Liberia was settled by freed American slaves in the early 1800s, and this is where the country gets its name from. Liberia declared its independence and became a republic on July 25, 1847, a day now celebrated as independence day.
These freed slaves were called Americo-Liberians, and became an elite group living on the coast of the country. Under their rule the country made much economic progress.
The Americo-Liberians, though, had little in common with the tribal communities living inland. One of these tribes were the Krahn, to which Samuel Doe belonged. In 1980 Doe staged a coup, and executed the President of nine-years William R. Tolbert, Jr in his mansion.
Despite his military regime, Doe made strong ties with the United States in the early 1980s, receiving a lot of money for pushing out the Soviet Union from the country, and allowing exclusive rights for the US to use Liberia's ports and land.
Doe continued his authoritarian policies, banning newspapers, outlawing opposition parties and holding staged elections.
In late 1989, a civil war began, and in September of 1990, Doe was ousted and killed by the forces of faction leader Yormie Johnson and members of the Gio tribe. The war ended in 1996, but a new rebellion broke out in 1999. The conflict intensified in mid-2003, when the fighting moved closer to Monrovia. As a result, Charles Taylor accepted an asylum offer by Nigeria, but vowed: "God willing, I will be back."
The country is currently governed by a transitional government in preparation for elections that are due in 2005.
Liberia is situated in Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean. The landscape is characterised by mostly flat to rolling coastal plains, which rise to rolling plateau and low mountains in the northeast. The climate is tropical: hot and humid. Winters are dry with hot days and cool to cold nights. Summers are wet and cloudy with frequent heavy showers.
The population of over 3 million comprises 16 indigenous ethnic groups and various foreign minorities. The Kpelle in central and western Liberia is the largest ethnic group. The Liberian constitution restricts citizenship only to people of Negro descent. Political upheavals and civil war have brought about a steep decline in living standards.
The country currently has an approximate 85% unemployment rate.