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Liberia (lībērˈēə) [New Lat.,=place of freedom], officially Republic of Liberia, republic (2015 est. pop. 4,500,000), 43,000 sq mi (111,370 sq km), W Africa. Liberia fronts on the Atlantic Ocean for some 350 mi (560 km) on the southwest and is bordered on the northwest by Sierra Leone, on the north by Guinea, and on the east by Côte d'Ivoire. Monrovia is the capital, largest city, main port, and commercial center.

Land and People

Liberia can be divided into three distinct topographical areas. First, a flat coastal plain of some 10 to 50 mi (16–80 km), with creeks, lagoons, and mangrove swamps; second, an area of broken, forested hills with altitudes from 600 to 1,200 ft (180–370 m), which covers most of the country; and third, an area of mountains in the northern highlands, with elevations reaching 4,540 ft (1,384 m) in the Nimba Mts. and 4,528 ft (1,380 m) in the Wutivi Mts. Liberia's six main rivers flow into the Atlantic. Vegetation in much of the country is dense forest growth. The climate is tropical and humid, with a heavy rainfall, averaging 183 in. (465 cm) on the coast and some 88 in. (224 cm) in the southeastern interior. There are two rainy seasons and a dry, harmattan season in December and January. In addition to the capital, other important towns include Buchanan and Harper, both ports.

The majority of the population belong to 16 ethnic groups, including the Kpelle, the Bassa, the Gio, the Kru, the Grebo, and the Mano. Traditional religions are practiced by about 40% of the people; another 40% are Christian, and 20% are Muslim. English is the official language, but is spoken by only about 20% of the people; African languages are used extensively. Far less numerous, but of great political importance in the past, are the descendants of freed slaves who immigrated from the United States to Liberia in the 19th cent. These people, formerly called Americo-Liberians, are concentrated in the towns, where they have provided the country's Westernized leadership and, for the most part, are adherents of various Protestant denominations. There are also communities of Lebanese merchants and European and American technicians.


The civil warfare that raged from 1990 to 1997 and from 2001 to 2003 had a disastrous effect on the Liberian economy, with many business people fleeing the country as rebels gained control of vast quantities of gold, diamonds, natural rubber, and tropical hardwoods. Until the 1950s, Liberia's economy was almost totally dependent upon subsistence farming and the production of rubber. The American-owned Firestone plantation was the country's largest employer and held a concession on some one million acres (404,700 hectares) of land. With the discovery of high-grade iron ore, first at Bomi Hills, and then at Bong and Nimba, the production and export of minerals became the country's major cash-earning economic activity. Gold, diamonds, barite, and kyanite are also mined. Mineral processing plants are located near Buchanan and Bong.

About 70% of the population work in the agricultural sector, which produces rubber, coffee, cocoa, rice, cassava, palm oil, sugarcane, and bananas. Sheep and goats are raised, and there is lumbering. Much rice, the main staple, is imported, but efforts have been made to develop intensive rice production and to establish fish farms. Much of the country's industry is concentrated around Monrovia, where civil war disruption was highest, and is directed toward mineral, rubber, and palm oil processing. The lack of skilled and technical labor has slowed the growth of the manufacturing sector.

The government derives a sizable income from registering ships; low fees and lack of control over shipping operations have made the Liberian merchant marine one of the world's largest. Internal communications are poor, with few paved roads and only a few short, freight-carrying rail lines. Rubber, timber, iron ore, diamonds, cocoa, and coffee provide the bulk of the export earnings; fuels, chemicals, machinery, transportation equipment, manufactured goods, and foodstuffs are the principal imports. In general, the value of imports greatly exceeds that of exports, and the country has accumulated massive international debts. Liberia's main trading partners are Belgium, South Korea, and Japan.


Liberia is governed under the constitution of 1986. The executive branch is headed by a president, who is popularly elected for a renewable six-year term. The president is both the head of state and the head of government. The bicameral legislature, the National Assembly, consists of the 30-seat Senate, whose members are popularly elected for nine-year terms, and the 64-seat House of Representatives, whose members are popularly elected for six-year terms. Administratively, Liberia is divided into 15 counties.


Founding to 1980

Liberia was founded in 1821, when officials of the American Colonization Society were granted possession of Cape Mesurado by local De chiefs for the settlement of freed American slaves. African-American immigrants were landed in 1822, the first of some 15,000 to settle in Liberia. The survival of the colony during its early years was due primarily to the work of Jehudi Ashmun, one of the society's agents. In 1847, primarily due to British pressures, the colony was declared an independent republic. The Americo-Liberian minority controlled the country's politics, and the native population was economically exploited and denied the vote. New immigration virtually came to an end with the American Civil War. Liberia was involved in efforts to end the W African slave trade.

Attempts to modernize the economy led to a rising foreign debt in 1871, which the republic had serious difficulty repaying. The debt problem and constitutional issues led to the overthrow of the government in 1871. Conflicts over territorial claims resulted in the loss of large areas of land to Britain and France in 1885, 1892, and 1919. However, rivalries between the Europeans colonizing West Africa and the interest of the United States helped preserve Liberian independence during this period. Nevertheless, the decline of Liberia's exports and its inability to pay its debts resulted in a large measure of foreign interference.

In 1909 the government was bankrupt, and a series of international loans were floated. Firestone leased large areas for rubber production in 1926. In 1930 scandals broke out over the exportation of forced labor from Liberia, and a League of Nations investigation upheld the charges that slave trading had gone on with the connivance of the government. President C. B. D. King and his associates resigned, and international control of the republic was proposed. Under the leadership of presidents Edwin Barclay (1930–44) and William V. S. Tubman (1944–71), however, Liberia avoided such control.

Under Tubman, new policies to open the country to international investment and to allow the indigenous peoples a greater say in Liberian affairs were undertaken. The country's mineral wealth, particularly iron ore, began to be exploited, and there was a gradual improvement of roads, schools, and health standards, but many inequities between the Americo-Liberians and the rest of the population remained. Upon Tubman's death in 1971, Vice President W. R. Tolbert took charge, and in 1972 he was elected to the presidency. Although Tolbert cultivated a democratic climate and favorable relations abroad, an organized opposition emerged early in his regime, some of it from Liberian students living in the United States. In 1979, a government proposal to increase the price of rice produced widespread violence.

The Doe Regime and Return to Civilian Rule

In 1980, Tolbert was assassinated in a coup led by Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe, which ended Americo-Liberian domination of the country. Pledging a return to civilian rule in 1981, the military government unleashed a campaign to subdue opposition. In 1984 Doe's government instituted a series of constitutional reforms that included shortening the presidential term and outlawing the formation of a one-party state. Doe became Liberia's first indigenous president (by a fraudulent election) in 1985. The Doe government was infamous for corruption and human-rights abuses; it also became the target of numerous coup attempts. Thousands of refugees fled to Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire during this period.

Late in 1989, Liberia was invaded from Côte d'Ivoire by rebel forces of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), led by Charles Taylor, who proclaimed himself president. The United States sent troops to the area when the NPFL threatened to take foreign hostages. Doe was assassinated in 1990 by another group of rebels led by Prince Yormie Johnson, who also sought the presidency. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) intervened to negotiate a peace settlement among the two rebel groups and the government. ECOWAS also sent a Nigerian-led West African peacekeeping force to Monrovia and installed an interim government led by Amos Sawyer. Taylor's forces, with military aid from Libya and Burkina Faso, began a siege of Monrovia in 1992 and engaged in fighting with ECOWAS forces.

A number of cease-fires were established in 1993 and 1994, but clashes between factions persisted. In Aug., 1995, a new peace accord was signed in Abuja, Nigeria, that provided for an interim government headed by Wilton Sankawulo, with national elections to be held late in 1996. In Apr., 1996, fierce factional fighting resumed in the capital; however, disarmament was begun later that year, and the war formally came to an end in 1997. It is estimated that between 150,000 and 200,000 lives were lost in the civil strife, with hundreds of thousands of refugees having fled the country.

Multiparty presidential and legislative elections held in July, 1997, brought Charles Taylor to power. Under Taylor, the country remained economically devastated while he and his family enriched themselves by looting Liberia's resources. In the late 1990s, Liberia was accused of supplying troops to support rebel forces in Sierra Leone's civil war. Taylor, a long-time ally of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone, had supplied the rebels with arms in exchange for diamonds. In 2000 the United Nations placed an 18-month ban on the international sale of the diamonds in an attempted to undermine the RUF, and in May of the following year it also imposed sanctions on Liberia. In mid-2001 fighting erupted in N Liberia between anti-Taylor rebels and government forces. The fighting intensified during the following year, and the rebels continued to expand the war into other regions of Liberia in 2003; that year the United Nations also placed an arms embargo (2003–16, modified in 2006 to allow the equipping of the military and police, further eased in 2009) on Liberia. By mid-2003 the rebels controlled roughly two thirds of the country and were threatening to seize Monrovia, leading to calls for Taylor to step down and for the United States, as a nation with historical ties to Liberia, to send peacekeeping forces.

In August, Taylor resigned and went into exile; he was succeeded temporarily by his vice president, Moses Blah. A peace agreement was signed with the two rebel groups, and several thousand West African peacekeepers, supported temporarily by an offshore U.S. force, arrived. In Oct., 2003, the West African force was placed under UN command and was reinforced with troops from other nations, eventually growing to include more than 16,000 military and polic personnel; businessman Gyude Bryant became president of a new power-sharing government.

Despite the accord with the rebels, fighting initially continued in parts of the country; tensions among the factions in the national unity government also threatened the peace. By the end of 2004, however, more than 100,000 Liberian fighters had been disarmed, the former government and rebel forces had agreed not to rearm, and the disarmament program was ended. In June, 2004, a program to reintegrate the fighters into society began, but the funds proved inadequate by year's end. In light of the progress made President Bryant requested an end to the UN embargo on Liberian diamonds and timber, but the Security Council postponed such a move until the peace was more secure. Bryant's government was hindered by corruption and a lack of authority in much of Liberia, but the peace enabled to the economy recover somewhat in 2004.

In the presidential election in the fall of 2004 former soccer star George Weah won the first round with 28% of the vote, but lost the runoff in November to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a politician and former World Bank official who received nearly 60% of the second round votes. Weah charged that the runoff had been rigged, leading to street protests. Most observers regarded the election as having been free and fair, and Weah subseqently dropped his challenge of the vote. Sirleaf became the first woman to be elected president of an African nation. At the same time a new national legislature was also elected, with no party securing a controlling position.

Sirleaf, under international pressure, requested in Mar., 2006, that Nigeria extradite Charles Taylor, who was then brought before an international tribunal in Sierra Leone to face war crimes charges arising from events during the Sierra Leone civil war (his trial was later transferred to The Hague for security purposes; he was convicted of war crimes in 2012). In June, 2006, the United Nations ended its embargo on Liberian timber, but continued its diamond embargo until an effective certificate of origin program was established; the diamond embargo was finally lifted in Apr., 2007.

In Mar., 2007, former interim president Bryant was arrested and charged with having embezzled government funds while in office. The Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which had conducted a four-year investigation of the nation's civil strife, issued its report in July, 2009; it recommended that the president (who at originally supported Charles Taylor) and many other senior politicians be banned from politics for 30 years. In the 2011 presidential election, Sirleaf was reelected after Winston Tubman, her opponent in the November runoff, withdrew and called for a boycott. He asserted that the poll was rigged, but his claim was not backed by foreign observers or the supreme court, and the third place finisher had thrown his support to Sirleaf.

From 2014 to 2015 an Ebola epidemic that began (Dec., 2013) in Guinea and spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone killed some 4,800 people in Liberia. The UN mission in Liberia largely ended in mid-2016; the less than 2,000 military and police personnel remained only in case of emergency and were gradually reduced, with the last personnel leaving in Mar., 2018. The presidential runoff in 2017 was delayed by investigation into charges of irregularities and fraud in the first round (October); after the supreme court allowed the second round to proceed in December, George Weah, whose running mate was Charles Taylor's ex-wife, easily won. Government corruption remains a significant problem in Liberia.


See C. H. Huberich, The Political and Legislative History of Liberia (2 vol., 1947); P. J. Staudenraus, The African Colonization Movement, 1816–1865 (1961); C. M. Wilson, Liberia (1971); J. K. Sundiata, Black Scandal, America and the Liberian Labor Crisis (1980); J. G. Liebenow, Liberia (1987); D. E. Dunn and S. B. Tarr, Liberia (1988).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Republic of Liberia), a state in West Africa. Liberia is bordered by Sierra Leone in the northwest, the Republic of Guinea in the north and northeast, and the Ivory Coast in the east. On the west and south it is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean. Area, 111,400 sq km; population, 1.57 million (1972 estimate). Monrovia is the capital city. Administratively, the country is divided into nine counties and five territories.

Constitution and government. Liberia is a republic. The present constitution was adopted in 1847 and amended in 1955. The head of state and government is the president, elected by the population for a term of eight years (in the event of reelection, for four years). The president has broad authority. He directs foreign and domestic policies, appoints ministers, and serves as the supreme commander of the armed forces.

The legislature in Liberia has two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House has 62 deputies elected for four years. Eighteen members (two from each county) are elected to the Senate for a term of six years. Electoral rights are granted to all citizens who have reached the age of 18 and are owners of real estate or pay hut tax in settlement areas of certain tribes. Liberia’s cabinet carries out advisory functions under the president.

Counties are governed by prefects (superintendents) appointed by the president. Territories are directed by commissioners. Traditional tribal chiefs play an important role in local administration.

The judicial system includes the Supreme Court (with five judges), which carries out functions of constitutional review, as well as district, municipal, and special courts and courts of arbitration.

Natural features. The coast is basically flat; a sandy embankment stretches out along it, separating various lagoons. A maritime lowland plain several dozen km wide has no major inlets and is swampy in certain areas. A Precambrian crystalline foundation comes to the surface over the major part of the plain. In the heart of the country the plain gradually rises and becomes hilly (400–600 m) and through a number of stages is transformed into the rolling Leone-Liberian Upland with separate insular mountains (Mount Nimba, 1,752 m). There are deposits of iron, diamonds, and gold.

The climate is hot and humid. Average monthly temperatures are at least 28°C year-round. Along the coast the heat is moderated by sea breezes. Annual precipitation ranges from 1,500 or 2,000 mm in inland regions to 5,000 mm on the Atlantic coast. A relatively dry season extends from November to April, and a rainy season, from May to October.

There is a dense network of rivers. Numerous small but deepwater rivers, emptying into the Atlantic Ocean, rise in the Leone-Liberian Upland. The most important rivers are the Mano, Loffa, and St. Paul (Diani). The St. John, Sess, and Cavalla have many rapids along the upper and middle courses. Only the lower part of the St. John is accessible to shipping (for a distance of 50 km).

Approximately one-third of the territory is covered by thick evergreen equatorial forests on red-yellow laterite (ferralite) soils. Mahogany, rosewood, rubber (hevea), and other valuable varieties of trees are found in the forests. Coffee trees, wine palms, and oil palms are widespread. Along with evergreens, forests with deciduous foliage and sparse growths of trees grow in the northeast of the country. A tall-grass savanna with umbellate acacia and baobab appears along the border with the Republic of Guinea. Mangrove vegetation is developed along the coast. Water buffalo, antelope, leopards, and boars are encountered in the savanna. In the forests there are many monkeys and snakes. There is an abundant fauna of birds and insects (termites and tsetse flies). Local fauna and flora are preserved in a reservation on Mount Nimba.

Population. The most numerous population group (about 47 percent) consists of closely related peoples speaking languages of the Mande language family; these are the Kpelle, Loma, Mano, Malinke, and others living in the northern region of the country and the Vai, who inhabit the coast northwest of Monrovia. In the southern part of Liberia and along the coast live the peoples of the Guinean group—the Kru, Grebo, Kran, Guéré, and others, comprising about 43 percent of the entire population. Peoples speaking languages of the West Atlantic, or western Bantoid, group (Gola, Kissi; about 9 percent of the population) live in the northwestern region of the country. Descendants of liberated American Negroes, who were the founders of the republic, make up about 1 percent of the population, living primarily in coastal cities and speaking English. They have a special, privileged position in Liberia. English is the official language, although it is used by a minority of the population. The overwhelming majority of the population maintains local traditional beliefs; the remainder are Muslims and Christians (mainly Protestants). The Gregorian calendar is official.

During the period 1963–70 annual population growth averaged 1.7 percent, and in 1971 there was a growth rate of 2.9 percent. The work force numbers approximately 450,000 persons (1971). In 1972, 51 percent of the total work force was employed in agriculture, 24.5 percent in mining, 4.9 percent in manufacturing, 2.8 percent in construction, 2.0 percent in power engineering, 6.5 percent in commerce, approximately 6 percent in transport, and 2.3 percent in the service industry. Of the hired hands, about 42,000 are employed on rubber plantations. Average population density is 14 persons per sq km. The population is unequally distributed. Most highly populated is the coastal region (30–35 persons per sq km), most sparsely populated are areas covered by tropical forests (3–5 persons per sq km). Urban residents account for 28 percent of the population (1970). The most important cities are Monrovia (150,000 persons; 1972 estimate), Marshall, Buchanan, Harper, and Ganta.

Historical survey. The early history of the peoples of Liberia has not been sufficiently studied. Europeans (Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French) began to appear on the coast of modern Liberia in the second half of the 15th century. They encountered a population engaged in a subsistence economy. In 1821 a group of American Negroes, with the assistance of the American Colonization Society (which attempted to remove freed slaves from the country), bought Providence Island and a section of the mainland opposite it from local chiefs. A settlement was founded there with the name of Monrovia (in honor of the American president J. Monroe), and the entire colony began to be called Liberia (from the Latin liber, “free”). New settlements emerged in 1834–36: Maryland, Bassa Cove, and Greenville. Initially, they were independent of each other. On Apr. 1, 1839, the Commonwealth of Liberia was created; it joined in a federation all settlements with the exception of Maryland (which joined the Republic of Liberia in 1857). The Republic of Liberia was proclaimed on July 26, 1847. It was recognized by Great Britain in 1848, France in 1852, and the USA in 1862.

Immigrants who called themselves Americo-Liberians occupied leading positions in the state administrative apparatus and economy. A small number of them owned their own plantations, which grew export crops and used hired labor. The majority of Americo-Liberians were transformed into a hereditary caste of officials, officers, jurists, and so on. In 1869 they formed the True Whig Party, which has been in power since 1878. A bureaucratic and comprador bourgeoisie began to develop.

In the second half of the 19th century Great Britain and France, whose possessions surrounded Liberia, attempted to annex it. It was only in 1911, after having lost 44 percent of its original territory, that Liberia, exploiting contradictions between the colonial powers, was able to achieve final recognition of its borders by Great Britain and France.

Military actions between the settlers and native inhabitants, as well as the aggression of European powers, placed the republic in an extremely difficult financial position. It was forced to resort to foreign loans (British loans in 1870 and 1906 and an international loan in 1912). The conditions of these loans stipulated, in addition to high interest rates, the establishment of foreign control over customs duties and national tax receipts; this, in essence, amounted to the introduction of a regime of capitulation.

In early 1918, Liberia formally entered World War I on the side of the Entente. After the war American capital began to penetrate the Liberian economy on a large scale. In 1926 the trust Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, with the active assistance of the US State Department, received a large concession from the Liberian government for the cultivation of rubber-bearing plants. The transaction was concluded on conditions which made a virtual serf of Liberia. During World War II, Liberia officially joined the antifascist coalition in January 1944; the USA used Liberian territory for transshipment of its forces and military equipment to the Middle East and Far East. The USA constructed military bases in Liberia and received permission to use the port in Monrovia and the airport at Robertsfield.

On Jan. 3, 1944, W. S. Tubman acceded to the post of president (which he retained until his death in July 1971). He proclaimed a “unification policy,” directed at the elimination of inequality between the native population and the descendants of American settlers, and stated that the country was populated by a single people, Liberians. At the same time, the president announced the intention of the government to pursue an “open door policy,” anticipating the broad enlistment of foreign investments. In 1945, implementing principles of the unification policy, suffrage was extended to native male inhabitants, whose rights had been restricted by property qualifications. Native inhabitants received access to state service, and certain tribal representatives occupied prominent posts. However, interethnic contradictions were not completely surmounted.

In the early 1940’s the flow of foreign, primarily American, capital into Liberia increased. (In 1970, 45 foreign companies with capital of $1 billion were operating in Liberia.) The formation of the national bourgeoisie, principally in the service industry, accelerated during the postwar period. An important stratum of the national bourgeoisie consists of the local owners of rubber plantations (referred to as national producers). This comparatively small group exercises significant influence on Liberian politics. (In the early 1970’s there were approximately 5,200 national producers.) The formation of the working class accelerated after World War II. There were approximately 120,000 wage laborers in the early 1970’s, according to estimates. The majority of these were migrant workers. Most of the workers are concentrated on rubber plantations and in the mining industry. Trade union organizations appeared in 1960.

Liberia maintains close relations with the USA. In 1959 it concluded a military agreement with the USA for consultations in the “event of aggression or the threat of aggression against Liberia.” Liberia is an active member of the Organization of African Unity. In July 1971, W. Tolbert became president. In December 1972 there was an exchange of embassies between the USSR and Liberia.


Political parties and trade unions. The True Whig Party, founded in 1869, is the country’s only party. It has been in power since 1878. It represents the interests of the national bourgeoisie and tribal chiefs. Liberia has two trade union associations: the Congress of Industrial Organizations and the Labor Congress of Liberia (both founded in 1960). The trade unions are controlled by the government.

Economic geography. Liberia is a developing country with an economy dominated by foreign capital. A capitalist structure is combined with subsistence and semisubsistence structures. The leading sectors are the production of natural rubber (first place in Africa and sixth place in the capitalist world) and extraction of iron ore (first place in Africa and eighth in the capitalist world). In exports of iron ore, Liberia ranks fourth in the capitalist world (after Canada, Sweden, and Australia).

Until the mid-1940’s the national commodity industry was based on the cultivation of rubber-bearing plants, the plantations of which belonged to an American company. The mining of rich deposits of iron ore, discovered during World War II, began in 1951 with the assistance of foreign capital. The inflow of American and other foreign capital increased, particularly for the mining of iron ore, in conjunction with the Liberian government’s stated “open door policy” (1944)—a series of measures directed at increasing foreign investments (low taxes on profits, long-term concessions, absence of control on foreign currency exchange, etc.).

Liberia’s gross national product in 1969 was $395 million (at current prices). The various economic sectors contributed to the total in the following proportions: agriculture, 18.8 percent; mining, 30.9 percent; manufacturing, 5.8 percent; construction, 5.3 percent; commerce, 13.1 percent; and transportation, 7.3 percent. Per capita gross national product in 1971 totaled $284.

AGRICULTURE. Communal farming and land use are characteristic of the agriculture of the native population. Slash-and-burn farming is employed. Approximately 35 percent of the territory is used for cultivation (including perennial crops), and 2 percent, for pasture. Cassava, sweet potatoes, and rice are the principal crops raised on peasant farms. Liberia does not have sufficient foodstuffs because of the specialization in growing export crops and because of the backward agricultural technology of peasant farms. The best lands are distributed among foreign companies. Hevea rubber is the chief export crop. Total area of plantations used on a concession basis by six foreign companies (four US, one German, and one Dutch-German) in 1971 equaled 53,000 hectares (ha); they yield more than 70 percent of the rubber crop. The largest plantations, belonging to an American firm, the Firestone Plantations Company (36,000 ha), are situated to the east of Monrovia (in the Farmington River valley) and near the city of Harper (in the Cavalla River valley). A total of 4,200 Liberian farmers own approximately 72,000 ha of land used for hevea cultivation; the harvest of hevea juice on their farms makes up 30 percent of the overall national harvest. Only about 250 farmers own plantations of 100 ha or greater; most farmers own plantations of less than 50 ha.

The harvesting of oil palm fruits (primarily along the coast) is of considerable importance. Oil and palm kernels are bought up by the British-Dutch concern Unilever (exports of 13,000–14,000 tons per year). Other significant crops are cocoa beans (in the southeast; exports exceed 2,000 tons) and coffee (plantations in the northwest, in the Loffa and Mano valleys; exports total approximately 5,000 tons per year). These plantations belong to Liberian and foreign companies. Wild coffee is also harvested. There are banana plantations (belonging to a company of the Federal Republic of Germany) in the Sinoe River valley. Sugarcane and coconut palms are also cultivated.

Table 1. Harvest of chief agricultural crops (in tons)
1 Average per year 2 Export 3 1971–72 4 1970
Oil palm:
Cocoa beans............7001,0001,8003

Because of limited pasture and an abundance of tsetse flies, livestock raising is possible only in the savanna of the northeast, where unproductive strains of cattle are raised (30,000 head in 1970–71). In certain forest regions and along the coast, sheep (156,000 in 1970–71), goats (140,000), and pigs (83,000) are raised.

Fish catches in 1971 totaled 23,000 tons. Timber exploitation (mahogany and rosewood trees) is conducted mainly by foreign companies over an area of about 4 million ha; the largest concession belongs to the Venply company. The state owns 1.7 million ha of forest area. Lumbering totaled 1.6 million cu m in 1970.

INDUSTRY. Mining industry has undergone considerable development. Iron ore is mined in the Bomi Hills regions (a concentrating plant is located there) by the American firm Liberia Mining Company; in the region of Mount Nimba by the mixed company Liberian-American-Swedish Minerals (Lamco) with participation by the Liberian government (50 percent), the American concern Bethlehem Steel (25 percent), and a group of Swedish companies (25 percent); in the Mano River valley by the National Iron Ore Company, the stocks of which are equally divided between the Liberian government and the American company Republic Steel; and in the Bong region by a mixed company (Delimco), where 50 percent is owned by the Liberian government and 50 percent by a consortium of companies from the Federal Republic of Germany (Thyssen and Krupp) and Italy (Finsider). Mining of iron ore has begun in the areas of Tokadeh (Lamco) and Wologisi (Liberian Iron and Steel Corporation), in which 50 percent of the shares belong to the Liberian government and 50 percent to an American company. Ore is shipped to ports along specially built railroads. Diamonds are mined mainly in the Loffa River valley, and small quantities of gold are mined in the Loffa and Sinoe valleys, in the Zorzor region, and elsewhere.

Table 2. Mining of minerals
1 Based on metal content in ore 2 Export 3 1954 4 1970
Iron ore (tons)1...............893,0002,139,00015,400,0004
Diamonds (carats)2.............125,00031,096,000700,000
Gold (kg)................2765100

Manufacturing industry is represented by small-capacity petroleum-refining, cement, lumber, palm-oil, and nonalcoholic-beverage plants, clothing and footwear factories, and so forth. There are four enterprises for the production of iron-ore pellets (in Buchanan and Bong).

In 1970 electric power production totaled 502 million kilowatt-hours (k W-hr), including 242 million k W-hr produced at hydroelectric power plants; plants producing power for general use accounted for 277 million k W-hr (their fixed capacity is 82,500 k W). Crafts have been developed, including spinning, weaving, and the production of mats, baskets, and hides.

TRANSPORTATION. The main form of transportation is automotive. Highways total 4,000 km in length, of which 2,000 km are suitable for year-round use. The railroad lines are Monrovia-Bomi Hills-Fono (160 km), Monrovia-Bong (93 km), and Buchanan-Nimba (267 km).

Liberia has a special status in terms of world maritime shipping. Because Liberia has the lowest registration fees and taxes of all the capitalist countries, ships sailing under the Liberian flag (belonging mainly to the USA, Great Britain, and Greece) had an overall tonnage in 1971 of 38 million tons. Liberia actually has no ships of its own. The largest ports are Monrovia, Buchanan, Marshall, and Harper.

There are international airports at Robertsfield (60 km from Monrovia) and Spriggs Payne (in Monrovia).

FOREIGN TRADE. Exports increased from $28 million (amended data) in 1950 to $213.7 million in 1971 (with imports of $162.4 million). Important export items (1971) are iron ore (71.7 percent), rubber (14.5 percent), diamonds (2.5 percent), coffee and cocoa beans (2.4 percent), and timber and lumber (3.6 percent). Finished industrial commodities and foodstuffs are imported. Leading foreign-trade partners in terms of exports (1971) are the USA (22.2 percent), the Federal Republic of Germany (18 percent), the Netherlands (15 percent), Italy (12 percent), Japan (11 percent), and Great Britain (3.4 percent); in terms of imports (1970) the leading partners are the USA (32 percent), the Federal Republic of Germany (9.6 percent), Great Britain (8.9 percent), Japan (8 percent), the Netherlands (8 percent), and Italy (2.1 percent). The monetary unit is the Liberian dollar.


Armed forces. Liberia’s armed forces consist of an army (about 5,000 men in 1972) and a navy (about 250 men). The president is the supreme commander and the head of the Liberian Joint Security Commission, which includes the minister of defense, who is responsible for direction of the forces. The army is manned by volunteers and trained by American instructors.

Health and social welfare. In 1971 the birth rate was 50 per 1,000 population; the death rate, 21 per 1,000. Infant mortality was 159 per 1,000 livebirths. Average life expectancy was 36.1 years for men and 38.6 years for women. Infectious pathologies predominate. Basic health problems are malaria, tuberculosis, skin diseases, and venereal diseases. Intestinal infections, meningitis, and leprosy are found throughout the country. Coastal tropical forests contain breeding grounds for yellow fever, filariases, and frambesia. Trypanosomiasis, filariases, urogenital schistosomiasis, and helminthiases are widespread in the north of the country and the Leone-Liberian Upland. Local epidemics of smallpox are periodically registered in various regions.

In 1971 there were 34 hospitals with 2,400 beds in Liberia, of which 14 were state hospitals with 1,200 beds (two beds per 1,000 population). Outpatient treatment was rendered by 32 hospital ambulatory sections, one polyclinic, 200 dispensaries, two mobile medical brigades, and private general practitioners. A considerable part of the population uses the services of witch doctors. As of 1971 there were 107 doctors (one physician per 12,000 population), 13 dentists, and 700 paramedical personnel. Physicians are trained by a division of the University of Liberia and the Tubman National Institute of Medicine. Schools for the training of nurses, midwives, and public health inspectors are in operation. Public health expenditures totaled $6.4 million in 1971.


VETERINARY SERVICES. Widespread animal diseases include sheep and goat scabies and contagious pulmonary pneumonia and nematodiasis of cattle. There have been cases of anthrax (among elephants, cattle, and pigs), rabies (among dogs), and leukemia, Newcastle disease, and smallpox-diptheria (among fowl). A veterinary network has not been organized. There are three veterinarians in Liberia (1972).

Education and cultural affairs. According to 1971 data, approximately 80 percent of the population of Liberia is illiterate. The educational system is based on the American model, with instruction in English. The first step in the educational system is kindergarten, for children from the age of four to six (there are few kindergartens). As early as 1919 the six-year elementary school was declared to be mandatory; however, in 1971 more than 60 percent of the school-age children did not have the opportunity to attend. Secondary and vocational education is not free. Secondary six-year school consists of two cycles, each three years long (junior and senior high school). Approximately 30 percent of the elementary schools and 50 percent of the secondary educational institutions belong to American missionary organizations. Vocational-technical and pedagogical education is generally provided after the first cycle of secondary school. In the 1970–71 academic year pupils at the elementary level numbered 120,200 (including those attending preschool institutions), and at the secondary level, 16,700 (of which 15,500 were enrolled in general educational schools, 887 in vocational-technical, and 390 in pedagogical institutions).

The State University of Liberia in Monrovia (founded in 1951) consists of colleges of arts and sciences, pedagogy, agriculture, forestry, and others, as well as a law school and other schools. The higher-education system also includes two private institutions—Cuttington College in Suakoko and Maryland Teachers College. More than 1,200 students were enrolled in institutions of higher education in the 1971–72 academic year.

The Government Public Library (founded in 1959; 15,000 volumes) and the library of the State University of Liberia (40,000 volumes) are located in Monrovia.


Science and scientific institutions. Scientific research is oriented toward the needs of agriculture and the mining industry. Cultivation techniques of rubber-bearing plants, coffee, cocoa beans, and sugarcane are studied at the Central Agricultural Extension Station in Suakoko. Other stations conduct research on livestock raising, veterinary medicine (particularly control of the tsetse fly), and river fishing. The university’s college of agriculture and forestry is also engaged in agricultural research. The Institute of Tropical Medicine (a division of the American Foundation for Tropical Medicine) has been in operation since 1952. The Geographical and Ore Mining Society of Liberia (founded in 1964) prospects for minerals.

Press, radio, and television. The leading newspapers are The Liberian Age (published since 1946; circulation 4,000; the organ of the True Whig Party) and The Liberian Star (published since 1964; circulation 4,000; a private commercial publication). Radio and television (initiated in 1964) are controlled by a state service agency, the Liberian Radio Broadcasting Corporation.

Literature. The Kru, Vai, Malinke, and other peoples, as well as the descendants of the American Negroes, have a rich folklore (tales, legends, fables, sayings, aphorisms, and songs). In 1957 the book Historical Legends and Folklore of the Grebo Tribe was published. In the 1830’s, Wasolu Dualu, writing in the Vai language, produced the first history of the Vai people. Contemporary literature is developing principally in the English language. Literary forces are grouped around the Society of Writers. The best-known authors are the poet Bai T. Moore (author of a collection of poetry entitled Star Dust, 1962), R. T. Dempster, professor at the University of Liberia (compiler of an anthology of Liberian literature), the writer Doris Banks Henries, and Edit Bright (author of the popular play “Diary”). The best poems of Moore (”New Africa”) and Jene Holmes (”Legend of the Golden Stool”) are directed against colonialism, which is suppressing African national culture and art, and are imbued with a love for Africa. The Liberian Dramatic and Cultural Society is striving to revive the best folk traditions and to develop theater and dramaturgy.


Folk art. Round (less frequently, rectangular) frame huts, coated with clay and covered by straw roofs with long overhangs, are widespread in the central regions of Liberia. The walls are often decorated with painted many-colored ornaments and wooden carvings. Two- and three-story wooden frame houses on concrete foundations, as well as stone houses with verandas, predominate in urban construction along the coast (Monrovia and other cities). Since the mid-1940’s large public buildings have been constructed in the style of modern European architecture.

The most widespread form of crafts is the carving of wooden figurines and masks of various types (usually in black), used in ritual costumes for religious ceremonies. Some figurines and masks show the distinctive ethnic features of the people; some are conventional; and others are grotesque. The narrow stylized faces of the large masks of the Mende people have thick necks of broad flat rings; they resemble Benin bronze heads. The fantastically strange masks of the Poro secret society (where tribal initiation ceremonies are held) have highly conventional facial features represented by sharp schematic lines. Woodcarving, ceramics, wickerwork, and metalworking are well-developed crafts.

Music. The musical art of the Liberian peoples is limited to folklore. Song genres are related to such themes as weddings, labor, lullabies, and funerals. Texts are improvised. The pentatonic scale of songs corresponds to the scales of musical instruments. Instrumental music is characterized by polyrhythms, based on the use of drums. Guitars, harps, and other stringed instruments are in wide use. Flutes, horns, and whistles are encountered in orchestras. One of the instruments is the zanza (the African piano). In 1963 the Liberian Dramatic and Cultural Society was established; its goal was to preserve, support, and develop the cultural heritage of the Liberian peoples. The society organized a group of singers and musicians. Future artists and musicians study at the school of the society (in the village of Kenema). The National Cultural Troupe of Liberia, which represented the country at the first festival of African art in Dakar, was created in 1966. One of the best productions of the troupe was the musical folk drama Love Came to a Forest Girl.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Official name: Republic of Liberia

Capital city: Monrovia

Internet country code: .lr

Flag description: Eleven equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white; there is a white five-pointed star on a blue square in the upper hoist-side corner; the design was based on the United States flag

National anthem: “All Hail, Liberia Hail!”, lyrics by Daniel Bashiel Warner, music by Olmstead Luca

National bird: Pepperbird

Geographical description: Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Cote d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone

Total area: 43,000 sq. mi. (111,369 sq. km.)

Climate: Tropical; hot, humid; dry winters with hot days and cool to cold nights; wet, cloudy summers with frequent heavy showers

Nationality: noun: Liberian(s); adjective: Liberian

Population: 3,195,931 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: African 95% (including Kpelle, Bassa, Gio, Kru, Grebo, Mano, Krahn, Gola, Gbandi, Loma, Kissi, Vai, Dei, Bella, Mandingo, and Mende), Americo-Liberians 2.5% (descendants of immigrants from the US who had been slaves), Congo People 2.5% (descendants of immi­grants from the Caribbean who had been slaves)

Languages spoken: English (official), more than 15 indige­nous languages

Religions: Christian 40%, Muslim 20%, indigenous reli­gions 40%

Legal Holidays:

Armed Forces DayFeb 11
Christmas DayDec 25
Decoration DayMar 9, 2011; Mar 14, 2012; Mar 13, 2013; Mar 12, 2014; Mar 11, 2015; Mar 9, 2016; Mar 8, 2017; Mar 14, 2018; Mar 13, 2019; Mar 11, 2020; Mar 10, 2021; Mar 9, 2022; Mar 8, 2023
Fast and Prayer DayApr 11
Flag DayAug 24
Independence DayJul 26
J. J. Robert's BirthdayMar 15
National Unification DayMay 14
New Year's DayJan 1
President Tubman's BirthdayNov 29
Thanksgiving DayNov 3, 2011; Nov 1, 2012; Nov 7, 2013; Nov 6, 2014; Nov 5, 2015; Nov 3, 2016; Nov 2, 2017; Nov 1, 2018; Nov 7, 2019; Nov 5, 2020; Nov 4, 2021; Nov 3, 2022; Nov 2, 2023
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


a republic in W Africa, on the Atlantic: originated in 1822 as a home for freed Afro-American slaves, with land purchased by the American Colonization Society; republic declared in 1847; exports are predominantly rubber and iron ore. Official language: English. Religion: Christian majority, also animist. Currency: dollar. Capital: Monrovia. Pop.: 3 487 000 (2004 est.). Area: 111 400 sq. km (43 000 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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