UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!



The spread of the Ebola virus poses a serious threat to the existence of Liberia, National Defense Minister Brownie Samukai said 10 September 2014. "Liberia is facing a serious threat to its national existence. The deadly Ebola virus has caused a disruption of the normal functioning of our State," Samukai said at a meeting of the UN Security Council. He added that the virus is "spreading like wild fire and devouring everything in its path." Liberia had been under a state of emergency since August, closed its borders and schools, quarantined some communities, and placed all non-essential government workers on compulsory leave because of Ebola.

On 13 September 2014 Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf fired 10 senior officials who defied an order to return to the country and help in the fight against Ebola. The officials, including assistant ministers, deputy ministers and commissioners, had been told in August come back to Liberia. The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders has called the situation in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea catastrophic because the countries' health systems cannot deal with the number of patients infected with Ebola. The virus also has killed many qualified medical workers, causing a shortage in the most affected countries. Liberia was the epicenter of the outbreak, accounting for about half of all cases and deaths.

Liberia, which means "land of the free," was founded by freed slaves from the United States in 1820. These freed slaves, called Americo-Liberians, first arrived in Liberia and established a settlement in Christopolis now Monrovia (named after U.S. President James Monroe) on February 6, 1820. This group of 86 immigrants formed the nucleus of the settler population of what became known as the Republic of Liberia.

The American Colonization Society (ACS) was formed in 1817 to send free African-Americans to Africa as an alternative to emancipation in the United States. In 1822, the society established on the west coast of Africa a colony that in 1847 became the independent nation of Liberia. By 1867, the society had sent more than 13,000 emigrants.

Liberia is a small, poor state, and it had correspondingly small and weak armed forces. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Liberia's relative impotence vis-a-vis the European powers engaged in building and maintaining colonies in West Africa meant that Liberian sovereignty and the inviolability of its borders could not be taken for granted. During the colonial period, large amounts of the so-called Hinterland were lost to Britain and France when the government in Monrovia could not demonstrate its control over the area. The country survived, however, and eventually its boundaries were firmly established. Since the decolonization of most of West Africa between 1957 and 1961, Liberia was fortunate to be surrounded by other small states that, although they have occasionally caused the Liberians concern, displayed neither the capacity nor the inclination to threaten the government in Monrovia.

Liberia is located on the West coast of Africa, with a 350-mile long coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. Liberia is bounded on the west by Sierra Leone; on the north by Guinea; and on the east by Ivory Coast. On the south is the Atlantic Ocean. It has an area of approximately 43,000 square miles. South America is about 6,000 miles away from Liberia.

Liberia suffered from an extended and far-reaching period of violent state collapse between 1990 and 2005. Decades of mismanagement and conflict have made Liberia one of the world's poorest countries. The civil war left thousands of people brutalised and traumatised and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced. It left a generation of Liberians with no education and few skills to use in peace time. The state, its institutions, its security forces, its education and health services all have to be rebuilt from scratch. Donors have committed some US$500 million for reconstruction, funds which are tied to progress on the Governance and Economic Management Plan (GEMAP), put in place in early 2005.

Settled in 1821 by freed slaves from the U.S., Liberia became Africa’s first independent republic in 1847. Descendents of these freed slaves, known as Americo-Liberians, dominated the political landscape until a 1980 coup led by Sgt. Samuel Doe. His regime concentrated power among the Krahn ethnic group. The 1989 invasion by Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front for Liberia (NPFL) led to the fall of Does’ brutal military regime and resulted in a protracted and multisided conflict between the NPFL, Nigerian-led ECOMOG peacekeepers, and a plethora of smaller armed factions (notably ULIMO-K, ULIMO-J, and the Liberian Peace Council). An estimated 200,000 Liberians died in the ensuing war. Battle lines were fluid, factions engaged in predatory behavior to seize valuable resources, street battles raged in Monrovia, and the use of child soldiers was widespread.

In 1997 the Abuja II peace agreement called for quick elections and Nigeria pressed for a rapid wrap up of the peace process. In a con-text of pervasive fear and insecurity, and where Taylor controlled vast resources, Taylor won in a landslide and was inaugurated as president. Peace, however, did not last. Tay-lor never transformed his NPFL insurgency with its links to contraband, criminal net-works, and war in Sierra Leone into a political movement able to govern peacefully. Interna-tional sanctions were placed on Taylor and key allies. By 1999, the LURD (drawing on some of the same constituents as ULIMO-K) and later in 2003 MODEL (drawing on ULIMO-J and LPC) reached the outskirts of Monrovia. Under tremendous international pressure, Taylor resigned in 2003, going first into exile in Nigeria and then to The Hague to face charges arising from the Sierra Leone war crimes tribunal.

The 2003 Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) called for a National Transition Government of Liberia (NTGL) with large representation by the major armed factions. The resulting authority was pre-occupied with com-peting for positions from which they could extract resources and patronage. The 2005 elections (for President, Vice President, and all 30 Senate and 64 House seats) represented a critical oppor-tunity for Liberia to move from a failed state into the early first stages of recovery, peacebuilding and democratization. The elections took place in a context of considerable uncertainty with a new and untested National Elections Commission, an array of weak and personalized political parties and widespread fears about security. Despite the difficulties, successful elections were held and the newly elected government took office in January 2006. This included African’s first elected woman president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 14-09-2014 20:02:31 ZULU