Liberia Today, July 26, 2016 Is 169 Years Old, But Still Behind – A Brief Note

child chainedLiberians are today celebrating the 169 years Independence Day anniversary of their beloved Country, Liberia, the oldest Republic on the west coast of Africa, and still lacks those basic social and economic development that are needed so urgently as compare to the other nations around it that are progressively moving ahead.

Despite of their boastfulness as the oldest Republic in Africa, some Liberians who are in the helm of power, and have noticed the progressive developments in other countries that were initially nurtured by Liberia’s experienced leaders are moving ahead while their ‘Big Brother’ is still dragging behind, a situation that is currently bothering the younger generation as to what are the problems.

As Liberia observe its 169 Independence Day anniversary today, July 26, 2016, the management of this news outlet (www.gnnliberia.com) is pleased to featured via wikipedia below some basis information as it relates to Liberia and its Independence – Liberia which is today, July 26, 2016 celebrating its 169 Independence Day anniversary is a country on the West African coast. Liberia means “Land of the Free” in Latin. It is bordered by Sierra Leone to its west, Guinea to its north and Ivory Coast to its east. It covers an area of 111,369 square kilometres (43,000 sq mi) and has population of 4,503,000 people. English is the official language and over 20 indigenous languages are spoken, representing the numerous tribes who make up more than 95% of the population.

Forests on the coastline are composed mostly of salt-tolerant mangrove trees, while the more sparsely populated inland has forests opening onto a plateau of drier grasslands. The climate is equatorial, with significant rainfall during the May–October rainy season and harsh harmattan winds the remainder of the year. Liberia possesses about forty percent of the remaining Upper Guinean rainforest. It was an important producer of rubber in the early 20th century.

The Republic of Liberia, beginning as a settlement of the American Colonization Society (ACS), declared its independence on July 26, 1847. The United States did not recognize Liberia’s independence until during the American Civil War on February 5, 1862. Between January 7, 1822 and the American Civil War, more than 15,000 freed and free-born Black Americans from United States and 3,198 Afro-Caribbeans relocated to the settlement.The Black American settlers carried their culture with them to Liberia. The Liberian constitution and flag were modeled after those of the United States. On January 3, 1848 Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a wealthy, free-born Black American from Virginia who settled in Liberia, was elected as Liberia’s first president after the people proclaimed independence.

Liberia is the only African republic to have self-proclaimed independence without gaining independence through revolt from any other nation, being Africa’s first and oldest republic. Liberia maintained and kept its independence during the European colonial era. During World War II, Liberia supported the United States war efforts against Germany and in turn the United States invested in considerable infrastructure in Liberia to help its war effort, which also aided the country in modernizing and improving its major air transportation facilities.

In addition, President William Tubman encouraged economic changes. Internationally, Liberia was a founding member of The League of Nations, United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity. Political tensions from the rule of William R. Tolbert resulted in a military coup in 1980 that overthrew his leadership soon after his death, marking the beginning of years-long political instability. Five years of military rule by the People’s Redemption Council and five years of civilian rule by the National Democratic Party of Liberia were followed by the First and Second Liberian Civil Wars. These resulted in the deaths and displacement of more than half a million people and devastated Liberia’s economy. A peace agreement in 2003 led to democratic elections in 2005. Recovery proceeds but about 85% of the population live below the international poverty line.

Liberia’s economic and political stability was threatened in the 2010s by an Ebola virus epidemic; it originated in Guinea in December 2013, entered Liberia in March 2014, and was declared officially ended on May 8, 2015.

The Pepper Coast, also known as the Grain Coast, has been inhabited by indigenous peoples of Africa at least as far back as the 12th century and perhaps earlier. Mende-speaking people expanded westward from the Sudan, forcing many smaller ethnic groups southward toward the Atlantic Ocean. The Dei, Bassa, Kru, Gola and Kissi were some of the earliest documented peoples in the area.

This influx was compounded by the decline of the Western Sudanic Mali Empire in 1375 and the Songhai Empire in 1591. Additionally, as inland regions underwent desertification, inhabitants moved to the wetter 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 Mane conquered the region, the Vai people of the former Mali Empire immigrated into the Grand Cape Mount County region. The ethnic Kru opposed the influx of Vai, forming an alliance with the Mane to stop further influx of Vai People along the coast built canoes and traded with other West Africans from Cap-Vert to the Gold Coast. Arab traders entered the region from the north, and a long-established slave trade took captives to north and east Africa.

Between 1461 and the late 17th century, Portuguese, Dutch and British traders had contacts and trading posts in the region. The Portuguese named the area Costa da Pimenta (“Pepper Coast”) but it later came to be known as the Grain Coast, due to the abundance of melegueta pepper grains. European traders would barter commodities and goods with local people.

Early settlement

In the United States, there was a movement to resettle American free blacks and freed slaves in Africa. The American Colonization Society was founded in 1816 in Washington, DC for this purpose, by a group of prominent politicians and slaveholders. But its membership grew to include mostly people who supported abolition of slavery.

Slaveholders wanted to get free people of color out of the South, where they were thought to threaten the stability of the slave societies. Some abolitionists collaborated on relocation of free blacks, as they were discouraged by discrimination against them in the North and believed they would never be accepted in the larger society.

 Most African-Americans who were native-born by this time wanted to improve conditions in the United States rather than emigrate. Leading activists in the North strongly opposed the ACS, but some free blacks were ready to try a different environment.

In 1822, the American Colonization Society began sending African-American volunteers to the Pepper Coast to establish a colony for freed African-Americans. By 1867, the ACS (and state-related chapters) had assisted in the migration of more than 13,000 African Americans to Liberia.

These free African-Americans and their descendants married within their community, and came to identify as Americo-Liberians. Many were of mixed race and educated in American culture; they did not identify with the indigenous natives of the tribes they encountered. They intermarried largely within the colonial community, developing an ethnic group that had a cultural tradition infused with American notions of political republicanism and Protestant Christianity.

The ACS, the private organization supported by prominent American politicians such as Abraham Lincoln, Henry Clay, and James Monroe, believed repatriation of free blacks was preferable to widespread emancipation of slaves. Similar state-based organizations established colonies in Mississippi-in-Africa and the Republic of Maryland, which were later annexed by Liberia.

The Americo-Liberian settlers did not identify with the indigenous peoples they encountered, especially those in communities of the more isolated “bush.” They knew nothing of their cultures, languages or animist religion. Encounters with tribal Africans in the bush often developed as violent confrontations. The colonial settlements were raided by the Kru and Grebo from their inland chiefdoms. Because of feeling set apart and superior by their culture and education to the indigenous peoples, the Americo-Liberians developed as a small elite that held on to political power.

It excluded the indigenous tribesmen from birthright citizenship in their own lands until 1904, in a repetition of the United States’ treatment of Native Americans. Because of ethnocentrism and the cultural gap, the Americo-Liberians envisioned creating a western-style state to which the tribesmen should assimilate. They encouraged religious organizations to set up missions and schools to educate the indigenous peoples.

Government

On July 26, 1847, the settlers issued a Declaration of Independence and promulgated a constitution. Based on the political principles denoted in the United States Constitution, it established the independent Republic of Liberia.

The leadership of the new nation consisted largely of the Americo-Liberians, who initially established political and economic dominance in the coastal areas that had been purchased by the ACS; they maintained relations with United States contacts in developing these areas and the resulting trade. Their passage of the 1865 Ports of Entry Act prohibited foreign commerce with the inland tribes, ostensibly to “encourage the growth of civilized values” before such trade was allowed.

By 1877, the Americo-Liberian True Whig Party was the most powerful political power in the country. It was made up primarily of people from the Americo-Liberian ethnic group, who maintained social, economic and political dominance well into the 20th century, repeating patterns of European colonists in other nations in Africa. Competition for office was usually contained within the party; a party nomination virtually ensured election.

Pressure from the United Kingdom, which controlled Sierra Leone to the west, and France with its interests in the north and east led to a loss of Liberia’s claims to extensive territories. Both Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast annexed some territories. Liberia struggled to attract investment in order to develop infrastructure and a larger, industrial economy.

There was a decline in production of Liberian goods in the late 19th century, and the government struggled financially, resulting in indebtedness on a series of international loans.

20th century

American and other international interests emphasized resource extraction, with rubber production a major industry in the early 20th century.

In the mid-20th century, Liberia gradually began to modernize with American assistance. During World War II, the United States made major infrastructure improvements to support its military efforts in Africa and Europe. It built the Freeport of Monrovia and Roberts International Airport under the Lend-Lease program before its entry into the world war.

After the war, President William Tubman encouraged foreign investment in the country. Liberia had the second-highest rate of economic growth in the world during the 1950s.

Liberia also began to take a more active role in international affairs. It was a founding member of the United Nations in 1945 and became a vocal critic of the South African apartheid regime. Liberia also served as a proponent both of African independence from the European colonial powers and of Pan-Africanism, and helped to fund the Organisation of African Unity.

On April 12, 1980, a military coup led by Master Sergeant Samuel Doe of the Krahn ethnic group overthrew and killed President William R. Tolbert, Jr.. Doe and the other plotters later executed a majority of Tolbert’s cabinet and other Americo-Liberian government officials and True Whig Party members. The coup leaders formed the People’s Redemption Council (PRC) to govern the country. A strategic Cold War ally of the West, Doe received significant financial backing from the United States while critics condemned the PRC for corruption and political repression.

After Liberia adopted a new constitution in 1985, Doe was elected president in subsequent elections, which were internationally condemned as fraudulent. On November 12, 1985, a failed counter-coup was launched by Thomas Quiwonkpa, whose soldiers briefly occupied the national radio station. Government repression intensified in response, as Doe’s troops retaliated by executing members of the Gio and Mano ethnic groups in Nimba County. National Patriotic Front of Liberia, a rebel group led by Charles Taylor, launched an insurrection in December 1989 against Doe’s government with the backing of neighboring countries such as Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. This triggered the First Liberian Civil War. By September 1990, Doe’s forces controlled only a small area just outside the capital, and Doe was captured and executed in that month by rebel forces.

The rebels soon split into various factions fighting one another. The Economic Community Monitoring Group under the Economic Community of West African States organized a military task force to intervene in the crisis. From 1989 to 1996 one of Africa’s bloodiest civil wars broke out, claiming the lives of more than 200,000 Liberians and displacing a million others into refugee camps in neighboring countries. A peace deal between warring parties was reached in 1995, leading to Taylor’s election as president in 1997.

Under Taylor’s leadership, Liberia became internationally known as a pariah state due to its use of blood diamonds and illegal timber exports to fund the Revolutionary United Front in the Sierra Leone Civil War. The Second Liberian Civil War began in 1999 when Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, a rebel group based in the northwest of the country, launched an armed insurrection against Taylor.

2000s

In March 2003, a second rebel group, Movement for Democracy in Liberia, began launching attacks against Taylor from the southeast.Peace talks between the factions began in Accra in June of that year, and Taylor was indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for crimes against humanity the same month. By July 2003, the rebels had launched an assault on Monrovia. Under heavy pressure from the international community and the domestic Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace movement, Taylor resigned in August 2003 and went into exile in Nigeria.

A peace deal was signed later that month. The United Nations Mission in Liberia began arriving in September 2003 to provide security and monitor the peace accord, and an interim government took power the following October.

The subsequent 2005 elections were internationally regarded as the most free and fair in Liberian history. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Harvard-trained economist and former Minister of Finance, was elected as the first female president in Africa. Upon her inauguration, Sirleaf requested the extradition of Taylor from Nigeria and transferred him to the SCSL for trial in The Hague.

In 2006, the government established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the causes and crimes of the civil war.

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.

Liberia’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 515 kilometres (320 mi).

The highest point wholly within Liberia is Mount Wuteve at 1,440 metres (4,724 ft) 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 1,752 metres (5,748 ft) above sea level but is not wholly within Liberia as Nimba shares a border with Guinea and Ivory Coast and is their tallest mountain as well.

Liberia is divided into fifteen counties, which, in turn, are subdivided into a total of 90 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 11,551 km2 (4,460 sq mi), while Montserrado is the smallest at 1,909 km2 (737 sq mi).[45] Montserrado is also the most populous county with 1,144,806 residents as of the 2008 census.

The fifteen counties are administered by superintendents appointed by the president. The Constitution calls for the election of various chiefs at the county and local level, but these elections have not taken place since 1985 due to war and financial constraints.

References: Wikipedia

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About Cholo Brooks 15568 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.