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Liberia (Listeni/laɪˈbɪəriə/), officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country on the west coast of Africa, bordered by Sierra Leone on the West, Guinea on the north, Côte d'Ivoire on the east, and the Atlantic Ocean on the south. As of the 2008 Census, the nation is home to 3,476,608 people.Its area is 111,369 km2 (43,000 sq mi)

Liberia's capital is Monrovia. Liberia has a hot equatorial climate with most rainfall arriving in the rainy season and harsh harmattan winds in the dry season. Liberia's populated Pepper Coast is composed of mostly mangrove forests while the sparsely populated inland is composed of forest that open to a plateau of drier grasslands.

The history of Liberia is unique among African nations because of its relationship with the United States. It is one of only two countries in sub-Sahara Africa, along with Ethiopia, without roots in the European Scramble for Africa. It was founded and colonized by freed American slaves with the help of a private organization called the American Colonization Society in 1821–1822, on the premise that former American slaves would have greater freedom and equality there.
Slaves freed from slave ships were also sent there instead of being repatriated to their countries of origin These colonists formed an elite group in Liberian society, and, in 1847, they founded the Republic of Liberia, establishing a government modeled on that of the United States, naming Monrovia, their capital city, after James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States and a prominent supporter of the colonization.

A military-led coup in 1980 overthrew then-president William R. Tolbert, which marked the beginning of a period of instability that eventually led to two civil wars that left hundreds of thousands of people dead and devastated the country's economy. Today, Liberia is recovering from the lingering effects of the civil war and related economic dislocation. Statistics indicate that about 85% of the population live on less than $1.25 a day.

1 Etymology
2 History
2.1 Indigenous tribes 1200-1800
2.2 Settlers from the United States
2.3 Mid-20th century
2.4 1989 and 1999 civil wars
2.5 Post-civil war period
3 Politics and government
4 Human rights
5 Geography
6 Counties and districts
7 Economy
7.1 Corruption
7.2 Economic history
8 Weights and measures
9 Infrastructure
10 Demographics
10.1 Health
11 Culture
12 Religion
13 Education
14 See also
15 References
16 Bibliography
17 Further reading
18 External links

[edit] Etymology

The name Liberia denotes "liberty". The newly arrived settlers formed a new ethnic group called the Americo-Liberians.However, this introduction of a new ethnic mix resulted in ethnic tensions with the sixteen other main ethnicities already residing in Liberia From the 16th century until 1822, European explorers and traders had multiple names for Liberia, varying by language.

During the spice trade, in non-English speaking Europe, Liberia was called the Malaguetta Coast or Pepper Coast in English. It earned its name from the melegueta pepper found in rural Liberia that was dubbed the "Grains of paradise" since it was a rare spice in high demand throughout continental Europe. In late 18th century English explorers referred to the country as the Windward Coast because of notoriously unnavigable, choppy waters off the coast of Cape Palmas at the tip of Southern Liberia that were difficult for European ships to sail through.
Main article: History of Liberia
 Indigenous tribes 1200-1800
European map of the Pepper Coast, 1736

Anthropological and archeological research shows the region of Liberia was inhabited at least as far back as the 12th century, perhaps earlier. Mende-speaking people expanded westward, forcing many smaller ethnic groups southward towards the Atlantic ocean. The Dei, Bassa, Kru, Gola and Kissi were some of the earliest recorded arrivals. This influx was compounded during the ancient decline of the Western Sudanic Mali Empire in 1375 and later in 1591 with the Songhai Empire. Additionally, inland regions underwent desertification, and inhabitants were pressured to move to the wetter Pepper Coast. These new inhabitants brought skills such as cotton spinning, cloth weaving, iron smelting, rice and sorghum cultivation, and social and political institutions from the Mali and Songhai Empires.

Shortly after the Manes conquered the region, there was a migration of the Vai people into the region of Grand Cape Mount. The Vai were part of the Mali Empire who were forced to migrate when the empire collapsed in the 14th century. The Vai chose to migrate to the coastal region. The ethnic Kru opposed the influx of Vai. An alliance of the Manes and Kru was able to stop further influx of Vai, but the Vai remained in the Grand Cape Mount region (where the city of Robertsport is now located).

People of the Littoral coast built canoes and traded with other West Africans from Cap-Vert to the Gold Coast. Later European traders would barter various commodities and goods with local people, sometimes hoisting their canoes aboard. When the Kru began trading with Europeans, they initially traded in commodities, but later they actively participated in the African slave trade.

Kru laborers left their territory to work as paid laborers on plantations and in construction. Some even worked building the Suez and Panama canals.

Another ethnic group in the area was the Grebo. The Grebo were driven, as a result of the Manes invasion, to migrate to the coast of what later became Liberia.

Between 1461 and late 17th century, Portuguese, Dutch and British traders had contacts and trading posts in what became Liberia. The Portuguese had named the area Costa da Pimenta (meaning Pepper Coast), later translated as Grain Coast, because of the abundance of grains of melegueta pepper.
Settlers from the United States
Joseph Jenkins Roberts, First President of Liberia.

In 1822, the American Colonization Society (A.C.S.), working to "repatriate" black Americans to greater freedom in Africa, established Liberia as a place to send people who were formerly enslaved.This movement of black people by the A.C.S. had broad support nationwide among white people in the United States, including politicians such as Henry Clay and James Monroe. They believed this was preferable to emancipation of slaves in the United States. Clay said, because of "unconquerable prejudice resulting from their color, they never could amalgamate with the free whites of this country. It was desirable, therefore, as it respected them, and the residue of the population of the country, to drain them off." The institution of slavery in the U.S. had grown, reaching almost four million slaves by the mid 19th century. Some free African Americans chose to emigrate to Liberia.The immigrants became known as Americo-Liberians, and about 5% of present-day Liberians trace their ancestry to them. On July 26, 1847, Americo-Liberian settlers declared the independence of the Republic of Liberia.

The settlers regarded Africa as a "promised land". However, they did not choose to integrate into African society. They still referred to themselves as Americans, and were recognized as such by local Africans and by British colonial authorities in neighboring Sierra Leone. The symbols of their nation — its flag, motto, and seal, and the form of government that they chose—all reflected their American background and diaspora experience. Ashmun Institute, founded in Pennsylvania in 1854 for the education of black Americans, played an important role in supplying Americo-Liberians with leadership for the new nation. The first graduating class of Ashmun Institute (later renamed Lincoln University in honor of the slain president), consisting of James R. Amos, his brother Thomas H. Amos, and Armistead Miller, sailed for Liberia shortly after graduation on the brig Mary C. Stevens in April 1859.
The former Executive Mansion, an example of American South architectural influence.

The religious practices, social customs and cultural standards of the Americo-Liberians had their roots in the antebellum American South. These ideals strongly influenced 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. Mutual mistrust and hostility between the "Americans" along the coast and the "Natives" of the interior was a recurrent theme in the country's history. The Americo-Liberian minority worked to dominate the native people, whom they considered savage primitives. The immigrants named the country "Liberia", which in Latin means "Land of the Free", as an homage to their freedom from slavery.

Historically, Liberia has enjoyed the support and unofficial cooperation of the United States government.Liberia's government, modeled after that of the U.S., was democratic in structure, if not always in substance. In 1877, the True Whig Party monopolized political power in the country. Competition for office was usually contained within the party, whose nomination virtually ensured election. Two problems confronting successive administrations were pressure from neighboring colonial powers, Britain and France, and the threat of financial insolvency, both of which challenged the country's sovereignty. Liberia retained its independence during the Scramble for Africa, but lost its claim to extensive territories that were annexed by Britain and France. Economic development was hindered by the decline of markets for Liberian goods in the late 19th century and by indebtedness on a series of loans, payments on which drained the economy.
Mid-20th century
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President Edwin Barclay (right) and President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II, 1943

Two events were particularly important in releasing Liberia from its self-imposed isolation. The first was the grant in 1926 of a large concession to the American-owned Firestone Plantation Company, which became a first step in the (limited) modernization of the Liberian economy. The second occurred during World War II, when the United States began providing technical and economic assistance that enabled Liberia to make economic progress and introduce social change. Both the Freeport of Monrovia and Roberts International Airport were built by U.S. personnel during World War II.
Samuel Doe with Caspar Weinberger on a 1982 visit to the United States

On April 12, 1980, a successful military coup was staged by a group of non-commissioned army officers led by Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe. The soldiers were a mixture of the various ethnic groups that claimed marginalization at the hands of the minority Americo-Liberian settlers. In a late-night raid on the Executive Mansion in Monrovia, they killed William R. Tolbert, Jr., who had been president for nine years, and later executed a majority of his cabinet. Constituting themselves as the People's Redemption Council, Doe and his associates seized control of the government and brought an end to Africa's first (but not only) republic. Significantly, Doe was the first Liberian head of state who was not a member of the Americo-Liberian elite.

In October 1985, Liberia held the first post-coup elections, ostensibly to legitimize Doe's regime. Virtually all[who?] international observers agreed that the Liberia Action Party (LAP) led by Jackson Doe (no relation) had won the election by a clear margin. After a week of counting the votes, however, Samuel Doe fired the count officials and replaced them with his own Special Election Committee (SECOM), which announced that Samuel Doe's ruling National Democratic Party of Liberia had won with 50.9% of the vote. In response, on November 12 a counter-coup was launched by Thomas Quiwonkpa, whose soldiers briefly occupied the Executive Mansion and the national radio station, with widespread support throughout the country. Three days later, Quiwonkpa's coup was overthrown. Government repression intensified, as Doe's troops killed more than 2,000 civilians and imprisoned more than 100 opposing politicians, including Jackson Doe and BBC journalist Isaac Bantu.
1989 and 1999 civil wars

In late 1989, the First Liberian Civil War began. The harsh dictatorial atmosphere that gripped the country was due largely to Samuel Doe's rule. Americo-Liberian Charles Taylor, with the backing of neighboring countries such as Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire, entered Nimba County with around 100 men.These fighters quickly gained control of much of the country, thanks to strong support from the local population who were disillusioned with the Doe government. By then, a new player also emerged: Prince Yormie Johnson (former ally of Taylor) had formed his own army and had gained tremendous support from the Gio and Mano ethnic groups.

In August 1990, the Economic Community Monitoring Group under the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) organized its own military task force to intervene in the crisis. The troops were largely from Nigeria, Guinea and Ghana. On his way out after a meeting, Samuel Doe, who was traveling only with his personal staff, was ambushed and captured by members of the Gio Tribe who were loyal to Johnson. The soldiers took him to Johnson's headquarters in neighboring Caldwell, where they tortured and killed him.

By then, Taylor was a prominent warlord and leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia. After some prompting from Taylor that the anglophone Nigerians and Ghanaians were opposed to him, Senegalese troops were brought in with some financial support from the United States. But their service was short-lived, after a major confrontation with Taylor's forces in Vahun, Lofa County on 28 May 1992, when six were killed when a crowd of NPFL supporters surrounded their vehicle and demanded they surrender the vehicle and weapons.
United States Marine Corps helicopters during Joint Task Force Liberia in 2003

By September 1990, Doe's forces controlled only a small area just outside the capital, Monrovia. After Doe's death, and as a condition for the end of the conflict, interim president Amos Sawyer resigned in 1994, handing power to the Council of State. Taylor was elected as President in 1997, after leading a bloody insurgency backed by Libyan President Muammar al-Gaddafi[citation needed]. Taylor's brutal regime targeted several leading opposition and political activists. In 1998, the government sought to assassinate child rights activist Kimmie Weeks for a report he had published on its involvement in the training of child soldiers, which forced him into exile. Taylor's autocratic and dysfunctional government led to the Second Liberian Civil War in 1999.
Government soldiers fighting in the Siege of Monrovia

The conflict intensified in mid-2003, and the fighting moved into Monrovia. An elite rapid response unit of the U.S. Marines, known as 'FAST', was deployed in Monrovia to ensure the security and interests of the U.S. Embassy there. The Marines used U.S. Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk to airlift non-combatants and foreign nationals to Dakar, Senegal. A hastily assembled force of 1,000 Nigerian troops, the ECOWAS Mission In Liberia (ECOMIL), was airlifted into Liberia on August 15, 2003 to prevent the rebels from overrunning the capital city and committing revenge-inspired war crimes. Meanwhile the U.S. Joint Task Force Liberia commanded from USS Iwo Jima was offshore, though only 100 of the 2,000 U.S. Marines landed to meet with the ECOMIL force.
Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace

A peace movement called Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace was instrumental to the end of hostilities in Monrovia. Organized by social worker Leymah Gbowee, thousands of Christian and Muslim women staged silent protests and forced a meeting with President Charles Taylor and extracted a promise from him to attend peace talks in Ghana. Gbowee then led a delegation of Liberian women to Ghana to continue to apply pressure on the warring factions during the peace process.They staged a sit in outside of the Presidential Palace, blocking all the doors and windows and preventing anyone from leaving the peace talks without a resolution. The women of Liberia became a political force against violence and against their government. Their actions brought about an agreement during the stalled peace talks. As a result, the women were able to achieve peace in Liberia after a 14-year civil war and later helped bring to power the country's first female head of state. The story is told in the 2008 documentary film Pray the Devil Back to Hell.

As the power of the government shrank, and with increasing international and U.S. pressure for him to resign, President Taylor accepted an asylum offer from Nigeria, but vowed: "God willing, I will be back." Some of the ECOMIL troops were subsequently withdrawn and at least two battalions incorporated into the 15,000 strong United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) peacekeeping force. More than 200,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the civil wars.
Post-civil war period
Current President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

After the exile of Taylor, Gyude Bryant was appointed chairman of the transitional government in late 2003. Because of failures of the Transitional Government in curbing corruption, Liberia signed onto GEMAP, a novel anti-corruption program. The primary task of the transitional government was to prepare for fair and peaceful democratic elections.

With UNMIL troops safeguarding the peace, Liberia successfully conducted presidential and legislative elections on October 11, 2005. There were 23 candidates; an early favorite was George Weah, an internationally famous footballer, UNICEF goodwill ambassador, and member of the Kru ethnic group expected to dominate the popular vote. Though Weah garnered a plurality of the votes, no candidate gained the required majority, prompting a runoff election between the top two candidates, Weah and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Harvard-trained economist and former minister of finance who had been jailed twice during the Doe administration before escaping and going into exile. The November 8, 2005, presidential runoff election was won decisively by Sirleaf. Both the general election and runoff were marked by peace and order, as thousands of Liberians waited in the harsh West African heat to cast their ballots.

Upon taking office, Sirleaf became the first elected female head of state in Africa. During her administration President Sirleaf established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address crimes committed during the later stages of Liberia's long civil war. Sirleaf also requested the extradition of Taylor from Nigeria and immediately handed him over to the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which had charged Taylor with crimes against humanity, violations of the Geneva Conventions and "other serious violations of international humanitarian law." The trial by the Special Court is being held in The Hague for security reasons.
Politics and government
The Executive Mansion in Monrovia
Main article: Politics of Liberia

The government of Liberia, modeled on the government of the United States, is a unitary constitutional republic and representative democracy as established by the Constitution. The government has three co-equal branches of government: executive, headed by the president; legislative, consisting of the bicameral Legislature of Liberia; and judicial, made up of the Supreme Court and several lower courts.

The president serves as head of government, head of state and the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia.Among the other duties of the president are to sign or veto legislative bills, grant pardons, and appoint Cabinet members, judges and other public officials. Together with the vice president, the president is elected to a six-year term by majority vote in a two-round system and can serve up to two terms in office.
The Legislature is composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The House, led by a speaker, has 64 members apportioned among the 15 counties on the basis of the national census, with each county receiving a minimum of two members.Each House member represents an electoral district within a county as drawn by the National Elections Commission and is elected by the popular vote of their district in a two-round system to a six-year term. The Senate is made up of two senators from each county for a total of 30 senators. Senators serve nine-year terms and are elected at-large by popular vote in a two-round system.The vice president serves as the President of the Senate, with a President pro tempore serving in his absence.

Liberia's highest judicial authority is the Supreme Court, made up of five members and headed by the Chief Justice of Liberia. Members are nominated to the court by the president and are confirmed by the Senate, serving until the age of 70. The judiciary is further divided into circuit and speciality courts, magistrate courts and justices of the peace.The judicial system follows the Anglo-American common law.An informal system of traditional courts still exists within the rural areas of the country, with trial by ordeal remaining common despite being officially outlawed.
 Human rights
Amnesty International summarizes in its Annual Report 2006:
"Sporadic outbreaks of violence continued to threaten prospects of peace. Former rebel fighters who should have been disarmed and demobilized protested violently when they did not receive benefits. Slow progress in reforming the police, judiciary and the criminal justice system resulted in systematic violations of due process and vigilante violence against criminal suspects. Laws establishing an Independent National Commission on Human Rights and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission were adopted. Over 200,000 internally displaced people and refugees returned to their homes, although disputes over land and property appropriated during the war raised ethnic tensions. U.N. sanctions on the trade in diamonds and timber were renewed. Those responsible for human rights abuses during the armed conflict continued to enjoy impunity. The UN Security Council gave peacekeeping forces in Liberia powers to arrest former President Taylor and transfer him to the Special Court for Sierra Leone if he should return from Nigeria, where he continued to receive asylum. Liberia made a commitment to abolish capital punishment. A new law on rape, which initially proposed imposition of the death penalty for gang rape, was amended to provide a maximum penalty of life imprisonment."

Former 22nd president Charles Taylor was later captured trying to escape across the border of Cameroon and has been sent to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for trial.

In 2009, the country set up a new court to deal with rape crimes in and around Monrovia, called "Court E." The court operates in camera, shielding the victims who testify from exposure to the accused perpetrator and the rest of the courtroom. The prosecutor operates out of the Sexual and Gender Based Violence Crimes office, which offers victims' support services, but faces many financial, logistical and legal hurdles.

Organized by Leymah Gbowee and Comfort Freeman, Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace is a peace movement that brought an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003 and led to the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first African nation with a female president.
Map of Liberia
Main article: Geography of Liberia

Liberia is situated in West Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean to the country's southwest. It lies between latitudes 4° and 9°N, and longitudes 7° and 12°W.

The landscape is characterized by mostly flat to rolling coastal plains that contain mangroves and swamps, which rise to a rolling plateau and low mountains in the northeast. Tropical rainforests cover the hills, while elephant grass and semi-deciduous forests make up the dominant vegetation in the northern sections.The equatorial climate is hot year-round with heavy rainfall from May to October with a short interlude in mid-July to August.During the winter months of November to March, dry dust-laden harmattan winds blow inland, causing many problems for residents.

Liberia's watershed tends to move in a southwestern pattern towards the sea as new rains move down the forested plateau off the inland mountain range of Guinée Forestière, in Guinea. Cape Mount near the border with Sierra Leone receives the most precipitation in the nation.The country's main northwestern boundary is traversed by the Mano River while its southeast limits are bounded by the Cavalla River. Liberia's three largest rivers are St. Paul exiting near Monrovia, the river St. John at Buchanan and the Cestos River, all of which flow into the Atlantic. The Cavalla is the longest river in the nation at 320 miles (515 km).

The highest point wholly within Liberia is Mount Wuteve at 4,724 feet (1,440 m) above sea level in the northwestern Liberia range of the West Africa Mountains and the Guinea Highlands.However, Mount Nimba near Yekepa, is higher at 5,748 feet (1,752 m) above sea level but is not wholly within Liberia as Nimba shares a border with Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and is their tallest mountain as well.
Counties and districts
Map of Liberia with counties
View of a lake in Bomi County
Main articles: Counties of Liberia, Districts of Liberia, and Clans of Liberia

Liberia is divided into 15 counties, which are subdivided into districts, and further subdivided into clans. The oldest counties are Grand Bassa and Montserrado, both founded in 1839 prior to Liberian independence. Gbarpolu is the newest county, created in 2001. Nimba is the largest of the counties in size at 4,460 square miles (11,551 km2), while Montserrado is the smallest at 737 square miles (1,909 km2). Montserrado is also the most populous county with 1,144,806 residents as of the 2008 census.

Complete list of the counties:
County↓ Capital↓ Population (2008)[33]↓ Area[33]↓ Created↓
Bomi Tubmanburg 82,036 750 sq mi (1,942 km2) 1984
Bong Gbarnga 328,919 3,387 sq mi (8,772 km2) 1964
Gbarpolu Bopulu 83,758 3,741 sq mi (9,689 km2) 2001
Grand Bassa Buchanan 224,839 3,064 sq mi (7,936 km2) 1839
Grand Cape Mount Robertsport 129,055 1,993 sq mi (5,162 km2) 1844
Grand Gedeh Zwedru 126,146 4,048 sq mi (10,484 km2) 1964
Grand Kru Barclayville 57,106 1,504 sq mi (3,895 km2) 1984
Lofa Voinjama 270,114 3,854 sq mi (9,982 km2) 1964
Margibi Kakata 199,689 1,010 sq mi (2,616 km2) 1985
Maryland Harper 136,404 887 sq mi (2,297 km2) 1857
Montserrado Bensonville 1,144,806 737 sq mi (1,909 km2) 1839
Nimba Sanniquellie 468,088 4,460 sq mi (11,551 km2) 1964
River Cess River Cess 65,862 2,160 sq mi (5,594 km2) 1985
River Gee Fish Town 67,318 1,974 sq mi (5,113 km2) 2000
Sinoe Greenville 104,932 3,914 sq mi (10,137 km2) 1843
[edit] Economy
Main article: Economy of Liberia
Boy grinding sugar cane.

Liberia is one of the world's poorest countries, with a formal employment rate of only 15%. In 2010, the country's nominal GDP was US$974 million, while nominal GDP per capita stood at US$226, the third-lowest in the world. Historically, the Liberian economy has depended heavily on foreign aid, foreign direct investment and exports of natural resources such as iron ore, rubber and timber.

Following a peak in growth in 1979, the Liberian economy began a steady decline due to economic mismanagement following the 1980 coup. This decline was accelerated by the outbreak of civil war in 1989; GDP was reduced by an estimated 90% between 1989 and 1995, one of the fastest declines in history. Upon the end of the war in 2003, GDP growth began to accelerate, reaching 9.4% in 2007.The global financial crisis slowed GDP growth to 4.6% in 2009, though a strengthening agricultural sector led by rubber and timber exports increased growth to 5.1% in 2010 and an expected 7.3% in 2011, making the economy one of the 20 fastest growing in the world. Current impediments to growth include a small domestic market, lack of adequate infrastructure, high transportation costs, poor trade links with neighboring countries and the high dollarization of the economy. Liberia used the United States dollar as its currency from 1943 until 1982 and continues to use the U.S. dollar alongside the Liberian dollar.Following a decrease in inflation beginning in 2003, inflation spiked in 2008 as a result of worldwide food and energy crises, reaching 17.5% before declining to 7.4% in 2009. Liberia's external debt was estimated in 2006 at approximately $4.5 billion, 800% of GDP. As a result of bilateral, multilateral and commercial debt relief from 2007–2010, the country's external debt fell to $222.9 million by 2011.

While official commodity exports declined during the 1990s as many investors fled the civil war, Liberia's wartime economy featured the exploitation of the region's diamond wealth.The country acted as a major trader in Sierra Leonian blood diamonds, exporting over US$300 million in diamonds in 1999. This led to a United Nations ban on Liberian diamond exports in 2001, which was lifted in 2007 following Liberia's accession to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. In 2003, additional UN sanctions were placed on Liberian timber exports, which had risen from US$5 million in 1997 to over US$100 million in 2002 and were believed to be funding rebels in Sierra Leone. These sanctions were lifted in 2006. Due in large part to foreign aid inflow following the end of the war, Liberia maintains a large account deficit, which peaked at nearly 60% in 2008. Liberia gained observer status with the World Trade Organization in 2010 and is in the process of acquiring full member status.
Liberia has the highest ratio of foreign direct investment to GDP in the world, with US$16 billion in investment since 2006. Following the inauguration of the Sirleaf administration in 2006, the country signed several multi-billion dollar concession agreements in the iron ore and palm oil industries with numerous multinational corporations, including BHP Billiton, ArcelorMittal, and Sime Darby.The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company has operated the world's largest rubber plantation in Liberia since 1926. Liberia has also begun exploration for offshore oil; unproven oil reserves may be in excess of one billion barrels. The government divided its offshore waters into 17 blocks and began auctioning off exploration licenses for the blocks in 2004, with further auctions in 2007 and 2009.Among the companies to have won licenses are Repsol, Chevron, Anadarko and Woodside Petroleum.

Due to its status as a flag of convenience, the country has the second-largest maritime registry in the world behind Panama, with 3,500 vessels registered under its flag accounting for 11% of ships worldwide.

Liberia scores 3.3 on a scale from 10 (highly clean) to 0 (highly corrupt) on the 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index by non-governmental organization Transparency International, giving it an equal ranking with Albania, India and Jamaica. When seeking attention of a selection of service providers 89% of Liberians had to pay a bribe, according to the organization's 2010 Global Corruption Barometer.
Economic history

Foreign trade was primarily conducted for the benefit of the Americo-Liberian elite. The 1864 Ports of Entry Act severely restricted trade between foreigners and indigenous Liberians throughout most of Liberia's history. Little foreign direct investment benefited the 95% majority population, who were often subjected to forced labor on foreign concessions. Liberian law often did not protect indigenous Liberians from the extraction of rents and arbitrary taxation, and the majority survived on subsistence farming and low wage work on foreign concessions.
Weights and measures

Liberia is currently moving to the metric system.

In 1921, one authority stated, "The metric system is seldom found in Liberia,"and according to the CIA Handbook, Liberia primarily uses a non-metric system of units. However, in 2008, the African Development Bank stated that Liberia used the metric system.Cities of the World in 2008 stated that Monrovia, the capital, used the metric system. and a 2008 report from the University of Tennessee stated that the changeover from English to Metric measures was confusing to coffee and cocoa farmers, that the weighing machines were owned by the buyers and there was no system of weights and measures certification.

The 2008 Liberian census used square miles to express population densities but the County Development Agendas of that year were inconsistent, some giving measurements in metric units and some giving them in the older units.The 2009 Annual report of the Ministry of Mines, Lands and Energy used kilometres for road distances but acres for land areas.

In 2010, Government press releases used kilometers for road distances.though one report gave the length of a bridge in feet while another press release gave one road distance in kilometers and another two in miles.In the measurement of land areas, one Government press release used acres while announcements from the Ministry of Agriculture have used hectares.

Government use of the metric system has continued in 2011. In the private sector, the "Daily Observer gives weather temperature forecasts in degrees Celsius.
Further information: Communications in Liberia
Further information: Transport in Liberia
Main article: Demographics of Liberia

As of the 2008 national census, Liberia was home to 3,476,608 people. Of those, 1,118,241 lived in Montserrado County, the most populous county in the country and home to the capital of Monrovia, with the Greater Monrovia district home to 970,824 people. Nimba County is the next most populous county with 462,026 residents.Prior to the 2008 census, the last census had been held in 1984, and it listed the population as 2,101,628.The population of Liberia was 1,016,443 in 1962 and increased to 1,503,368 in 1974.

The population of over 3 million comprises 16 indigenous ethnic groups and various foreign minorities. Indigenous peoples comprise about 95% of the population, the largest of which are the Kpelle in central and western Liberia. Americo-Liberians, who are descendants of African-American settlers, make up 2.5%, and Congo people, descendants of repatriated Congo and Afro-Caribbean slaves who arrived in 1825, make up an estimated 2.5%.There is also a sizable number of Lebanese, Indians, and other West African nationals who make up a significant part of Liberia's business community. A small minority of Liberians of European descent (estimated at 18,000 in 1999; probably fewer now) reside in the country.,

As of 2006, Liberia has the highest population growth rate in the world (4.50% per annum). Similar to its neighbors, it has a large youth population, with half of the population under the age of 18.

Of the population, 4% hold indigenous beliefs, 85% are Christians, and 12% are Muslims

As of 2009, Liberia has a population count of 3,954,979 people  a population growth rate of 4.2%and an infant mortality rate of 80 deaths per 1000 live births. Life expectancy, fertility rate and death rate recorded 58 years, 5.9 births per woman and 10 per 1000 people  respectively in the year of 2008.

Confronted with many developmental problems, severe health-related issues continue to threaten the growth sustainability of the region and remain one of the crucial challenges for the authorities. There are a number of highly communicable diseases which plague Liberia, such as HIV, tuberculosis, diarrhoeal diseases and malaria. In 2007, HIV was prevalent in 2% of the population aged 15–49 whereas the incidence of tuberculosis was 420 per 100,000 people in 2008. HIV/AIDS, malaria and diarrhoeal diseases accounts for 10%, 10% and 7% of the total number of deaths in Liberia respectively.

Several factors can be held accountable for the susceptibility of Liberians to the infectious diseases, namely, lack of access to healthcare and education, malnutrition and poor sanitation. More often or not, low income earned by most locals explains the current situation they are facing. Data revealed that GDP per capita in 2009 was USD222  and the poverty gap at $2 per day (PPP) was 59.5% in 2007. As a result, many Liberians lack the ability to sustain a proper standard of living and to obtain access to healthcare and education. The limited provision of healthcare services and education also hampers efforts to improve living conditions. Health expenditure per capita was USD22, making up 10.6% of total GDP  whereas public spending on education took up 2.7% of total GDP. In 2008, there was only 1 doctor and 27 nurses per 100,000 people. Few wanted to work as doctors as the highest paid government doctors only earn less than US$100 monthly. In 2003, the end of civil war also saw 95% of its healthcare facilities being destroyed.Consequently, the absence of proper and sufficient healthcare provisions exposes the people to diseases since they have difficulty seeking professional medical help when they contract the diseases. 58% of the relevant age group finished their primary education.Similarly, the literacy rate among people aged 15 and above was 58%.Clearly, the lack of education has increased the Liberians’ vulnerability of contracting the diseases since they are not educated on how they are able to protect themselves from the diseases.

Issues of food shortages, malnutrition and poor sanitation are not uncommon in Liberia. Liberia imports 90% of its national staple-rice and is extremely vulnerable to food shortages with rising global prices as evident in 2008. In 2007, 20.4% of children under the age of 5 were malnourished. In 2008, only 17% of the population had access to the improved sanitation facilities. Malnutrition weakens people’s resistance towards diseases while poor sanitation worsens the situation by lowering the hygiene level. This in turn facilitates the rapid spread of diseases across the population.
Main article: Culture of Liberia
See also: Music of Liberia, Languages of Liberia, and List of Liberians

Liberia was traditionally noted for its hospitality, academic institutions, cultural skills, and arts/craft works. Liberia has a long, rich history in textile arts and quilting. The free and former U.S. slaves who emigrated to Liberia brought with them their sewing and quilting skills. The census of 1843 indicated a variety of occupations, including hatter, milliner, seamstress and tailor. Liberia hosted National Fairs in 1857 and 1858 in which prizes were awarded for various needle arts. One of the most well-known Liberian quilters was Martha Ann Ricks, who presented a quilt featuring the famed Liberian coffee tree to Queen Victoria in 1892.
Liberian ceremonial spoon

In modern times, Liberian presidents would present quilts as official government gifts. The John F. Kennedy Library and Museum collection includes a cotton quilt by Mrs. Jemima Parker which has portraits of both Liberian president William Tubman and JFK. Zariah Wright-Titus founded the Arthington (Liberia) Women's Self-Help Quilting Club (1987). In the early 1990s, Kathleen Bishop documented examples of appliquéd Liberian quilts. When current Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf moved into the Executive Mansion, she reportedly had a Liberian-made quilt installed in her presidential office.
Main article: Religion in Liberia

It is estimated that as much as 85 percent of the population of Liberia practices either Christianity or traditional indigenous religious beliefs. Approximately 3 percent exclusively practices traditional indigenous religious beliefs. An estimated 15 percent of the population practices Islam.A very small percentage is Bahá'í, Hindu, Sikh, or Buddhist.
Main article: Education in Liberia
Students studying by candlelight in Bong County, Liberia

The University of Liberia is the country's largest college and is located in Monrovia. Opened in 1862, it is one of Africa's oldest institutes of higher learning organized based upon the western model. Civil war severely damaged the university in the 1990s, but the university has begun to rebuild following the restoration of peace. The school includes six colleges, including a medical school and the nation's only law school, Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law.

Cuttington University was established by the Episcopal Church of the USA (ECUSA) in 1889; its campus is currently located in Suakoko, Bong County, 120 miles (190 km) north of Monrovia). The private school, the oldest private college in Liberia, also holds graduate courses in Monrovia.

In 2009, Tubman University in Harper, Maryland County became only the second public university in Liberia.

According to statistics published by UNESCO for 2004 65% of primary-school age and 24% of secondary-school age children were enrolled in school. This is a significant increase on previous years; the statistics also show substantial numbers of older children going back to earlier school years. On average, children attain 10 years of education, 11 for boys and 8 for girls Children ages five to eleven are required by law to attend school, though enforcement is lax. A 1912 law required children ages 6 to 16 to attend school.The African Methodist Episcopal University is another fast-growing university in the capital.

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