Return to Africa
A nation slightly larger than the state of Ohio, Liberia sits on the southern coast of West Africa. It was founded in 1847 by ex-slaves who returned to Africa in the hope of establishing a new homeland with the blessing of President James Monroe and his administration in the early 1820’s.
Resentment and Hostility
In a sad and ironic turn of history, the newcomers from the U.S., called Americo-Liberians, separated themselves from and oppressed the native, majority population. The original inhabitants were deprived of their rights and full participation in governing the country. This boiled over, and fueled a coup d’etat led by Samuel K. Doe in 1980.
Death and Destruction
Civil war followed in 1989, instigated in part by Charles Taylor. Many children were abducted, drugged and conscripted to fight in this conflict. The Liberian Civil Wars raged off and on for the next 14 years and destroyed most of the nation’s infrastructure. Peace was established in 2003 with the intervention of the UN and neighboring countries in West Africa, under the auspices of ECOWAS. Over 250,000 Liberians are estimated to have lost their lives, and another 1 million were displaced during the war. Horrifying atrocities, from rape to mutilation, were highly prevalent during the conflict. The women of Liberia played a central role in ending the civil conflict that tore their country apart; their story is powerfully told in the documentary, “Pray the Devil Back to Hell”.
Democracy and the Present
In 2005, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became the first democratically-elected female head of state in Africa. By many accounts she has been able to establish a sense of political stability conducive to economic development. Johnson-Sirleaf was re-elected to another 5-year term in an election marred by some violence in 2011. Today, Liberia is listed among the poorest of nations of the world, and the majority of the population lacks electricity, clean drinking water and other necessities taken for granted in many other parts of the world. Recently, Liberia celebrated its ten-year anniversary of peace. However, this accomplishment was tainted by recent exposures of rampant corruption and poorly performing schools. Its lush landscape, rich natural resources, and demolished infrastructure provide a vast potential for growth and prosperity.