Africa's first republic, Liberia was founded in 1822 as a result of the efforts of the American Colonization Society to settle freed American slaves in West Africa. Over the course of forty years, about 12,000 slaves were voluntarily relocated. Originally called Monrovia, the colony became the Free and Independent Republic of Liberia in 1847.
The government of Africa's first republic was modeled after that of the United States, and Joseph Jenkins Roberts of Virginia was elected the first president. Liberia's constitution denied indigenous Liberians equal to the American immigrants and their descendants.
William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman, president from 1944-1971, is regarded as the "father of modern Liberia." He promoted foreign investment and modernization. In July 1971, while serving his sixth term as president, William V. S. Tubman died following surgery and was succeeded by Vice President William R. Tolbert, Jr.
Tolbert was ousted in a military coup on April 12, 1980, by Master Sgt.Samuel K. Doe. Doe's rule was characterized by corruption and brutality. A rebellion led by Charles Taylor, a former Doe aide, and the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), started a civil war in December 1989. Doe's forces were defeated, and in September 1990 he was captured, tortured, and killed. By April 1996, fighting by the country's warlords had destroyed any last vestige of normalcy and civil society. The civil war finally ended in 1997.
Charles Taylor won 75% of the presidential vote in July 1997. Taylor supported Sierra Leone's brutal Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in the hopes of toppling his neighbor's government in exchange for diamonds, which enriched his personal coffers.
In 2002, rebels - Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) - intensified their attacks on Taylor's government. By June 2003, LURD and other rebel groups controlled two-thirds of the country. The National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA) was created as part of a peace agreement in August 2003 that ended the civil war. It called for the creation of a transitional government that would rule for two years, ending with the holding of elections in October 2005 and the installation of a democratically elected government by January 2006.
On August 11, 2003 Taylor stepped down and went into exile in Nigeria. Taylor had bankrupted his own country, siphoning off $100 million and leaving Liberia as the world's poorest nation. Gyude Bryant, a businessman, was selected as the new president.
George Dweh, a founding member of LURD and Eddington Varmah, a Justice Minister in the Taylor government were elected unopposed as Speaker and Deputy Speaker in October 2003. Both were suspended indefinitely on March 14, 2005, along with two other members for spending money without proper authorization. On March 17, George Koukou was elected Speaker and David Gbala chosen as Deputy Speaker.
In a November 2005 presidential runoff election, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated economist who had worked at the World Bank, defeated George Weah, a former soccer star. In January 2006, she became Africa's first female president.
In 2006, former president Taylor was turned over to an international court in The Hague to face trial on charges of crimes against humanity for supporting rebel troops in Sierra Leone's civil war that claimed the lives of about 300,000 people in the 1990s. Taylor refused to appear in court when his trial opened in June 2007.
Gyude Bryant was cleared of embezzlement charges on April 30, 2009. He was accused of stealing $1.3 million while in office. Additional charges regarding the alleged theft were dropped on September 24, 2010.
Johnson-Sirleaf, along with fellow Liberian, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkul Karman, of Yemen, won the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2011, "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work." She won the prize during her re-election bid. In the first round of voting, she took 44% of the vote. Her opponent in the second round, Winston Tubman, withdrew from the race, claiming the first round was rigged. Johnson-Sirleaf won 90% of the vote in the second round.
In April 2012, the war crimes court at the Hague convicted Charles Taylor of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone's civil war. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison in May.
© 2012 World Ministries International