HISTORY & TRADITIONS
Area: 111,369 sq km (43,000 sq mi)Slightly larger then the state of Ohio in the USA
- Capital: Monrovia (est. 1,000,000)
- Buchanan (est. 300,000)
- Ganta (est. 290,000)
- Gbarnga (est. 150,000)
- Kakata (est. 100,000)
- Harbel (est. 136,000)
Terrain: Three areas–Mangrove swamps and beaches along the coast, wooded hills and semideciduous shrublands along the immediate interior, and dense tropical forests and plateaus in the interior. Liberia has 40% of West Africa’s rain forest.
There are 16 ethnic groups that make up Liberia’s indigenous population. The Kpelle in central and western Liberia is the largest ethnic group. Americo-Liberians who are descendants of freed slaves that arrived in Liberia early in 1821 make up an estimated 5% of the population.
There also are sizable numbers of Lebanese, Indians, and other West African nationals who make up a significant part of Liberia’s business community. The Liberian constitution restricts citizenship only to people of Negro descent; also, land ownership is restricted by law to citizens.
Liberia is traditionally noted for its hospitality and academic institutions, iron mining and rubber industry booms, and cultural skills and arts and craft works. But political upheavals beginning in the 1980s and the brutal 14-year civil war (1989-2003) brought about a steep decline in the living standards of the country, including its education and infrastructure.
Type: Constitutional Democratic Republic
Independence: From American Colonization Society July 26, 1847.
Constitution: January 6, 1986.
Political parties: 30 registered political parties
Liberia has a bicameral legislature consisting of 66 representatives and 30 senators representing the fifteen (15) political sub-divisions of the country.
The legislature, executive and judiciary are three separate yet coordinate branches of government, each with specific constitutional functions, duties and responsibilities. This arrangement provides for a system of checks and balances of power among the branches. Legislative institutions are complex and multifaceted organizations. These institutions are considered the principal forum for debate on public policy issues and a place for compromise and consensus building. Moreover, legislatures reflect a broad spectrum of the country’s political opinions. They are central to democratic government, as long as they remain visible, accessible and accountable to the citizenry.
There is a Supreme Court, criminal courts, and appeals court and magistrate courts in the counties. There also are traditional courts and lay courts in the counties. Locally, political power emanates from traditional chiefs (town, clan, or paramount chiefs), mayors, and district commissioners. Mayors are elected in principal cities in Liberia. Superintendents appointed by the president govern the counties. There are 15 counties in Liberia.
GDP (IMF 2005 est.): $548.4million.
Real GDP growth rate (2004): 2.0%.
Per capita GDP (2005): $119.4.
Consumer Price Index (2004): 7.0%.
Natural resources: Iron ore, rubber, timber, diamonds, gold and tin. The Government of Liberia has reported in recent years that it has discovered sizable deposits of crude oil along its Atlantic Coast.
Agriculture: Products–coffee, cocoa, sugarcane, rice, cassava, palm oil, bananas, plantains, citrus, pineapple, sweet potatoes, corn, and vegetables.
Industry: Types–agriculture, iron ore, rubber, forestry, diamonds, gold, beverages, construction.
Trade (2004): Exports–$103.8 million: rubber 93%; cocoa 3.5%. Major markets–Germany, Poland, U.S., Greece. Imports–$268.1 million: mineral fuels and lubricants; food and live animals; machinery and transport equipment; manufactured goods; pharmaceuticals; and tobacco.
The Liberian economy relied heavily on the mining of iron ore and on the export of natural rubber prior to the civil war. Liberia was a major exporter of iron ore on the world market. In the 1970s and 1980s, iron mining accounted for more than half of Liberia’s export earnings. Following the coup d’etat of 1980, the country’s economic growth rate slowed down because of a decline in the demand for iron ore on the world market and political upheavals in Liberia. Liberia’s foreign debt amounts to about $3.5 billion.
The 1989-2003 civil war had a devastating effect on the country’s economy. Most major businesses were destroyed or heavily damaged, and most foreign investors and businesses left the country. Iron ore production has stopped completely, and Liberia cannot profit from timber and diamond exports due to UN sanctions. Its few earnings come primarily from rubber exports and revenues from its maritime registry program.
As the second-largest maritime licenser in the world–with more than 1,800 vessels registered under its flag, including 35% of the world’s tanker fleet–Liberia earns some $14 million annually from the flag registry. There is increasing interest in the possibility of commercially exploitable offshore crude oil deposits along Liberia’s Atlantic Coast.
Liberia’s business sector is largely controlled by foreigners, mainly of Lebanese and Indian descent. There also are limited numbers of Chinese engaged in agriculture. There also are significant numbers of West Africans engaged in cross-border trade.
Liberia is a member of ECOWAS. With Guinea and Sierra Leone, it formed the Mano River Union (MRU) for development and the promotion of regional economic integration. The MRU became all but defunct because of the Liberian civil war, which spilled over into neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea. There was some revival of MRU political and security cooperation discussions in 2002.
With a new, democratically elected government in place since January 2006, Liberia seeks to reconstruct its shattered economy. The Governance and Economic Management Program (GEMAP), which started under the 2003-2006 transitional government, is designed to help the Liberian Government raise and spend revenues in an efficient, transparent way. Success under GEMAP and solid economic performance should result in Liberia being able to attract investment and begin rebuilding its economy.
Liberia is a founding member of the United Nations and its specialized agencies and is a member of the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Development Bank (ADB), the Mano River Union (MRU), and the Non-Aligned Movement.
Liberia’s Foreign Policy is firmly rooted in its political ideology of liberalism, democracy and capitalism. This foundation is copied after the pattern adopted by the United States of America from where the founding fathers of Liberia had come as ex-slaves and free men color. Generally speaking, the guiding principles of Liberia’s foreign policy has been the maintenance of national security and the preservation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country, the promotion of peace and harmony based on the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, and unity in the national community based on the virtue of liberal democracy. The fundamental thrust of Liberia’s foreign policy objective before the Tubman era was predominantly the maintenance of national independence. Since the Tubman administration to date, the foreign policy objective of the country, in addition to the maintenance of national independence has been the devotion to economic, social and political development. Realistically speaking, Liberia’s survival as a state in the face of difficult challenges posed by colonial powers like Great Britain and France have been the skill and maturity with which her leaders conducted her foreign policy and foreign relations. Thus the mastery of the act of diplomacy has remained the hallmark, and one of the most credible achievements of Liberia in the comity of nations.
- Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
- International Coffee Organization (ICO)
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)
- African Union (AU)
- International Telecommunications Union (ITU)
- International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
- World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
- World Crafts Council (WCC)
- West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA)
- African Civil Aviation Commission (ACAC)
- Asian-African Legal Consultation Committee (AALCC)
- African-Asian Rural Reconstruction Organization (AARRO)
- International Secretariat for Volunteer Service (ISVS)
- International Labor Organization (ILO)
- United Nations (UN)
- United Nations Volunteers Program (UNVP)
- United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)
- Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)
- Mano River Union (MRU)
- Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS)
- Ad Hoc Committee on the Indian Ocean
- Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)
- African Postal Union (APU)
- Universal Postal Union (UPU)
- African Purchasing and Supplies Organization (APSO)
- Association of the African Trade (AAT)
- West Africa Helath Secretariat (WAHS)
- Inter-African Coffee Organization (IACO)
- Association of Iron-Ore Exporting Countries (AIOEC)
- Inter-Government Maritime Consultative Organization (IGMCO)
- Supreme Council of Sports in Africa (SCSA)
- United National Population Fund (UNPF)
- International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)