Spotlight Liberia

LIBERIA is a country unlike any other – originally established as a nation of freed slaves, it has endured centuries of ethnic tensions and over a decade of civil war, only to emerge today as a stable democracy with the first elected female leader on the African continent.

In 1820 the United States began sending freed slaves to a West African settlement and over the following four decades more than 10,000 African-Americans arrived in Liberia. The movement was driven by the American Colonization Society, which governed Liberia until 1847 when it declared its independence and was thereafter ruled by the Americo-Liberian immigrants.

The sudden influx of African-Americans created a bitter tension with the indigenous ethnic groups of Liberia. The republic that was established only gave power and voice to the Americo-Liberians, and completely excluded the indigenous Liberians from citizenship, even though they constituted 95% of the population. Violence and strife raged on throughout the century of Americo-Liberian rule, until an indigenous Liberian named Samuel Doe seized control of the government – a shift that eventually ignited the 14 year civil war.

Doe’s government assisted only those of his own ethnic group, which further raised tensions with the other ethnic groups and the Americo-Liberians. For years he did nothing to curb the human rights violations, widespread corruption, and ethnic violence that plagued Liberia. It was in 1989 when a rebel group led by Charles Taylor revolted against Doe and one of the bloodiest civil wars in Africa began.