A war-torn country in the west coast of Africa, neighbouring Sierra Leone. You probably heard it as the home country of legendary striker George Weah, as well as Raiden from the Metal Gear series. Like its neighbour, it was settled as a colony for freed slaves, this time from America. Thus the capital is named Monrovia, in honour of James Monroe whose plans helped the idea of resettlement back in Africa come to exist.
Liberia's early history was tumultuous. Originally formed as by the American Colonisation Society as a means of 1) sending freed slaves back to Africa and 2) planting the seed to spread Christianity and 'civilize' the continent. However, the early settler's idealism came to blows with the reality of trying to form a society in a harsh tropical climate that they were unfamiliar with and had done no serious planning for. Attempts to interact with the natives were met with hostility, as while these new arrivals were black, they were considered outsiders by those they encountered. The settler's desire to end the slave trade and convert the natives to Christianity clashed with the desires of local chieftains who followed tribal religions and for whom trading slaves was a major source of income.
In time however, the Americos were able to gain a foothold, establishing a series of settlements along the coast, the largest being Monrovia. Independence was declared from the ACS in 1847. The educated among the settler ranks brought a mercantile tradition from their lives as freed blacks in the States and a small economy developed based on the trade of commodities such as palm oil, sugarcane and coffee. These early decades saw a society tiered between the ruling mulatto (mixed-race) class, and darker skinned settlers, who were represented by the Republican and True Whig parties, respectively. The natives were disregarded altogether.
Despite some early success in agriculture and some development in the coastal towns, this was rapidly outpaced by changes in the global economy. Seeking to run up a sovereign debt in an attempt to boost economic output, 5th President of Liberia Edward James Roye, acquired an eye-watering loan of $500,000 from London financiers. This proved wildly unpopular. Roye's critics caught up with him and he became the first sitting Liberian president to be murdered in office; he would not be the last.
The Republican Party faded from relevance, eventually dissolving in 1899, leaving Liberia a one-party state under the True Whigs. Decades of struggle had made the settlers culturally different from Americans, as well as Africans, and they faced hostility from colonial powers such as France. The existence of the state was a delicate balancing act, with much disagreement among the settlers about whether to pursue isolationist or Atlanticist policies, and also debate about how to treat the natives. There were no easy solutions to the backward economy, staggering levels of debt, and the ever-present tensions that plagued the Liberian state.
A lifeline came in the 1920s when rubber magnate Henry Firestone sought to capitalize on the rubber boom by establishing his own source of natural rubber. An agreement was reached whereby, in exchange for access to the country's rubber, the corporation would lend the Liberian government money in order to pay off its debts to London and develop the infrastructure needed to ship the resource out of the country. This stoked further controversy among the settlers; as the company had complete authority over the government's revenues until the loan was paid, the agreement effectively turned Liberia into a protectorate of Firestone Corporation.
A scandal involving Liberia came to light in the 1930s, which showed that certain elements of the settler class (including the president Charles King, who was directly implicated in the scandal) had been rounding up natives to work in Fernando Po (what is now Bioko in Equatorial Guinea), in back-breaking conditions where survival was uncommon. In the eyes of the international community, a state founded by free slaves aiming to end slavery had gone full-circle and was now treating native Africans as their ancestors had been treated when they were enslaved. Amidst shock in both Liberia and abroad, President King resigned in disgrace.
Liberia played a key strategic role in World War II, with a defense pact being signed with the US in 1942. The US built Robertsfield Airport and other infrastructure in exchange for permission to build a military base in the region. 1944 brought the election of William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman, who sought to bring the country closer to the USA. Tubman ushered in a period of strong economic growth, spurred by foreign investment, particularly from the US. As a fervent anti-communist, he took the US side in The Cold War, cementing the nation as a key bulwark against communism in West Africa. By the end of Tubman's rule, Liberia was a major exporter of rubber and iron ore, as well as earning a tidy profit as a 'flag of convenience' country. The debt with Firestone was paid off in 1952. Tourism also boomed; at a time when most African countries were fighting civil wars or wars of liberation, as Africa's first Republic Liberia remained a stable country where the elites of the continent could safely take their holidays.
Tubman was successfully able to balance the demands of the settler elite with the native majority by creating a powerful network of patronage through the country, to the extent that he would personally visit local chiefdoms to resolve disputes himself. Political reforms were also implemented, with universal suffrage being introduced in the '50s and more native-born Liberians educated than ever before. Nevertheless, Tubman's rule was marked by increasing authoritarianism, with secret police and repression of rival political parties and trade unions. It also remained highly nepotistic, with top opportunities remaining the domain of those descended from the original settlers. He became more paranoid and tyrannical after a gunman failed to assassinate him in 1954 (whether it was a genuine assassination attempt or an unfortunate misunderstanding is subject to debate). However, his rule ended suddenly in 1971 when he died in London from complications following surgery.
Following Tubman's death, he was succeeded by Vice President William Tolbert, who was not well-liked by the USA because he sought to distance Liberia from the West and join the Non-Aligned Movement. Tolbert had sympathies with both the Soviet Union and Mao's China, and took to wearing a safari suit when out and about, as opposed to his predecessor's Western-style dress. Widespread corruption, political unrest and falling rubber prices contributed to increasing unrest and instability, creating a tinderbox where the historic tensions between the natives and the settler elite threatened to explode. In 1979 there were the Rice Riots, where the price of Liberia's staple food rocketed, partly due to price controls implemented by the government. A peaceful protest rapidly became a destructive mob, triggering government reprisals. After this, Tolbert's credibility hit the floor.
The '80s began with Army Sergeant Samuel K. Doe leading a coup against Tolbert's government, murdering the President in his bed and executing most of the cabinet on the beach in front of a baying mob after series show trials. Conspiracies abound as to whether the CIA was involved in destabilizing the regime due to Tolbert's changes in foreign policy. The rebels established the People's Redemption Council, a military junta that dissolved the legislature and Constitution. This ended 133 years of Americo rule and triggered a mass exodus, with many seeking asylum in the USA. Doe attempted to legitimize his regime by dissolving the People's Redemption Council in 1984, trying to pass a new constitution and holding (fraudulent) elections in 1985. Internationally, Doe's reign represented a return to pro-US policies. Nonetheless, he remained a tyrant in the eyes of many of his people, as he used his position to enrich himself and members of his native Krahn tribe at the expense of the rest.
This led to a a long and vicious civil war sparking off war in neighbouring Sierra Leone. How vicious, you ask? Well, Samuel K. Doe was eventually tortured to death by a rival named Prince Y. Johnson. Said torture was filmed, and allegedly showed Prince sipping a Budweiser while Doe was getting his ear hacked off. The film made the rounds in various African marketplaces. Charles Taylor then took things over and screwed things up in neighboring countries (funding rebels, etc.) until he was forced to leave by international pressure, spearheaded by former US president George H. W. Bush. Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became president afterwards. Things have been relatively peaceful there since then... but unfortunately, in 2014, Ebola struck.
The previously mentioned Sirleaf is Africa's first female president. Alongside Ethiopia, it is the only country on the continent not to be colonised by Europeans (not counting the Italian invasion before World War II) and, unlike Ethiopia, it is the only country on the continent that wasn't from a traditional African nation or a former European colony. Has a unique relationship tie with America because of the former American Colonization Society.
George Weah became president in 2018, in the first peaceful democratic handover of power since the days of Americo-Liberian rule.
- Awesome, but Impractical: The first houses that the early settlers built were grand houses in the style of antebellum plantation homes, and towns were built in the style of the Deep South. In the long-term these proved difficult to maintain in the harsh tropical climate.
- Banana Republic: Especially between 1926 and 1952, where the country's revenues were completely controlled by Firestone until the sizable loan was paid off.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Pandering to foreign corporations such as Firestone was historically key to gaining the revenue necessary to pay off the national debt and maintain stability. More recently Charles Taylor turned a profit from allowing exploitation of the countries raw materials by shadowy cartels and corporations.
- Corrupt Politician: Rampant to the point of normality, through the countries history and into the present day.
- Child Soldiers
- Cult of Personality: President Tubman cultivated one, moreso as his term progressed.
- Darkest Africa: A unique example in history, with those of African descent but (at least some) Western cultural influences coming into contact with hostile natives.
- Democracy Is Bad: Despite Liberia nominally being a republic for all people's of "Negro descent", the Americo-Liberians were always concerned about opening up their US-inspired republican system to the natives.
- Eagleland: Relations with the USA were somewhat strained in the 19th century, but the connection between the two has always been there. In the 20th century US development aid and trade were a major force behind the country undergoing a degree of modernisation and stability, making this a Type 1.
- Full-Frontal Assault: Joshua Blahyi / General Butt Naked (see below)
- The Generalissimo: Samuel Doe, altough he was only a 29-year old sergeant when he came to power.
- Global Currency: The US dollar is far more sought-after than the weaker Liberian dollar.
- Gunboat Diplomacy: The British previously deployed a warship off the coast of Liberia to ward off French attempts at dominating the country. This was because it threatened their position in neighbouring Sierra Leone.
- HeelFaith Turn: General Butt Naked (real name Joshua Blahyi) was one of the warlords of Liberia during the civil war and was one of the most heinous and dangerous. Then he converted to Christianity and became a preacher who tried to help Liberia recover from the war.
- Land of One City: Monrovia is by far the most developed (although that's not saying much) settlement in the country, and most economic development, government activity and NGO operations are based there. It is common for 'country people' to move to Monrovia for work and send what little money they can find back to their relatives in the hinterland.
- In the country's early history, the settler elite claimed huge swathes of land (moreso than the present-day boundaries) as their own, but in practice they rarely left their coastal settlements for the hazards of the interior.
- Lowered Recruiting Standards: The Liberian army was never particularly professional, but following the outbreak of civil war this very much became the case, with warbands being almost entirely composed of drugged up child soldiers forming.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Many of the various warlords and rebel groups were widely known for eating the flesh of their opponents or of innocent victims killed for ritual purposes (it was believed that the hearts and blood of children would fend off harm). Apparently the practice continues to this day, with parts of abandoned bodies often going mysteriously missing, although it's mostly out of hunger rather than ritual these days.
- James Monroe: The capital city was named after him.
- Lord of War: provides the setting of the movie.
- Made a Slave: For a country that was founded by freed slaves whose later governments came to become slave traders, this definitely applies.
- Meaningful Name: Liberia means freedom. The country was founded by freed slaves.
- Michael Jackson: Liberian Girl of course.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Many warlords of Liberia took intimidating pseudonyms. General Rambo, General Bin-Laden, General Mosquito (because mosquitoes bring malaria), General Mosquito Killer (who fought against General Mosquito) and so on. YMMV if General Butt Naked is an example of this or an aversion
- People's Republic of Tyranny: Africa's first black republic, founded by freed slaves, was from its inception a de facto feudal state, where the settler elite governed the disenfranchised native majority.
- Public Execution: In 1980 Samuel Doe's militia brought the majority of the cabinet to the beach, tied them to stakes and proceeded to execute them by firing squad in front of crowds of onlookers, including members of the international press. This infamous scene was the beginning of over three decades of chaos.
- Rags to Riches: Samuel K. Doe went from being a lowly native-born army sergeant to the president of the country. It didn't save him in the end of course...
- Self-Made Man: Many of the early settlers who rose to prominence were either entrepreneurs in the USA or became wealthy in the "new" country. The first (and 7th) President Joseph Jenkins Roberts was one of these.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Liberia has one of the world's largest fleets of merchant ships registered under their flag because of this.
- Tubman ensured that vast sums of the meagre national budget were spent on his presidential yacht.
- Velvet Revolution: The Second Liberian Civil War was brought to an end by mass peaceful protests from Liberian women. This paved the way for the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The Liberian flag