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State of the World's Minorities 2007 - Liberia

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 4 March 2007
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2007 - Liberia, 4 March 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48a97125c.html [accessed 24 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

In January 2006, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was inaugurated as Liberia's new president. She pledged to end the political manipulation of ethnicity, empower Liberia's women, and pursue broad economic development. In February, Johnson Sirleaf inaugurated a Truth and Reconciliation Commission tasked with helping the country face the past and overcome its divisions. At her request, the following month Nigeria surrendered former President Charles Taylor to Liberia for delivery to the international war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone. In a stunning break with warlordism and impunity in Africa, he now awaits trial in The Hague, while Liberia seeks to overcome the deep scars to which he contributed.

Around 95 per cent of Liberia's population consists of 16 indigenous ethnic groups, with Americo-Liberian descendants of freed slaves making up most of the rest. Americo-Liberian elites established Liberia in 1847, employing divide-and-rule practices and limited voting rights against indigenous Liberians to maintain dominance until 1980, when Samuel K. Doe overthrew the ruling party. Rather than empowering all indigenous Liberians, Doe built a brutal dictatorship based on favouritism for his small ethnic Krahn and related groups. His persecution of such other minorities as the Gio, Grebo and Mano fuelled a December 1989 insurgency led by Charles Taylor.

Rallied to 'kill the Krahn', Taylor's forces engaged in years of brutal conflict against other factions and West African peacekeepers before Taylor assumed the presidency in 1997. His repression of disfavoured minorities encouraged a new rebellion in 1999. As rebels advanced on the capital – and following announcement of his indictment for war crimes in neighbouring Sierra Leone – Taylor fled to Nigeria in August 2003. After two years of transitional government noted for weak leadership and corruption, in November 2005 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won the presidency with broad support from diverse ethnic groups.

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