Liberia, on Africa’s Atlantic coast, was founded as a republic of freed slaves. A brutal coup in 1980 and years of civil war have left gang violence and looting widespread.
Geography: A coastline of beaches and mangrove swamps rises to forested plateaus and highlands inland.
Climate: High temperatures. There is only one wet season, from May to October, except in the extreme southeast.
People and Society: The key social distinction used to be between Americo-Liberians – descendants of freed slaves – and the indigenous tribal peoples. However, political assimilation and intermarriage have eased tensions. Intertribal tension is now a much more serious problem, fuelling the civil war which ravaged the country from 1990 to 2003.
The Economy: War caused economic collapse. Rubber is key export. Bans now lifted on timber and diamond exports. Revenue from merchant shipping licenses. Debt burden. Income well below pre-war levels. Vast iron ore reserves.
Insight: Liberia is named after the people liberated from slavery who arrived from the US in the 1800s
Official Name: Republic of Liberia
Date of Formation: 1847
Population: 3.96 million
Total Area: 43,000 sq. miles (111,370 sq. km)
Density: 106 people per sq. mile
Languages: Kpelle, Vai, Bassa, Kru, Grebo, Kissi, Gola, Loma, English*
Religions: Christian 68%, traditional beliefs 18%, Muslim 14%
Ethnic Mix: Indigenous tribes (16 main groups) 95%, Americo-Liberians 5%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: Liberian dollar = 100 cents