Liberia was established by free African Americans and former slaves who came from the United States in 1820. Liberia means “land of the free,” and over several decades, thousands of freed slaves joined settlements in Monrovia. The Americo-Liberians came into conflict with indigenous Africans, who enjoyed fewer rights. Joseph Jenkins Roberts, the country’s first president, modeled Liberia’s government after that of the United States, where he was born and raised. Liberia’s government has traditionally been troubled, however, first under Liberian Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe, who seized power in 1980, and then under Charles Taylor, who took over the country in a violent 1989 coup. Liberia was engulfed in civil war for several years until Taylor solidified his power and took office. But Liberia soon descended into chaos, with unemployment and illiteracy, as well as infrastructure problems plaguing the country. In 2003, the country signed a peace treaty and Taylor stepped down and left for exile in Nigeria. In 2005, Liberia elected its first female leader, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who has pledged greater stability and reform, as well as repaired relations with the US and other allies.
Lay of the Land: In southwestern West Africa, Liberia is bordered on the north by Guinea, on the east by the Ivory Coast, on the south by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the west by Sierra Leone. The coastal sands give way to lush jungle growth invigorated by an eight-month rainy season.
In 1461, Portuguese explorers established contact with Liberia and named the area Grain Coast. This was because Liberia had an abundance of Malegueta pepper seeds, which the Portuguese called “grains of paradise.”
The Inquirer (Private Daily)
In 1819, the US Congress appropriated $100,000 to establish Liberia and assist in the resettlement of freemen and free slaves from North America. The American Colonization Society led this initiative, along with Americans like Francis Scott Key, George Washington’s nephew Bushrod, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and Presidents Monroe, Adams, and Jackson.
The first group of 86 immigrants, known as Americo-Liberians, created the settlement of Monrovia on February 6, 1820. Liberia issued its declaration of independence on July 26, 1847. In the years between 1821 and 1867, the American Colonization Society promoted the settlement of around 10,000 African-Americans to Liberia.The United States officially recognized the Republic of Liberia in 1862. In the years after the U.S. Civil War, thousands of freed American slaves and African-Americans also arrived in Liberia.
The US has been instrumental in helping Liberia achieve democratic and reconstruction goals, and since the end of the country’s civil war in 2003, the United States has contributed over $750 million in bilateral assistance and more than $750 million in assessed contributions to the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
From 2008 to 2009, US imports from Liberia increased from $43.6 million to $80.3 million, while US exports to Liberia decreased from $156.7 million to $95 million
Connections between American Televangelist Pat Robertson and Former President of Liberia, Charles G. Taylor
According to the State Department, serious human rights problems continue to plague Liberia. Deaths from mob violence continue. Police abused, harassed, and intimidated detainees and citizens. Prison conditions remained harsh, and arbitrary arrest and detention occurred. Lengthy pretrial detention and denial of due process and fair public trial were problems. Some incidents of trial by ordeal were reported. Corruption and impunity continued in most levels of the government. There was violence against women, especially reports of rape. The practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) remained widespread. Child abuse, trafficking in persons, and racial and ethnic discrimination were problems. Instances of child labor were reported, especially in the informal sector.
John J. Henry
The West African nation of Liberia, which has had close relations with the U.S. since its founding by American former slaves in 1847, has sent a new ambassador to Washington who has played a key role in the nation’s reconstruction after back-to-back civil wars that killed 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003. Former Labor Minister Jeremiah C. Sulunteh, who presented his credentials to President Barack Obama on May 7, 2012, replaces William Bull, Sr., who served as Liberian ambassador starting in August 2010.
Jeremiah Sulunteh was born on October 11, 1958, in Gboimu Town, Suacoco, Bong County, Liberia, to Sulunteh Yeibah, a farmer, and his wife, Kanny Bu-Nquoi, now deceased. After completing his secondary education in Suacoco Town, Sulunteh entered the Booker Washington Institute, a vocational school in Kakata, Liberia, where he earned a diploma in Agriculture in 1980. He later earned a B.S. in Economics at Cuttington University in Suacoco in 1988, an M.P.A. at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, in 1994, where his thesis was entitled “The Political Economy of African Development: A Comparative Study of Kenya and Tanzania,” and an M.A. in Economics at York University in Toronto, Canada, in 2001, where he taught economics classes and wrote a thesis titled, “Public Sector Deficits and Macroeconomic Performance: Adjustment, Reform and Growth, the Case of Ghana.”
During his career, Sulunteh has worked as a financial aid advisor at York University, as an accounts representative at the Royal Bank of Canada, as project coordinator for the Friends of Liberia, as an administrative assistant to the Vice President for Administration at Cuttington University, and as a field financial analyst for a Bong County, Liberia, Agricultural Development Project. He has taught Public Finance Administration and Administrative Theory and Practice at the University of Liberia, as well as Economic Development at the Graduate School of Cuttington University, where he served as associate vice president for Planning and Development and then as administrator until 2006.
In 2005, Sulunteh ran for Liberia’s vice-presidency on a ticket with Winston Tubman, but the pair did not survive the first round of balloting, and went on to support the eventual winner, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
In 2006, Sulunteh was appointed minister of transport by President Sirleaf, who later named him minister of post & telecommunications, and minister of labor. At the Ministries of Transport and of Post & Telecom, Sulunteh was broadly credited with successfully beginning the reconstruction of Liberia’s infrastructure; while as labor minister he championed labor law reform legislation intended to created “decent workplaces.” Also at the Transport Ministry, he saw to it that an elementary school and a junior high school were built in his hometown so that the children of Gboimu would not have to walk, as he had done, three miles every morning to attend school in Gbondoi.
Sulunteh and his wife, Kabeh Sulunteh, have three children. He speaks and writes Kpelle, his native tongue, which is Liberia’s most commonly spoken indigenous language, as well as English, which is the dominant language of government and commerce.
Biography (Daily Observer)
Sulunteh Takes Oath of Office Honored by Citizens of His Native Bong County (by Stephen Binda and Marcus N. Malayea, Daily Observer)
Minister Sulunteh Fires Three Employees for Check Fraud (by Vivian N. Cooper, Ministry of Post & Telecommunications)
Linda Thomas-Greenfield serves as the United States Ambassador to Liberia. She was nominated by President George W. Bush in February 2008, confirmed by the Senate on June 4, 2008, and sworn in on July 18, 2008, by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.