The root causes
of the civil war in Liberia can be traced back to the founding
of the country in 1847, after the American Colonization Society
had started to ship back freed slaves from the Caribbean and
America to the west coast of Africa in 1820. These freed slaves were as disorientated at being in Africa as their forefathers
had been when they first landed in America, and they looked down
upon the area's indigenous people, discriminating against them
and classing them as second class citizens. The returned
former slaves still saw themselves as Americo-Liberian rather
than African whom they saw as savages, whilst the non-immigrant
population saw the Americo-Liberians as settlers who were
marginalising them from society.
Despite this internal dissent Liberia enjoyed a period of relative calm until 1980 when Master Sergeant
Samuel Doe (left) staged a military coup, backed by ethnic soldiers who had eventually
tired of Americo-Liberian rule, killing the President William R. Tolbert, Jr. and executed most of his cabinet.
Doe then suspended the constitution effectively ending Africa's
first republic and became the country's first non
Americo-Liberian leader since the country's inception. In 1985 elections
were held to legitimise Doe's rule, however Doe lost the
vote and responded by firing all count officials, replacing
them with his own and declaring himself the narrow victor. The
following month Thomas Quiwonkpa, a former Commanding General of
the Armed Forces of Liberia, launched a botched coup, and he was
later executed by Doe's soldiers along with between 2000-3000
civilians. Hundreds of opposition
politicians were arrested and held in detention.
This election and coup spawned an even more oppressive regime
that was to sew the seeds of the first Liberia
Civil War in 1989 when the Americo-Liberian
Charles Taylor and his National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL)
supported by Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast entered Liberia
and soon seized control of all lands save for an area around the
capital of Monrovia. This was achieved so easily due to the
general support of the population who had rapidly become
disillusioned with Does' rule.
By 1990 Doe had
been captured, tortured and killed and the war was in full flow
between those supportive of the Americo-Liberian Taylor and
elements supporting the majority non-elitist population. Over
the subsequent years troops from neighbouring countries entered
the conflict, however uneasy elections were held in 1997 which
saw Taylor (right) elected as president, elections which were deemed
fair by outside observers.
However Taylor's regime was just as harsh and brutal as its predecessor
and further conflict erupted across the country in 1999 deemed the second
Liberia civil war with international concern that Taylor was supporting
rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone.
The war was triggered when
Liberian rebels calling themselves the Organisation of Displaced Liberians
carried out attacks in Liberia from Guinea. The attacks soon descended
into a three way war between Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. A state of
emergency was declared by Taylor in January 2002 after his forces lost
control of vast swathes of the country.
By August 2003
Taylor had been forced to step down and leave the country going
into exile in Nigeria with the United Nations launching a major
peacekeeping mission, however tensions between various groupings
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. He was recently found guilty and
sentenced to a 50 year a prison term, the longest sentence
handed down by the court.
When Taylor resigned in August 2003 the parties involved in the
second civil war had agreed a ceasefire with a two year National
Transitional Government for Liberia. Elections were duly held in
2005 which saw Ellen Johnson Sirleaf elected after a run-off,
Africa's first and only head of state. Deemed to be a good
president, Sirleaf has the advantage of appealing to Americo-Liberians
as she was educated at Harvard, whilst she is half Gola on her
father's side, and a quarter Kru on her mother's side.
This video shows pictures and images of the Liberian civil war.