The Republic of Liberia is located in Western African between Cote d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone and borders the North Atlantic Ocean. Its capital, Monrovia, is located on the coast in the county of Montserrado. The official language is English although there are also approximately 20 ethnic languages used throughout the country. The most common religion is Christianity, which comprises 85.6% of the population. The second most common religion is Islam, 12.2% of the population. Currently the Liberia is home to a population of 3,887,886 people with a growth rate of 2.609%. Its economy is mostly dependent on its exports of raw timber, rubber, and other natural resources that are found in the country (such as diamonds). With a GDP (PPP) measured at $1.836 billion and a GDP per capita (PP) measured at $400 it is considered a low income country. This is apparent in the fact that approximately 80% of the population currently lives below the poverty line and there is an unemployment rate of about 85%.
The political history of Liberia is fascinating since it is one of two countries in Africa without European colonial influence. Liberia was partly settled by freed slaves from the United States beginning in 1822. It declared independence as a republic in 1847 and had a series of presidents in power since then. In 1980, there was a military coup against the government led by Samuel Doe. Consequently a military authoritarian rule was instated. Then civil war broke out when Charles Taylor launched an opposition movement in 1989. This war lasted nearly a decade until Taylor was elected president in 1997 when the violence was subdued. Amidst international and local pressure Taylor was forced to resign in 2003 and is currently facing charges for war crimes at The Hague due to his apparent involvement in Sierra Leone’s Civil War.
After his resignation a transitional government was put in place for two years until the current president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, came to power in 2005. She was the first female African head of state and was recently reelected in 2011. Sirleaf is a member of the Unity Party in Liberia, one of five major parties. The other major parties being the Alliance for Peace and Democracy (APD), Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), Liberty Party (LP), and the National Patriotic Party (NPP).
Currently, Liberia is facing many obstacles to its development. Two of the most notable include the trafficking of persons and the trafficking of drugs. In the case of the trafficking of persons, Liberia is a destination for trafficked women and children in situations of forced labor or sexual slavery. Liberia serves as a transshipment point for both cocaine and heroin on the way to markets in Europe and North America.