colony of Liberia (meaning "liberty") was founded by
the American Colonization Society, which arranged for the settlement
of freed American slaves in Africa. In 1847, Liberia issued its
Declaration of Independence, ending its relationship with the
American Colonization Society and establishing an American-style
form of government and way of life.
freed slaves, known as Americo-Liberians, formed the True Whig Party and dominated
Liberian political life for the next 133 years. The differences between the people
living in the area before the Americo-Liberians arrived, and Americo-Liberian
mistreatment of Liberian natives, helped spark a bloody civil conflict in 1980
that has raged off-and-on for more than 20 years.
Army Master Sergeant Samuel Doe, a member of the Krahn ethnic
seizes power in a bloody coup, ending the 133-year rule of the
Americo-Liberian True Whig Party.
troops assassinate President William Tolbert, execute 13 of his
cabinet members, and imprison dozens of government officials before
establishing a new ruling political entity, The People's Redemption
Doe, members of the Krahn ethnic group dominate Liberian politics and government.
Friction and military conflict with other Liberian ethnic groups become common.
After a five-year ban on political parties and elections,
Doe's National Democratic Party of Liberia wins an October election
that the U.S. State Department says was "characterized by
widespread fraud and rigging." In the period following the
election, Doe's government is accused of human rights abuses and
corruption. Ethnic strife increases as Liberia's standard of living
United States, despite allegations of voting irregularities and
abuses, recognizes and supports the Doe government.
November, former Army General Thomas Quiwonkpa enters Liberia from neighboring
Sierra Leone seeking to overthrow Doe's government. Doe's forces defeat those
of Quiwonkpa and he is executed. Doe's government launches a bloody purge against
the Gio and Mano ethnic groups in Quiwonkpa's Nimba County.
new constitution is adopted on Jan. 6. It allows only people of
"Negro descent" to become citizens of Liberia.
December, Charles Taylor, a military man of both Americo-Liberian
and native descent and one of Doe's former lieutenants, enters
Liberia from neighboring Ivory Coast seeking to topple the Doe
regime. Taylor's actions begin the seven-year civil war that will
claim 200,000 lives and produce 1 million refugees.
U.S. State Department reports that the "repressive nature"
of Doe's government allows Taylor to gain support among his countrymen.
Taylor's forces, known as the National Patriotic Front of Liberia,
reach Monrovia in six months.
offensive stalemates, however, when the military arm of the Economic
Community of West African States intervenes and prevents Taylor's
forces from taking the capital. Liberia is a founding member of
ECOWAS, which was formed in 1975.
September, an NPFL splinter group known as the Independent National
Patriotic Front of Liberia
captures and executes Doe. The INPFL is led by a former Taylor
comrade, Prince Johnson.
execution of Doe, however, does not end the conflict and various factions, including
Johnson's and Taylor's, continue fighting.
negotiates a settlement in October that allows for the establishment
of an interim government. Amos Sawyer is named president of the
Interim Government of National Unity. Taylor refuses to recognize
the new government's authority and continues fighting.
agrees to become part of a five-man transitional government. The
arrangement is the first of a series of ruling coalitions that
will prove untenable. The next six years will see a cycle of failed
pan-African and/or internationally negotiated peace accords and
power sharing arrangements followed by continued violence among
the warring factions.
3,000 people are killed in April in an intense battle in Monrovia
after the coalition government attempts to arrest Roosevelt Johnson,
the leader of one of many Liberian militant factions that have
come to power during the civil war. Taylor's NPFL and an allied
group, both of which support the government's attempts to arrest
Johnson, square off against three other factions pledged to defend
him. Johnson survives the battle.
August, a supplemental agreement to a 1995 pact signed in Abuja,
Nigeria finally ends the civil war and leads to elections. The
"Abuja supplement" calls for a cease-fire, disarmament
of the combatants, free elections and sanctions for any faction
that does not comply.
are held in July, officially ending the civil war. Taylor wins the presidency
by a wide margin the U.S. State Department attributes to Liberian's fear of "a
return to war had Taylor lost." Nevertheless, the elections are declared
fair by international monitors, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
National Patriotic Party also wins overwhelming majorities in
the Liberian House and Senate.
government inherits the country's large debt and lack of foreign investment, forcing
it to rely on revenue from ship registration and timber and rubber exports. Iron
ore mining, which accounted for most of the Liberia's export earnings before the
civil war, has virtually stopped.
After seven years of civil war and,
before that, years of military dictatorship, the country's infrastructure is in
ruins and 80 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
troops fire on the U.S. Embassy in September when warlord Roosevelt
Johnson, once again being pursued by Taylor, seeks refuge there.
Johnson is airlifted out of the country and eventually exiled
to Nigeria. The United States temporarily closes the embassy.
Taylor's government apologizes for the incident.
January, Ghana, Nigeria, the United States and Britain accuse
Liberia of fomenting war in neighboring Sierra Leone by arming
the rebel insurgency group, known as the Revolutionary United
Front, in exchange for diamonds. Britain and the United States
threaten to end aid for Liberia.
United for a Reconciliation and Democracy, a rebel group that
opposes Taylor's government, begins operations in the northern
county of Lofa, along the Guinean border. Fighting erupts along
the border. Guinea accuses Liberian forces of chasing the rebels
into their territory. Liberia, in turn, accuses Guinea of shelling
northern Liberian villages.
first confined to the north, the fighting spills into western and central Liberia.
United Nations imposes sanctions on Liberian diamonds and issues
a travel ban on Liberian government officials in response to its
continued support of the rebel insurgency in Sierra Leone.
Rebel factions make substantial advances, at one point driving
within 10 km of Monrovia.
April a LURD splinter group, known as the Movement for Democracy
in Liberia, begins operations in southeastern Liberia.
June and early July several attempts to negotiate a cease-fire
between LURD, MODEL and the government collapse and international
pressure mounts for a peacekeeping mission, potentially headed
by the United States, to move into Liberia.
June, a special U.N.-backed court indicts Taylor for war crimes,
crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian
law during neighboring Sierra Leone's 10-year civil war.
July, President Bush calls for Taylor to step down from office.
August, amidst the arrival of Nigerian peacekeepers and U.S. Marines,
Taylor resigns from office, hands power to Vice President Moses
Blah, and travels to Nigeria. Rebel factions agree to end their
military campaigns once Taylor leaves the country for Nigeria.
Liberian government and top two rebel groups sign a peace accord
in Ghana. Gyude Bryant is chosen to lead the National Transitional
Government of Liberia and oversee the peace accord.
October, U.S. troops pull out ahead of the arrival of the U.N.
Mission in Liberia, a campaign to disarm foreign combatants and
maintain the cease-fire.