Socialist Worker

A short history of Liberia

Issue No. 2214

1821 US Colonisation Society buys part of Sierra Leone in West Africa and US provides firepower to set up a colony—Liberia. It resettled around 20,000 US slaves who had won their freedom.

1926 Firestone and Goodrich granted 99-year concessions to plunder Liberia’s rubber resources. Similar deals set up for US firms to exploit oil, iron ore and diamonds.

1980 Food riots topple the government and Sergeant Samuel Doe takes over. He defends US economic interests.

1985 Charles Taylor, a government minister under Doe, fled to the US after defrauding the state bank. He returned later in the decade to lead a revolt against the government.

1990s A brutal civil war saw some 200,000 killed and over a million made homeless out of a population of 2.5 million. Charles Taylor’s allies in Sierra Leone provided him with diamonds and he sent them arms.

1997 Taylor wins presidential elections. Western powers, which had partly abandoned Liberia at the end of the Cold War, now paid attention to its resources and strategic position. This increased during the “war on terror”.

2003 Nigerian “peacekeepers” arrive, followed by US troops (they leave after a few months). UN then backs intervention force of over 12,000 troops.

2006 April—Taylor appears before a UN-backed court in Sierra Leone on charges of crimes against humanity. June—the International Criminal Court agrees to host his trial.

2008 US president George Bush ends a five-country tour of Africa with a visit to Liberia, one of America’s staunchest allies.

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