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perjantai 29. huhtikuuta 2016

Liberia, Cool Facts #111

<= 110. Lesotho                                                                                                              112. Malawi =>

1. Pepper Coast 

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive at the present-day Liberia in 1461 and they named it as the Pepper Coast. The reason was the melegueta pepper, which could be found abundantly in the region. The pepper was also known as the grain of paradise, which gave Liberia the alternative name of Grain Coast.

Different "Coasts" in Africa: 

Pepper Coast (Grain Coast) = Liberia
Ivory Coast = Ivory Coast or Cote d'Ivoire
Gold Coast = Ghana
Slave Coast = areas in present-day Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ghana

Malagueta grain 
Old map of Liberia

2. First and Oldest African Republic

Liberia is the first and oldest republic in Africa. It became independent in 1847. 

In 1816 the American Colonization Society was established in USA and it aimed to find settlements for the freed slaves in America. The ACS bought land from the Pepper Coast and established the first settlement in 1822, which was named as Monrovia according to the contemporary US president James Monroe

The former slaves from USA had no ties with the indigenous people with whom they had conflicts. These Americo-Liberians became the ruling class in Liberia until 1980, when Liberia got its first president with indigenous origins. 

A meeting of the American Colonization Society

ACS certificate

3. Liberian Civil Wars 

Liberia has had two civil wars in the recent history. 

First Liberian Civil War 1989-1997: 

In 1980 Samuel Doe had overthrown the government and in 1985 he held elections that were considered fraudulent. There had been an unsuccessful coup attempt against Doe's government. In 1989 the former government minister Charles Taylor moved to Liberia from Cote d'Ivoire to start an uprising against Doe's government. 

President Doe was killed during the civil war, foreign involvement and peace negotiations led to a ceasefire, which was once broken. The war ended in 1997 when Charles Taylor was elected as the president. 

Demonstration during the first civil war

Second Liberian Civil War 1999-2003: 

In 1999 a rebel group backed by the government of Guinea emerged in the north and in 2003 another rebel group emerged in the south. 

By June-July 2003 Taylor's government controlled only about a third of the country. The warring parties signed a peace treaty in August 2003 a transitional government ruled until the elections in 2005.The Liberian civil war was notable for its human sacrifice and ritualistic killing. Drugs were also used to make the soldiers more effective in battle, they were given even to child soldiers.

Fighter in the second civil war

4. Liberian Society 

Liberia is unique in its way of granting citizenship only to black people. The constitution of 1847 is still valid stating that a person can get the citizenship only if the person is a negroid descendent.

No other country in the world defines the right to citizenship according to ethnic background.

The freed slaves "Americo-Liberians" from America are the most influential population group in Liberia, which has 16 indigenous tribes.

English is the official language in Liberia but there are 31 local languages in the country.

Liberian people

5. Gender-based Religions

Liberia has unique gender-based indigenous religious secret societies. The Poro is a secret society for males and the Sande for females. The societies govern the entire native population by its code of laws. They make the laws and decides on war and peace.

Poro - Male secret society

A secret society operating in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast. Boys join it at puberty in a rite of passage.

Poor society members

Sande - Female secret society

Operates also in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast. Initiates girls into adulthood by rituals including for example female genital mutilation.

Sande society initiates


1100s The region was inhabited by indigenous people like the Dei, Bassa, Kru, Gola and Kissi
1461 The Portuguese were the first Europeans in Liberia naming it the Pepper Coast but it was later known as Grain Coast due to the abundance of the melegueta pepper grains
1602 The Dutch established a trading post but destroyed it a year later
1663 The British installed trading posts in Pepper Coast
1816 The American Colonization Society was established by Charles F. Mercer and Robert Finley
1820 "Mayflower of Africa" ship departed New York for West Africa carrying 88 settlers
1822 The American Colonization Society started sending African-American volunteers to Pepper Coast to establish a colony for the freed slaves
1838 All the established colonies came together to create the Commonwealth of Liberia
1847 Liberia declared its independence and until 1980 the Americo-Liberians dominated the country's politics and economics
1880s Liberia started expanding to the inland as a response for Great Britains and France's colonial conquests in the neighboring countries
1926 Firestone, an American rubber company, created the world's largest rubber plantation in Liberia
1944 William Tubman became the president and he gave the right to vote for the indigenous people, who were the majority in Liberia
1971 William Tolbert became the president
1971 Liberia had the world's largest rubber industry and was the third largest iron ore exporter
1979 President Tolbert had ordered firing demonstrators protesting against the plans to raise the price of rice and that started riots throughout Liberia leading to the military coup next year
1980 William Tolbert killed in a military coup led by Samuel Doe from the Krahn tribe declared himself the president and forbid political activity during his term, he was the first non-Americo-Liberian president
1985 Failed coup against Doe
1989 The first Liberian civil war started and ended in 1996
1990 President Doe was captured and killed during the civil war
1996 Ruth Perry was the first female president when he was chosen as the president during the transitional period before new elections after the end of civil war
1997 Charles Taylor was elected as the president
1997 The second Liberian civil war started and ended in 2003
2002 Women in Liberia started protesting against the violence and the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace helped achieving peace in the country as the movement became a political force against violence and their government
2005 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected as the president
2014 Liberia was struck by the Ebola epidemic

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