Liberia enjoyed a period of relative calm until 1980 when Master Sergeant
Samuel Doe staged a military coup killing the President William R. Tolbert, Jr. and executed most of his cabinet. Doe then
suspended the constitution effectively ending Africa's first republic. The level
of repression led to a prolonged civil war that erupted in 1989 headed by Charles Taylor in
which President Doe was captured, tortured the killed the following year.
of warfare continued however Taylor was elected president in 1997 with the
backing of former Libya President Muammar al-Gaddafi. Taylor's regime was just as
harsh and brutal as its predecessor and further conflict erupted across the
country in 1999 with international concern that Taylor was supporting rebels in
neighbouring Sierra Leone. A state of emergency was declared by Taylor in
January 2002. By August 2003 Taylor had been forced to step down and leave the country with
the United Nations launching a major peacekeeping mission, however tensions
between various grouping led to ongoing outbreaks of violence. In 2006 Taylor
appeared before a UN backed court in Sierra Leone faced with charges of crimes
against humanity and his trial ended in April 2012 with him being found guilty
of all eleven charges levied against him. He was sentenced the following month
to fifty years in prison.
Today Liberia reflects on a fourteen
year long civil war in which 250,000 lives were lost out of its small population
of 3.5 million, its infrastructure destroyed, 83.7% of its population living
below the recognised poverty threshold and 111 out of every 1000 children dying
before their fifth birthday. Life expectancy overall is just 45 years and
employment is just 15% of the population.