Liberia History

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LIBERIA

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach the region that would become Liberia in 1461, but though other soon followed, the country remained of little interest to the outside world (except for a small trade in slaves and some other products). This changed in the early 19th century when the US Congress granted a charter to the American Colonization Society to proceed with the repatriation of slaves back to Africa from America. (Interestingly, the descendants of these slaves have always played a disproportionately large role in the country's politics though they are a minority numerically). In 1822, the first group arrived and by 1838 the Commonwealth of Liberia had been organized. Independence as a republic, was declared in 1847 with a constitution designed along the lines of the US constitution. Over the course of the next 14 years, the world powers Britain, France and the US all recognized Liberia. William Tubman became president in 1944 and served until 1971. After Tubman's death, the country faltered and eventually a military government came to power through a coup (1980). Though elections were eventually held (1985) disagreement about the veracity of the tally led to another coup attempt (1985). In 1989, fighting erupted between antigovernment rebels and government supporters. Though attempts were made to end the hostilities, a ceasefire only came in late 1990. In 1995, fighting broke out once more, especially in the capital city of Monrovia. Brought to a halt by ceasefire in 1996, more than 150,000 citizens had died. The country is currently facing the challenges of rebuilding an economy and a people decimated by war.