Land", but they did not become reintegrated into an African society.
Once in Africa, they referred to themselves as "Americans"
and were recognized as such by tribal Africans and by British colonial
authorities in neighboring Sierra Leone. The symbols of their state
— its flag, motto, and seal — and the form of government
that they chose reflected their American background and diaspora experience.
President Edwin Barclay of Liberia (right), 1943
The religious practices, social customs and cultural standards of
the Americo-Liberians had their roots in the antebellum American South.
These ideals strongly coloured the attitudes of the settlers toward
the indigenous African people. The new nation, as they perceived it,
was coextensive with the settler community and with those Africans
who were assimilated into it. Because of mutual mistrust and hostility
between the "Americans" along the coast and the "Natives"
of the interior, a recurrent theme in the country's subsequent history,
therefore, was the usually successful attempt of the Americo-Liberian
minority to dominate people whom they considered uncivilized and inferior.
They named the land "Liberia," which in European languages
and Latin means "Land of the Free".
Liberia is situated in Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic
Ocean. The landscape is characterised by mostly flat to rolling coastal
plains, which rise to rolling plateau and low mountains in the northeast.
The climate is tropical: hot and humid. Winters are dry with hot days
and cool to cold nights. Summers are wet and cloudy with frequent