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Liberian Government

The Liberian flag waves in the breeze
"As long as you are peaceful, you have every right to present your grievance to the government. The government has to listen to your grievance, and we find a solution together. Isn’t that the right way?"
—President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Government Structure

The Liberian government consists of a chief of state, currently President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and a National Assembly comprised of a 64-seat House of Representatives and a 30-seat Senate.

Presidential elections are held every six years, and the results are decided through popular vote. In 2005, a second run-off election was held between the two top candidates, Johnson Sirleaf and George Weah.

Senators and representatives are also elected by popular vote. Two senators are chosen from each of Liberia’s 15 counties. The senators with the highest number of votes in each of the counties are senior senators, serving nine-year terms in office, while the senators with the next highest amount of votes are junior senators serving six-year terms. In the House of Representatives, members serve six-year terms.

Foreign Influences

Chinese President Hu Jintao and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf sit on opposite ends of a leather couch, engaged in conversation
Chinese President Hu Jintao and
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Ever since the American Colonization Society chartered the re-settlement of African Americans in West Africa in the early 1800s, the U.S. has continued to have a complicated relationship with Liberia. Before Liberia became an independent state, it was governed in the style of an American colony. In 1847, Liberia became a republic, modeling its constitution and flag after that of the United States.

Liberia’s foreign investments have also been tied to greater political forces. During the Cold War, the U.S. increased its foreign aid to Liberia. Hoping to use the country as a post from which to fight the spread of communism in Africa, the U.S. built several communications facilities on Liberian soil. In the 1980s, the U.S. financially supported the repressive Samuel Doe administration. Doe responded by closing the Libyan mission in Liberia and cutting the staff of the Soviet embassy. In retaliation, the Libyan government funded rebel-leader Charles Taylor, who later overthrew Doe and his administration.

Today, the U.S. continues to invest in Liberia. China is also increasing its investments and development efforts in the region. In February 2007, Chinese President Hu Jintao canceled a ten-million-dollar debt owed by Liberia to China and waived duties on Liberian exports. President Hu also pledged to give $25 million to Liberia to help rebuild Liberian infrastructure, utilizing Chinese-owned companies. In exchange, China hopes to use Liberian natural resources, such as iron ore and oil, in its own construction and development efforts. As President Johnson Sirleaf says in IRON LADIES OF LIBERIA, “We depend upon the support of some of our partners, but I feel that in many instances we gave them some of our primary commodities in return. We gave huge benefits to their corporations, which operate here. So it’s not one-sided.”

Find out what forces led to the country’s economic recession and debt accumulation >>

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