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Monrovia has a population estimated at nearly 1.5 million people, nearly half the entire population the entire country of Liberia. Apart from the oldest part of the city, the urban agglomeration is a vast shanty-town. A bag of rice saves more lives in Monrovia than it does in rural areas. But once someone eats and survives another day in Monrovia, there is nothing more to look forward to than surviving the next day. There are things that Monrovia once had which it will take many years to restore - running water, electricity, sewer system, telephone, garbage collection, and public buildings such as the Executive Mansion and the various edifices of the government ministries.

In 1824 steps were initiated to spell out a system of local administration and to codify the laws. This resulted, a year later, in the Constitution, Government, and Digest of the Laws of Liberia. In this document, sovereign power continued to rest with the ACS's agent but the colony was to operate under common law. Slavery and participation in the slave trade were forbidden. The settlement that had been called Christopolis was renamed Monrovia after the American president, James Monroe, and the colony as a whole was formally called Liberia.

Because the soil around Monrovia was poor and the coastal areas were covered in dense jungle, many early emigrants to Liberia moved up the nearby St. Paul's River, where they found land suitable for farming. There they established small communities of people from the same geographic region in America.

Monrovia's crime rate is high. Theft and assault are major problems, and they occur more frequently after dark. Foreigners, including US citizens, have been targets of street crime and robbery. Residential armed break-ins are common. The police are ill equipped and largely incapable of providing effective protection.

Road travel can be hazardous. Cars, trucks, and taxis are frequently overloaded with people and goods and make frequent stops without signaling. Many vehicles operate with threadbare tires, and blowouts are common. There are no operating traffic lights in the country; therefore, intersections should be approached with caution. There are also no public streetlights; pedestrians in Monrovia's streets and those walking on country roads are difficult to see at night. Pedestrians often walk in the streets and cross busy roadways with little or no warning. Drivers and pedestrians are cautioned that high-speed car convoys carrying government officials require all other vehicles to pull off the road until they have passed. All drivers should also remain in their vehicles at the roadside with headlights turned off until any such convoy passes. It would be advisable to wait at least ten minutes after the convoy passes since convoy stragglers often drive at high speed in order to catch up with the group.

Taking photographs of military installations, air and seaports, and important government buildings is restricted. Visitors should refrain from taking pictures of any sites or activities, including official motorcades or security personnel, that might be considered sensitive. Police and military officers are liable to confiscate any camera. Travelers would be well advised not to take photographs, movies or videos in any public place.

Lodging, fuel, transportation, and telephone services are unevenly available in Liberia. They are nonexistent or severely limited in rural areas. Neither water nor electricity is commercially available in Monrovia. Most hotels have utilities available, but not on a 24-hour basis. Few facilities and homes have telephones, and disruption of telephone service is common. Public mail delivery is very unreliable, but commercial air courier service is available through DHL and Federal Express.

When he initially took office as President, Charles Taylor lived in the Congotown neighborhood, on the ocean at the outskirts of Monrovia. He built a large new house, surrounded by high concrete walls, with a private chapel, tennis and basketball courts, and a swimming pool. The complex is built on a steep hill, overlooking a verdant bushland that becomes a swamp in the rainy season.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:53:20 ZULU