Liberia heads to presidential elections

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Liberia, which elects a new president on Tuesday, is an English-speaking nation in West Africa that is still scarred by a gruesome civil war and a devastating Ebola outbreak.

Here is a snapshot of the country:

In 1822 the United States starts sending freed black slaves to a part of West Africa that eventually becomes Liberia.

The new arrivals declare independence in 1847, establishing the first republic in Africa.

Descendants of former slaves run the country until the assassination in 1980 of President William Tolbert in a coup led by Samuel Doe, who establishes an authoritarian and corrupt regime.

Doe is captured in 1990, at the height of civil war, and tortured to death by men loyal to warlord Prince Johnson, one of the candidates in Tuesday’s election.

The National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) of Charles Taylor launches a rebellion in December 1989 in the northeast that quickly takes control of most of the country but not the capital, Monrovia.

The civil war involves seven rival factions until it ends under a peace accord in 1997.

In the elections that follow, Taylor is elected president.

Violence again erupts in 1999 when another rebellion flares and Taylor loses control of much of the country, fleeing in 2003 to Nigeria.

The death toll from 14 years of civil war is estimated at 250,000 with hundreds of thousands of people displaced. Some of the worst abuses are perpetuated by government forces.

In 2012, Taylor is convicted by an international criminal court of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf becomes Africa’s first female head of state in 2005 when she wins presidential elections.
“Ma Ellen” wins relection in 2011, and a month later is co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as a champion of women’s rights.
The 78-year-old has served two terms and so is barred from standing in the coming election.
Liberia suffered the most deaths in West Africa’s 2014-16 outbreak of Ebola.
The virus killed 11 300 people in three countries, more than 4 800 of them in Liberia.
The years of civil war devastated the economy and infrastructure of Liberia, which is rich in natural resources such as minerals and forests.
Growth stagnated at zero percent over 2014 and 2016 because of the Ebola outbreak and a fall in commodity prices, the World Bank says.
But prospects are better for 2017 with gold production and improvements in service likely to account for better economic performance, it says.

– By AFP