Liberia Overview

Liberia is Africa’s oldest republic. Today, the country is best known for the two long and brutal civil wars, with short interruptions from 1989 to 2003, and for the President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who was elected in 2005 and the first woman President of Africa.

Subject areas

Country overview & natural area

The West African country is located on the Atlantic coast between Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast. Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, is on the coast. In the middle of the country lies the largest tropical rainforest zone in West Africa, it takes up about 60 percent of today’s national territory. The border with Guinea in the north is mountainous, with mountains reaching 1752 meters.

History & State

From 1821 to 1867, around 10,000 freed slaves from the United States were settled in Liberia. In 1847 the Republic of Liberia was founded. The name “Liberia” is derived from the Latin word “liber”, which means “free”. Liberia became famous in the 1990’s through the long and brutal civil wars between 1989 and 2003.

Economy & Development

Although the country’s economy and infrastructure have not yet recovered from the aftermath of the civil war, economic growth has risen continuously in recent years, to 7.5% in 2013 due to iron ore exports. However, this positive trend did not continue in 2014-2016 due to the Ebola crisis and the lower raw material prices.

Corrugated iron house by the sea

Society & culture

The settlement history of Liberia is part of the West African migration. There are at least 16 indigenous peoples in Liberia, each divided into a variety of subgroups, and 2 – 5% Americo-Liberians.

Official name: Republic of Liberia

Area: 96.320 km²

Residents: 5 million (2020 estimate)

Growth of population: 2.5% (2018)

Seat of government: Monrovia

Official language: English

29 regional languages: including Kpelle, Bassa, Mano

National symbols

The coat of arms of Liberia

A sign showing a 19th century ship arriving in Liberia symbolizes the ships that brought freed slaves from the United States to Liberia.

  • Above the sign is the motto Liberia on a scroll: The love of liberty brought us here. Like the coat of arms of the republic, it refers to the arrival of the Americo-Liberians in West Africa. Under the shield is a scroll with the official name of Liberia.
  • The plow and shovel represent the dignity and hardship of the work that will make Liberia prosper. The rising sun in the background represents the birth of the nation. The palm, Liberia’s most versatile food resource, represents wealth.
  • The white dove with a scroll represents the breath of peace.

The flag of Liberia

In the flag of the country, the design of which is based on the US flag, 11 identical horizontal stripes – red and white – alternate. A white, five-pointed star appears on a blue square in the upper left corner. The stripes symbolize the signatories of the Liberian declaration of independence; the blue square represents the African continent and the star the freedom that the former slaves gained. According to the constitution, the blue color represents freedom, justice and loyalty, the white color purity, cleanliness and innocence, and the red color steadfastness, bravery and passion.

The National anthem

According to hyperrestaurant, the national anthem “All Hail, Liberia, Hail” has been in use since the republic was founded in 1847.

History & State

Independence Day: July 26, 1847

Head of state: George Manneh Weah

Political system: Presidential Republic

Democracy Status Index (BTI): Rank 46 (out of 137), 2020

Corruption Perceptions Index: Rank 137 (out of 180), 2019

Ibrahim Index of African Governance: Rank 27 (out of 54), 2020

Foreign policy

The connection between Liberia and the USA is particularly close due to its history, but there are also many connections to the EU and China and also a long history of cooperation with Germany.

Liberia has good relations with the two neighboring countries Sierra Leone and Guinea. In addition to these three countries, Ivory Coast has been a member of the Mano River Union (MRU), founded in 1973, since 2008. It was dormant during the war years and was re-established in 2004. The Union is working to improve relations between the Member States. Common priorities are economic development, social development, and peace and security.

Liberia is also one of the 15 member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The ECOMOG is the multinational armed force of the ECOWAS, which was also used during the civil war in Liberia. The ECOFORCE as the successor to the ECOMOG was stationed in the Ivory Coast in the past.

Membership in the UN plays an important role for Liberia. The international community temporarily stationed up to 15,000 UN soldiers and 1,115 police officers in the country to maintain peace. UNMIL (United Nations Mission in Liberia) also supported Liberia with the reconstruction. The UNMIL mandate ended in March 2018, but the UN will continue to support Liberia in peace building.

Liberia is a member of other international organizations:

  • AU (African Union)
  • African Development Bank (AfDB)
  • AKP (Group of African, Caribbean and Pacific States)
  • WTO (World Trade Organization)