Background: Settlement of freed slaves from the US in what is today Liberia began in 1822; by 1847, the Americo-Liberians were able to establish a republic. William TUBMAN, president from 1944-71, did much to promote foreign investment and to bridge the economic, social, and political gaps between the descendents of the original settlers and the inhabitants of the interior. In 1980, a military coup led by Samuel DOE ushered in a decade of authoritarian rule. In December 1989, Charles TAYLOR launched a rebellion against DOE's regime that led to a prolonged civil war in which DOE himself was killed. A period of relative peace in 1997 allowed for elections that brought TAYLOR to power, but major fighting resumed in 2000. An August 2003 peace agreement ended the war and prompted the resignation of former president Charles TAYLOR, who faces war crimes charges in The Hague related to his involvement in Sierra Leone's civil war. After two years of rule by a transitional government, democratic elections in late 2005 brought President Ellen JOHNSON SIRLEAF to power. The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) maintains a strong presence throughout the country, but the security situation is still fragile and the process of rebuilding the social and economic structure of this war-torn country continues.
Location: Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Cote d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone
Area land: 96,320 sq km
Area water: 15,049 sq km
Coastline: 579 km
Country name conventional long form: Republic of Liberia
Country name conventional short form: Liberia
Country name former: Republic of Liberia
Population: 3,786,764 (July 2011 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 44.3% (male 843,182/female 834,922); 15-64 years: 52.7% (male 989,623/female 1,007,577); 65 years and over: 2.9% (male 56,189/female 55,271) (2011 est.);
Population growth rate: 2.663% (2011 est.)
Birth rate: 37.25 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Death rate: 10.62 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female; under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female; 15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female; 65 years and over: 1.03 male(s)/female; total population: 1 male(s)/female (2011 est.);
Infant mortality rate: total: 74.52 deaths/1,000 live births; male: 78.96 deaths/1,000 live births; female: 69.95 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.);
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 57 years; male: 55.44 years; female: 58.6 years (2011 est.);
Total fertility rate: 5.13 children born/woman (2011 est.);
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 1.5% (2009 est.);
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 37,000 (2009 est.);
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 3,600 (2009 est.);
Nationality: noun: Liberian(s); adjective: Liberian;
Ethnic groups: Kpelle 20.3%, Bassa 13.4%, Grebo 10%, Gio 8%, Mano 7.9%, Kru 6%, Lorma 5.1%, Kissi 4.8%, Gola 4.4%, other 20.1% (2008 Census);
Religions: Christian 85.6%, Muslim 12.2%, Traditional 0.6%, other 0.2%, none 1.4% (2008 Census);
Languages: English 20% (official), some 20 ethnic group languages few of which can be written or used in correspondence;
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write; total population: 57.5%; male: 73.3%; female: 41.6% (2003 est.);
GDP (purchasing power parity): $1.76 billion (2010 est.); $1.66 billion (2009 est.); $1.587 billion (2008 est.);
GDP (official exchange rate): $977 million (2010 est.);
GDP - real growth rate: 6% (2010 est.); 4.6% (2009 est.); 8.6% (2008 est.);
GDP - per capita (PPP): $500 (2010 est.); $500 (2009 est.); $500 (2008 est.);
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 76.9%; industry: 5.4%; services: 17.7% (2002 est.);
Population below poverty line: 80% (2000 est.);
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 2.4%; highest 10%: 30.1% (2007);
Labor force: 1.372 million (2007);
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 70%; industry: 8%; services: 22% (2000 est.);
Unemployment rate: 85% (2003 est.);
Budget: revenues: $NA; expenditures: $NA;
Industries: rubber processing, palm oil processing, timber, diamonds;
Industrial production growth rate: NA%;
Electricity - production: 350 million kWh (2007 est.);
Electricity - consumption: 325.5 million kWh (2007 est.);
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2008 est.);
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2008 est.);
Statistics: CIA World Factbook.
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Liberia's government wants to move away from relying on handouts—part of a turn toward development after years of stop-gap measures aimed at picking up the pieces from war.
Many Liberian refugees remain in a long-term, permanent camp in Ghana
It all began in 1787 when Britain set up the Province of Freedom in Sierra Leone, which became a haven for freed slaves from Britain, Jamaica, the United States, and Canada.
For leaders whose countries share similar problems, President Kabbah's and President Sirleaf's inaugural speeches show little resemblance. But where Kabbah's rings hollow, Sirleaf's shows signs of substance.