Liberia country profile
- 19 January 2016
- From the section Africa
Liberia is Africa's oldest republic, but it became known in the 1990s for its long-running, ruinous civil war and its role in a rebellion in neighbouring Sierra Leone.
Although founded by freed American and Caribbean slaves, Liberia is mostly inhabited by indigenous Africans, with the slaves' descendants comprising 5% of the population.
Around 250,000 people were killed in Liberia's civil war and many thousands more fled the fighting.
The capital remains largely without mains electricity and running water. Corruption is rife and unemployment and illiteracy are endemic.
Republic of Liberia
Population 4.2 million
Area 99,067 sq km (38,250 sq miles)
Languages English, 29 African languages belonging to the Mande, Kwa or Mel linguistic groups
Major religions Christianity, Islam, indigenous beliefs
Life expectancy 56 years (men), 59 years (women)
Currency Liberian dollar
President: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became Africa's first female president in 2005, two years after the end of a brutal 14-year conflict.
She was re-elected in November 2011 in a poll marred by a low turn-out and a boycott by her main rival, Winston Tubman.
Critics accuse her of having little to show for her first term, but supporters say she deserves praise for ensuring stability in the country.
She was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2011 for what the prize committee said were her efforts to secure peace, promote economic and social development and strengthen the position of women.
Born in 1938, she is a widowed mother-of-four.
Years of civil war left Liberia's media with the task of rebuilding. Many outlets still rely on financial support from politicians or international donors.
Large fines imposed in libel cases have encouraged self-censorship despite the enacting of West Africa's first freedom of information law in 2010, reports US-based Freedom House.
Some key events in Liberia's history:
1847 - Constitution modelled on that of the US is drawn up, and Liberia becomes independent.
1917 - Liberia declares war on Germany, giving the Allies a base in West Africa.
1926 - Rubber production becomes backbone of Liberia's economy after Firestone Tyre and Rubber Company opens rubber plantation on land granted by government.
1936 - Forced-labour practices abolished.
1943 - William Tubman elected president.
1958 - Racial discrimination outlawed.
1980 - Master Sergeant Samuel Doe carries out military coup ousting and publicly executing President William Tolbert and 13 of his aides.
1985 - Doe wins presidential election one year after his regime allowed return of political parties following pressure from the United States and other creditors.
1989-2003 - Civil war. Up to 250,000 are killed, while thousands more are mutilated and raped, often by armies of drugged child soldiers led by ruthless warlords.
2005 - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf becomes the first woman to be elected as an African head of state.
2013-2016 - Outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus sweeps through Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, killing 11,300 people, mainly in Liberia.