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Introduction

The coastal nation of Liberia is recovering from a 14-year civil war that ended in 2003. Established by freed American slaves in 1822, the nation has retained strong ties to the United States. Reminders of the American antebellum South are prevalent in architecture and other cultural symbols. 

Tension between the so-called Americo-Liberians and indigenous Liberians simmered for decades in Liberia. Americo-Liberians held most of the positions of power in the country until Master Sergeant Samuel Doe overthrew the government of William Tolbert in 1980. Charles Taylor, a former government servant, began a rebellion against Doe in December 1989. The war continued sporadically while several transitional governments, protected by West African peacekeepers, were installed and peace agreements failed. Taylor won elections in 1997 and was ousted in 2003. He now faces trial for war crimes for his alleged involvement exchanging arms for diamonds during neighboring Sierra Leone's civil war. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was elected president in 2005 and is Africa's first elected female leader.

Liberia has a population of 3.2 million. Most people practice Christianity, although a minority follows Islam and other indigenous beliefs. English is the official language, but other local languages are also spoken. The nation has significant rainforests, including in the Sapo National Park. The capital, Monrovia, suffered significant damage during the civil war, although a few historic buildings remain somewhat intact.

There are no direct flights from Europe or the United States into Liberia, but it is possible to connect through Guinea, Cote d?Ivoire or elsewhere. Taxis are inexpensive and abundant.


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