Liberia, formally the Republic of Liberia, is a West African nation. It is bounded to the northwest by Sierra Leone, to the north by Guinea, to the east by Ivory Coast, and to the south and southwest by the Atlantic Ocean. It has a population of around 5 million people and an area of 111,369 square kilometers (43,000 sq mi). The official language is English, although more than 20 indigenous languages are spoken, reflecting the country's ethnic and cultural diversity. Monrovia is the country's capital and biggest city.
Liberia originated as a project of the American Colonization Society (ACS), which felt that black people would have greater possibilities for freedom and wealth in Africa than in the United States. Between 1822 and the commencement of the American Civil War in 1861, more than 15,000 emancipated and free-born black people, as well as 3,198 Afro-Caribbeans, fled to Liberia to escape social and legal persecution in the United States. The immigrants gradually developed an "Americo-Liberian" identity, bringing their culture and history with them; the Liberian constitution and flag were fashioned after those of the United States, and the capital was named after ACS backer and United States President James Monroe. Liberia proclaimed independence on July 26, 1847, but the United States refused to acknowledge it until February 5, 1862. After the Liberians declared independence on January 3, 1848, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a rich, free-born African American from the United States state of Virginia who had moved to Liberia, was chosen as Liberia's first president.
Liberia was the first African republic to declare independence, and it is the continent's first and oldest modern republic. It was one of the few African nations that kept its independence during the Scramble for Africa. During World War II, Liberia backed the United States' war effort against Germany, and as a result, the nation received significant American investment in infrastructure, which benefited its riches and growth. Liberia was a founder member of the League of Nations, the United Nations, and the Organization of African Unity, and President William Tubman pushed economic and political improvements that increased the country's wealth and worldwide image.
The indigenous peoples they met, particularly those living in the more secluded interior, were not warmly received by the Americo-Liberian immigrants. The Kru and Grebo invaded colonial communities from their interior chiefdoms. Americo-Liberians encouraged religious groups to establish missions and schools to educate the indigenous people. Americo-Liberians created a tiny elite with disproportionate political influence; indigenous Africans were denied birthright citizenship in their own country until 1904.
Political tensions from William R. Tolbert's administration ended in a military coup in 1980, during which Tolbert was assassinated, thereby ending Americo-Liberian authority in the nation and ushering in nearly two decades of political turmoil. The First and Second Liberian Civil Wars followed five years of military administration by the People's Redemption Council and five years of civilian governance by the National Democratic Party of Liberia. This led to the deaths of 250,000 people (about 8% of the population) and the relocation of many more, as well as a 90% decrease in Liberia's economy. A 2003 peace accord resulted in democratic elections in 2005, in which Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected president, becoming the continent's first female president. The wars, as well as the 2013–2016 Ebola virus pandemic, significantly harmed national infrastructure and basic social services, with 83 percent of the population living below the international poverty level in 2015.