LIBERIA POPULATION: 3,441,790
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|Settlement of freed slaves from the US in what is today Liberia began in 1822; by 1847, the Americo-Liberians were able to establish a republic. William TUBMAN, president from 1944-71, did much to promote foreign investment and to bridge the economic, social, and political gaps between the descendents of the original settlers and the inhabitants of the interior. In 1980, a military coup led by Samuel DOE ushered in a decade of authoritarian rule. In December 1989, Charles TAYLOR launched a rebellion against DOE's regime that led to a prolonged civil war in which DOE himself was killed. A period of relative peace in 1997 allowed for elections that brought TAYLOR to power, but major fighting resumed in 2000. An August 2003 peace agreement ended the war and prompted the resignation of former president Charles TAYLOR, who faces war crimes charges in The Hague related to his involvement in Sierra Leone's civil war. After two years of rule by a transitional government, democratic elections in late 2005 brought President Ellen JOHNSON SIRLEAF to power. The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) maintains a strong presence throughout the country, but the security situation is still fragile and the process of rebuilding the social and economic structure of this war-torn country will take many years.|
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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, of course, just won the Nobel Peace Prize with her compatriot Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni women's rights activist Tawakkul Karman. Sirleaf was educated at Wisconsin and Harvard, is known as the Iron-lady, and is now 72. There unfortunately has been some recent post election violence in her country. Hard enough being a leader in Africa, but a woman, too. But, she is the Iron-lady!