Republic in West Africa, SE of Sierra Leone, S of Guinea, and W of Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) on the Atlantic Ocean. Monrovia is the capital. The oldest republic in Africa, it is one of the few countries on the continent never to have been under colonial rule. It was founded in 1821 by the American Colonization Society as a project for the settlement of freed black slaves, and it became independent in 1847. U.S. protection helped it resist absorption by colonial powers in the late 19th century. The republic was placed under U.S. protection in 1911 when faced with bankruptcy and internal disorder. Its independence was threatened in the 1930s when a League of Nations report verified rumors of government slave trading, but Liberia was saved from passing under international control by the efforts of presidents Edwin Barclay (1930–44) and William Tubman (1944–71). Tubman did much to develop and modernize the country, but his successor, W. R. Tolbert, who belonged to the same elite group of descendants of the American freedmen, was overthrown in a bloody coup in 1980, led by Sgt. Samuel Doe, representing the oppressed majority of native tribes. Repression and corruption by Doe led to an invasion of rebel forces in 1989, led by Charles Taylor who also declared himself to be president. Doe was assassinated in 1990, but Liberia continued to have bloody civil war through the 1990s in spite of numerous truces and the intervention of a West African peacekeeping force led by Nigeria.
In 1997, Taylor was elected president, but was soon enriching himself and his family by looting the country, and trading arms to rebel forces in neighboring Sierra Leone in return for diamonds. In 2001, the UN placed sanctions on Liberia, and Liberian rebels attacked the Taylor government. In 2003, as the rebels approached Monrovia, Taylor resigned and fled the country. Another West African peacekeeping force was installed, and Gyude Bryant became president of a unity government. After the 2005 elections former finance minister Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became the first female elected head of state in African history.