Sunday, December 7, 2008

Miami Beach

One of the things about Coconut Plantation (the beautiful gated community where we now live), is that it's right next to the sea; BUT although you can hear the waves, you can't see any of it. This is due to a very high perimeter wall.

On Sundays, besides the waves, one also hears very loud beach party music coming over the wall. Having seen some quite hectic beach parties before, and what with the nearby squatter camp on the beach, we assumed it was a rowdy, possibly less than safe affair. That is until Paul discovered that by standing on the little wall of our back porch, you can peek through the razor wire, and on the other side lies a lovely bit of cleaned-up beach, and an open, sandy plot with wood-and-palm leaf structures that look rather like they might be selling cool drinks, beers and snacks. Also, things seemed pretty quiet.
































So yesterday we wandered around the far end of our compound, down a little path through the weeds, and in through a gate where we were warmly welcomed to 'Miami Beach.' It's clean, safe, and run by a bunch of very nice young men who pick up litter, provide security & make newcomers feel welcome. There's an entrance fee of about $1, at least for foreigners, and I guess the little food and drink shacks pay rent too.

And so, Lisa and Nompilo, we are in a house by the sea after all and will be going to the beach often. Maybe visiting won't be such a bad idea, now... :)

Update 9 Dec: yesterday evening we took a stroll around again for sundowners. Below is the view to the sea. Behind us the DJ was pumping out great West-African music (kept us awake later on), a few people were moving gently to the beat, and little families and groups of young people stood around chatting & just enjoying the evening, beach and sound. A few recognised us from the weekend and waved.

It was a place and a feeling I've been hoping to find for many years, and never really did at home, where beaches are for the rich and any cross-cultural space is stacked with baggage.

Now available daily at Miami Beach, just around the corner.

Women in Blue

We were at Golden Beach on Friday evening, and caught the end of an event where the all-female Indian peacekeeping force were providing security.

Private Pramila and a friend thought pale Sam & Tumi on a Liberian beach a charming curiousity (Pramila has left an 11-year old son at home while on this mission), so we took lots of photos.

The soldiers are part of the first ever all-female UN peacekeeping force, and one certainly feels safe in the presence of these strong, friendly, no-nonsense, sub-machine gun-wielding women. Here is a BBC article about their deployment in Liberia; it points out the significance of their presence in a country with a terrible history of rape and also sexual exploitation by male UN 'peacekeepers'. It's hoped that their presence will inspire Liberian women to join the police, while contributing to a more empowered image of women in general. Which it certainly does.

Private Pramila with friend & Sam















Sam, a soldier & me
















Keeping things safe in central Monrovia:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

More music

Here's another cut from a song, Belleh by Friday "The Cell Phone Man" from his album also entitled Belleh - the first was posted on 30 November, here.

I bought the album from one of Monrovia's mobile music shops, a special trolley with stacks of CDs and DVDS on the top and sides, and a megaphone in the front for playing samples of the merchandise.

Our friend Mohamed explained that it is a Bassa tradition to name children for the day on which they were born. As for Friday's nick-name, I'm still trying to find out where that's from.

video

Reading List 1

There are some great reads relating to Liberia: some online, some quite easy to buy/order. In this and some more posts to follow, I'll share what I've found.

First, the Liberian Seabreeze Journal of Contemporary Liberian Writings. It's as wonderful than the title suggests, and includes quality fiction, non-fiction, poems and even some art and photos. Each edition has a different theme.

In the current issue (Volume 5/issue2), I've so far read the poetry, have a look at the first five poets they are brilliant.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Q&A

This is Sam's idea.
Post your questions as comments, and I'll answer them within this post.

Exhibition at JFK

Organised public expressions of culture, ideas and concerns are fairly rare in Monrovia. This rather beautiful exhibition has appeared in front of JFK Medical Centre, the main government hospital. The star design and colours are a reference to Liberia's flag. A message against abuse of women, or supporting women's rights, has been written on each star; most or maybe all of them by men.

These include: Become a feminist; Stop raping women; It's not too late to send your girls to school; I promise to protect women rights; I will be a caring and loving husband; Send rapists to jail; It's not her fault she got violated...
































Telecommunications & Media in Monrovia

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Liberian music & rap 1

Here is a cut from a Big Mama's Business by Friday "The Cell Phone Man", from his album Belleh, my current favourite.

If you listen to the lyrics you'll hear the names of Monrovia's most popular streets and markets: Broad Street, Randall Street, Centre Street, Red Light Market, Duala Market....

I love Friday's sound and will post another cut from one of his songs a few posts down - that way the two tracks won't play at the same time. Let me know if you'd like me to bring you a copy of the album in December.

video

If you're interested in what's popular here, a good place to look is this site:
http://www.tlcafrica.com/Music.htm. Most of the music you hear at parties etc is either from neighbouring countries - Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria - or the States.

I like "This Country That Technique" buy Bone Dust, and Mzbel from Ghana is fun too.

Our first experience of live Liberian rap came recently, out of the blue. We recently went camping in Robertsport and had some fun with a group of local boys Sam & Tumi's age. After barbequeing some marshmellows around the fire, we got into telling stories, jokes and the next thing they were doing these long and brilliant raps from L.I.B. Records.

If you read the article about L.I.B. Records, you'll see their music is actually called hip-co, which is derived from hip-hop and colloqua, or Liberian English as spoken on the street. So far I can't find any to listen to on the web, but will try and find a CD to bring home.

Well, more to follow on this subject...

Technical note:
The only way I could find so far to get an audio clip onto this blog is to turn it into a video that can be uploaded by Blogger - do let me know if you are aware of a better, free way that works?

The last three months

A lot happened in the last 3 months, and it's only now that I'm really feeling I have the energy, time, or mind-space to sit down and write again.
Some of the highs and lows were:

:) I started teaching the Grade 3 class at the Light International Liberian-Turkish School. It's long hours (8-4) and without much resources, but I'm loving being in the classroom again. Especially as my class consists of eight adorable children including Tumi.

:( Tumi's left arm got broken for the second time this year, in late August. By late September it became clear that it was not growing on straight inside the cast. We had to go back to South Africa for an operation to put in a plate and a pin. It was all very hard on Tumi, and he still has to be careful. His arm looks straight now and the special removable, breathable cast he got in SA will soon be coming off.

:) At the end of October we moved into a new home in a lovely cluster called Coconut Plantation. We are all MUCH happier staying in a house instead of a flat; there are bits of garden (we even have our own private patch at the back) and there is a big lovely swimming pool where we swim almost every day.

Now it's nearly time to go home for Christmas again, but meanwhile I'll add some bits about Liberia in general, as well as what we've been up to.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Choices

This post is a bit of personal reflection.
Right now it's not clear to me how our time here in Liberia will pan out. Obviously, it depends to a large extent on how we choose to spend our days, get involved, and interact.

Already, choices we've made over the last few months are having radical impacts on our life - for starters, the choice to come here at all.
Also our choice of accommodation, the kids' school, and for me personally, the work I'm getting engaged in (I've just been asked to help out teaching the Grade 3 class at the children's school).
Come to think of it we've had to make more important, life-shaping choices in the last few months than we've ever had to do in a short time - I guess that comes with the territory of relocating. We've also had to make them based on very little prior information.

We may still need to make a few more big decisions (perhaps moving to another house, and for how long I should commit to teaching), and then there are all the little choices to be made every day. They really multiply when you are without an established routine and way of life!

The trick I suppose is to keep on choosing to make the best of every situation, even when it's a difficult one, or the not-quite-intended outcome of an earlier choice. And to stay grateful about having choices, in the first place, as most of the people around us have precious few.

At dawn

Early this morning, at the time when the sky becomes grey before dawn, I was sitting at my computer when I heard a man shouting in the street.
An order? a warning?
I've always felt totally safe here but when you are in a country that recently saw violent conflict, the sound of men shouting in dark streets can be scary.
More shouts, and the sound of feet running.
I opened the curtain...
In the soft rain, I could see a bunch of good-looking blokes in sports gear running up towards Benson Street (a favourite fitness-run route in central Monrovia). They shouted encouragements at each other.
Peace is a beautiful thing.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Our Monrovia Map

So, where are we?

Explore Monrovia with us, using the Google Map I've made with the kids.
If for some reason you can't see it nicely below, follow this link:
http://www.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=105515306076087765955.000454c8743c95043dfe0&t=h&z=13

The green house symbol is where we live. The blue line shows our drive to school every day (15 to 20 minutes depending on weather and traffic).

View Larger Map

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Streets of Monrovia

So far, this blog’s mostly been about our family, home and nice outings. But what I see most of, every day, are Monrovia’s streets. Why no blog posts about them yet?

Well, I’ve tried to take photos, and every time there’s just so much not captured. So many buildings and people and movements that don’t fit into a single frozen frame. And the same goes with words, it’s daunting to try and describe all that richness of sights and smells and life in the words of the English language.

But I’ll try small-small, in a Liberian English expression.

Day-time
First, here are some pictures.

From our flat, one drives with Benson Street over the hill and then into town, below:

Benson Street roadside:


So, you can see, not much of high-rises: typically the buildings in central Monrovia are one, two or three storeys high. Dead electric cabling criss-cross above the streets like giant spider webs. There are still a couple of war-damaged buildings to be seen, and there's hardly a structure not looking a bit - or very - worse for wear. It's not terribly clean either.

But colourful, yes. There's all people milling about, the wares for sale, occasional trees, cars and egg-yellow taxis. Shops and homes are painted in bright colours, and were often designed with some elegance in mind. Colourful and, if you soften your focus a bit, beautiful too.

Most of the action happens on the street, and in small street-fronting stores. With sky-high unemployment, almost everyone’s out on the street selling, or else buying, procuring or organising; travelling to another market or district where something in particular can be found; or any combination of the above.

There are enough cars and taxis to make occasional traffic jams, but most people are on foot. Other popular means of transport are motorbikes, many serving as taxis; wheelbarrows for anything you want to sell on the move; and wooden carts for dragging along containers of drinking water, also for sale.

There really are all kinds of shops but the most ubiquitous are provisions stores (usually small but there are a few large supermarkets); clothing shops, selling cheap imports or gorgeous West-African outfits made by rows of dressmakers; computer stores; local restaurants; pharmacies (cheap & no prescription needed); and cow meat shops.

As for pavement stalls, some sections of street are dedicated mostly to fresh fruit and veg; others to cheap imported manufactured goods (from socks to ginger biscuits); and on the corner of Mechlin and Benson streets not far from our home, there’s smoked and salted fish, and fresh fish every afternoon and on Saturdays.

Evenings
The focus is on retail activity during the daytime, but during the last week I’ve had occasion to be out in the late afternoon and evening, and found myself in the midst of Monrovia’s very happening social scene, which is distributed over the same streets and pavements.

Now instead of the more business-like concerns of the day, people sit on steps or chairs, with family, friends and neighbours, and enjoy the evening together. There are a couple of guys and one girl in athletic gear, running up the hill of Benson street towards the ruined Masonic Grand Lodge. You can buy bits of roasted meat or mealies (corn). As traffic lessens, pedestrians on evening strolls take up more of the road space, and soccer balls get kicked across the street. Children hang out in groups or with their families. One consequence of small, crowded homes without electricity or TV, is evenings spent relaxing with others. A balmy climate helps, too.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday o' da Beach

You may have guessed that one of the best things about living in Monrovia is ...living by the sea.

While our flat has an incredible sea view, there isn't an accessible beach in walking distance. Beaches close to Monrovia's centre are used as living and/or latrine areas with plenty of litter. But with a bit of driving in the trusty Nissan Sunny, one soon reaches Golden Beach near the UN offices (about 10 minutes) and from then onward there are several other beaches where local restaurants keep a section clean for clients.

On all of these beaches there's some pretty hectic surf, at least this time of the year. Everyone also warns of the rip-tides. We stay in the shallows and enjoy rolling or surfinig with the breakers. Unlike SA's cold coastal water, the sea here is luke-warm - delicious.

Here is a picture of Paul, Sam & Tumi on Golden Beach, on our first afternoon here.


Today we went to Thinker's Beach, pronounced 'Tinkers,' well worth the half hour's drive. Most of the people on the beach and in the restaurant were expats, but not exclusively; as on other beaches here, kids from local communities seemed as welcome as anyone else.

Sam and Tumi on Thinker's Beach



Compared to South Africa, where most beaches and adjacent real estate was reserved for the rich (at the time, synonymous with whites), it's refreshing to enjoy a beach without feeling part of some kind of human rights violation. Enjoying the pure pleasure side by side with people of assorted backgrounds and economic classes - in SA I've experienced it at resorts like Warmbaths and Gold Reef City theme park. Beaches and theme parks won't be a total answer to our economic and social issues but I like to think they play their part. A nation that plays together, stays together?

Thinkers Village is the local restaurant/accommodation complex. There's delicious sea-food to be had, and the proprietor is getting the accommodation up and running now the restaurant's functioning nicely. He came back every time fighting allowed in the consecutive wartimes, and is now back for keeps.

Feels a bit like Mozambique's locally owned beach restaurants, though a bit more brick and concrete due to erstwhile prosperity. And several empty ruins due to the more recent peace.

Tove, Onur and Paul at Thinker's Village restaurant



Come and visit, we'll take you there for sure.

Besides the sea, Sam and Tumi enjoyed playing with the patches of black sand (ilmonite, a form of titanium, Paul informed us). And Tumi had a special time with the resident baby chimp. Despite all thoughts of the problems of chimps as pets it was difficult not to enjoy a moment of interaction with a young animal so close to a human child.

Tumi with young chimp at Thinkers village



Tumi with black ilmonite sand

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bomi Lake

Dear friends

The last three weeks have not been all easy but some of the big positives have been meeting some very nice people through Paul’s work at IBI, and finding a couple of wonderful places to visit close to and beyond Monrovia.

Last Sunday we set off for Bomi Lake in two 4x4s. That’s Paul & I & the kids; Onur from the IBI office here; David and Mamadou from the office in Virginia, and short term consultants Bob and Jerry with his wife Cindy. Plus two IBI drivers, Adama and David. Quite a party!

Below: Sam on the log; with Tumi & two Liberian boys who joined us; Adama (left) & David; and Onur standing on the platform.

To get to Bomi Lake, one first has to get through Duala Market, a huge and often Very Congested market area on the NW side of Monrovia. Fortunately, being Sunday, it was relatively quiet. Then one follows the ‘highway’ towards the Sierra Leone border. This is apparently the best regional road in Monrovia, and indeed it’s in good condition, though more good tar road than highway.

At Tubmanville there is a fork where one keeps left, and then after not too much dirt road, following signs to Bomi Lake and a nearby Firing Range (?!) one get’s to hilly country and soon to the lake. All in all it’s about 55km and takes 2 hours if Duala doesn’t delay you too much.

Well, Bomi Lake is actually a huge quarry pool from an iron mining operation, but has earned the title of ‘Lake’ for being so beautiful and quite large. The water is incredibly clear, we could see big tilapia swimming around; the appearance of the water is also responsible for the nickname ‘Blue Lake.’

Pakistani UN Peacekeeping forces (Pak Bats for short) have a base near the lake, and have built quaint shade ‘pavilions’ around the picnic area; a diving board – great fun; and a basic toilet. They’ve also planted a pineapple orchard where each individual plant has a hand-painted sign indicating who planted it, their rank, & date of planting. One gets the feeling they may be quite bored.

Anyway, the best part of the day was swimming in the lake; the water a delicious temperature just cool enough to give some relief from the heat. From a deck at the end of a jetty, across a shallow slope into the water, lay a long, straight, slippery wooden pole. Soon Paul had set up a prize of 100 Liberian Dollars (R12) for whoever could walk all the way across. Adama was the only one who ever stood a chance – not that other contestants didn’t try repeatedly and desperately – and he eventually made it. Onur offered a new reward for Sam and Tumi if they can walk from both ends and meet halfway – and they did it!

Sam and Tumi approaching each other on the balancing log; Onur on the platform

Jerry and Cindy on a waterside pavilion



Tuesday, August 5, 2008

First impressions

First impressions

As you come down to land at Roberts International, Monrovia, you can see from above the beautiful wide course of the St Paul River as it snakes down and opens it’s mouth to the ocean. The land is bright green. I have to say that when we got here Liberia, and Monrovia in particular, it felt like some kind of paradise, and often it still does.

Of course, this feeling is easier to have if you are one of the few people in this city who have hot and cold water in the house, an unbroken electricity supplied by your own generator, and an internet connection. And great sea-views from your well-equipped flat.

But even without all these luxuries I should think most Monrovians enjoy the sight of the huge palm and other tropical trees growing among the (mostly dilapidated or damaged) buildings; the sea breeze; the warm humid climate lightened by frequent rain showers; the fresh veggies and fish you can buy on the street, the relaxed and friendly, yet respectful pulblic culture; the life which is very much lived on the streets, pavements and markets. The beauty of Liberian women walking down the road in a gorgeous West African print dresses.

In fact Liberians must enjoy these simple things even more than we realise as things were so different during the war years, only five-six years ago. For us, it’s hard to imagine any violence now, on these friendly streets.

Home from home

We live in a flat on the top floor of a 4-level block; below are two more flats and an office level where Paul works some of the time.

Our new home makes me think of a seashell perched on top of a cliff. It is cool inside, with gleaming cream-coloured floor tiles and light pearly colours on the walls. The huge glass sliding doors open onto the balcony and an incredibly beautiful view of an overgrown quarry below the cliff, and the sea.

View from our balcony to the right (South East)

Sunset view to the right (North West)


The downside to living on a seashell perched on a cliff, is that there is little opportunity for the boys to play outside. Paul plans to fence an empty lot nearby for them to play in and set up the trampoline, when it comes; meanwhile we take a walk down the street, or visit a compound with a swimming pool we have access to, about 15 min walk or 5 minutes’ drive away.

Yes, drive – we have a car! A little red Nissan, rather like Sentra in SA, but called a Sunny. Previous owner a German-speaking gentleman in Switzerland, so she’s in great nick. Driving in Monrovia is a trippy, Through-the-Looking-Glass experience. In the first place, one drives on the right hand side of the road here, so everything inside and outside the car’s on the ‘wrong side’. Then there are many many potholes to dodge, a bit like an arcade game. While also dodging other cars that are navigating around other potholes, and pedestrians, and young guys on motorbikes, and hawkers with wheelbarrows full of produce. Luckily it all moves pretty slowly.

More about our flat:

The main bedroom is also Paul’s study; I also have my own room for working and a bit of private space. This is also the guest room and I’m Very Much looking forward to having as many as possible friends visit with us during the year to come. I will HAPPILY sacrifice my space for you’re your company – please come. Here is the view from the desk.

There is a steady trickle of people and vehicles down our road, and right now also a lot of little boys rolling wheels and tyres down it for fun. The brown building across the road is a little restaurant/food stall where you can get fried fish, vetkoek, and Liberian stew on rice.

The boys share a room but will also have their own play/study room (originally the dining room). The lounge is big enough for couches and the dining room table. There are also four bathrooms – 3 en suite and 1 for guests! and a nicely fitted out kitchen with a gas & electric combo stove and humungous oven.


Goodbyes & Continental Travel

19 July 2008: Johannesburg-Accra
21 July 2008: Accra Monrovia

Goodbyes
Leaving our life in South Africa was hard, for lots of reasons. Saying goodbye to friends and family is horrid. But I SO want to thank all of you for all your goodbye messages, your good wishes and support and love expressed through phone calls and emails and visits. They have made us feel strong, and not alone, even if far away. Especially thanks for your last minute airport calls, Mocke, Diane, Dinah & Ma, and sorry I could not speak long but they were very much appreciated. I don’t think we’d even have left without all the help from my mother: entertaining the kids; helping to pack; and taking us to the airport when it really was time to go – Dankie Ma!

Continental Travel

The first three days were Sam & Tumi’s first taste of international travel beyond southern Africa. The whole drill of airports, planes & taxis was both exciting and exhausting. The kids enjoyed aeroplane food and the incredibly silly inflight movie. We landed in Accra at about 11pm West African time (GMT – 2 hours earlier than SA) and could immediately feel we were somewhere totally different – it was hot and humid late at night, and stinky too from all the airplane fumes. Once in the airport, the smell changed to a sweetish smell of things alive in a tropical environment, which is all over here – I love it. Sam & Tumi found it strange.

As promised by Uncle, the proprietor of the hostel we’d booked 2 nights in, a nice big taxi was waiting and took us on a 20 minute drive through dark streets of Accra to the Crystal Hostel. We could see the shape of low buildings lining the streets, and trees among them. I wondered what it would look like in by daylight. Next morning, from the walled roof of the building, we got our first real view of Accra, with the sun rising all golden through clouds and mists, lighting up rooftops and palm trees.

View from Crystal Hostel rooftop, Accra

Tumi looking at view from rooftop

Accra is a huge city, we did not even see the main part of town – instead it happened that we spent most of our time in, and driving between, vast lower/middle class suburbs. Densely occupied, with little or no garden space; the bigger, fancier buildings expanding upwards two or three storeys a bit like in SA townships. What’s really different from SA is all the street markets – pavement stalls selling everything you can think of. Most of the builings along the main street are small shops too, selling provisions or hardware or clothes or plastics or cell phones. Beauty salons are big, too.

We were tickled by the names of shops and mottoes on vehicles: IT IS A LONG STORY on the back of a pick-up truck, and By God’s Grace Auto Electrician.

Sunday morning Paul’s friend Fui took us to a larney buffet breakfast at the Golden Tulip Hotel with some local friends & their children – a very friendly welcome to West Africa. Sam and Tumi loved having bacon AND fruit AND waffles. In the afternoon, we tried to get to a nice beach, but ended up at one that was pretty much a rubbish dump. Later we set off to try out Accra street fare. So we had dinner of roast mealies and spicy pork kebabs on Darkuman Main Road in the twilight, hopping over the dirty gutter and enjoying the warm night air & friendly atmosphere.

Then Monday, it was back to the airport and on the plane to Monrovia. The plane was packed, with a mix of local and international travellers that all looked like very nice peole – encouraging. Everyone had short, neat hair – Liberia is clearly not the kind of place that attracts hippies, I thought.

How and why

to be completed...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Liberia History Timeline

Liberia’s history has many parallels to that of other African countries, but it’s ‘colonisation’ by descendents of African slaves from America, has added unique of idealism and tragedy to the country’s history, and created a distinct cultural and social landscape.

I've compiled this timeline from a couple of sources, listed below. There may be inaccuracies, omissions, and terms or emphases readers don't agree with - please feel free to comment/make suggestions.

I highlighted some events that seem particularly significant.

Sources:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/globalconnections/liberia/timeline/time1.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/1043567.stm
http://www.uiowa.edu/~africart/toc/countries/Liberia.html

Pre-colonial history

It is believed that the ancestors of present day Liberians migrated into the area from the North and East between the 12th and 17th centuries. None of the sub-Saharan empires of that period encompassed Liberia.
Pre-colonial Liberian history was dominated by sixteen major groups of which the most important in terms of their history, economy, politics and numerical strengths were the Bandi, Bassa, Gio, Gola, Grebo Kissi, Kpelle Krahn, Kru, Loma, Mano and Vai. Most of these groups lived in communities in which chiefs, elders and priests were the most immediate authority. In these societies, mechanisms for social control were characterised by military, religious and social sanctions in which secret societies, especially the Sande and the Poro played key roles in managing social and political strife through the provision of secular and sacred functions.

1200 A.D.: Arrival of Spanish explorers

1364: Arrival of the Normans from France

1461: Arrival of Portuguese explorers, who name the country the Grain Coast
The name "Grain Coast" derived from the abundance of melegueta pepper ("grains of paradise") the Portuguese found upon their arrival in present-day Liberia. The melegueta pepper was an extremely valuable trade commodity, having both culinary and medicinal qualities.

1500s: Portuguese and British traders participate in the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

1611: Arrival of Dutch traders

1700s: Arrival of first French, then Swedish traders

Background to colonisation/settlement

1791: Toussaint L'Ouverture leads an uprising of Black slaves on the island of Santo Domingo, today's Haiti.

The uprising raises fears among American slaveholders of a similar rebellion in America, and contributes to the formation of the American Colonization Society (ACS)

1807: Congress bans the importation of slaves into the U.S.

1816: A group of Quakers and slaveholders in Washington, D.C., form the American Colonization Society (ACS) for the purpose of sending free Blacks to Africa. Membership of the ACS is limited to whites only.

Arrival of first Americo-Liberian settlers

1820: The Elizabeth sails from New York to the west coast of Africa with 86 passengers on board. The passengers are almost all freeborn Blacks. Also on board are one white agent of the ACS and two representatives of the U.S. government.

1821: A U.S. government agent and an ACS agent sail to the Grain Coast to begin negotiations with local kings for purchase of land for the settlement.
Government agent Capt. Robert F. Stockton and ACS agent Dr. Eli Ayres engage in several days of negotiation with King Peter Zolu Duma. Under duresss, the King sells or leases land at Cape Mesurado and the adjacent island of Dozoa, to the ACS.

1822: The Battle of Crown Hill
The colony comes under attack from some 500 members of two indigenous ethnic groups. This is among the first in a series of armed clashes between the native population and the colonists in early Liberia, indicative of the conflict of intentions and culture that marked the early, uneasy relationship between the two groups.

1824: The ACS names the colony Liberia, for liberty, and the capital Monrovia, after U.S. president James Monroe.

1836: Thomas Buchanan, cousin of U.S. president James Buchanan, arrives at Bassa Cove to serve as governor.

1838 The settlers unite to form the Commonwealth of Liberia, under a governor appointed by the American Colonization Society.

1839: The ACS adopts the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Liberia.

1842: Joseph Jenkins Roberts becomes the first African American governor of the Commonwealth of Liberia.
Prior to Roberts, there were other African Americans who had served as acting governors of the colony, always pending the arrival of new, white appointees from America.

Towards an independent Liberian state

1847: Liberia becomes independent. The Liberian Declaration of Independence is adopted and signed.

1847: Governor Joseph Jenkins Roberts is elected the first Liberian president.

1848: Joseph Jenkins Roberts is inaugurated into office. He will be reelected and serve a total of eight years.
During Roberts's presidency, the country's first university is established, and the smuggling of slaves, which had continued to occur on the coast, is suppressed.

1860: Liberia's territorial boundaries are expanded, with assistance from the United States.
Following various treaties, purchases, and battles with indigenous chiefs, by 1860 Liberia's boundaries are extended to include a 600-mile coastline.

June 3, 1862: The United States formally recognizes Liberia's independence.
The U.S. establishes formal diplomatic relations and signs a treaty of commerce and navigation with Liberia.

1871: The Liberian government takes out the first of several major foreign loans.
The loans come primarily from Britain.

1874: Constitution modelled on that of the US is drawn up.

1874: Liberia declares Independence

1874: Indigenous chiefs meet in the National Legislature for the first time.

1926 - Firestone Tyre and Rubber Company opens rubber plantation on land granted by government. Rubber production becomes backbone of economy.

1930: A League of Nations report exposing forced-labor practices in Liberia leads to the president's resignation.

The Liberian government comes under international censure for allowing a system of forced labor "hardly distinguishable from slavery." Implicated in the scandal, President Charles D.B. King resigns on December 3 after pressure from the Liberian legislature.

1936 - Forced-labour practices abolished.

1943 - William Tubman elected president.
President Tubman pursues a policy of national unification to draw the indigenous people into the state and society, formally establishing laws to rid Liberia of practices that favor those of settler descent. He encourages economic development through foreign investment, deepened political and economic relations with the U.S., and begins to transform Liberia into a modern African state. Under him, Liberia becomes a founding member of the Organization of African Unity and the United Nations.

1944: Liberia enters World War II, declaring war against Germany and Japan in support of the Allies.

1951 May - Women and indigenous property owners vote in the presidential election for the first time.

1958 - Racial discrimination outlawed.

1955: Tubman crony-turned-political opponent S. David Coleman and his son John are hunted down and killed by Liberian soldiers for allegedly plotting to overthrow Tubman.
The Coleman funeral is meagerly attended, as people are afraid of being considered Coleman sympathizers.

1955: The constitution is amended to allow President Tubman to remain in office well beyond the two-term limit.

1971: President Tubman dies, and Vice President Tolbert takes office.
In office for 27 years, Tubman headed a regime that went from democratic to dictatorial. He is succeeded by his vice president of 19 years, William R. Tolbert, Jr.

1979 - More than 40 people are killed in riots following a proposed increase in the price of rice.

Coup d’etat

1980 - Master Sergeant Samuel Doe stages military coup. Tolbert is assasinated in his home, and 13 of his aides are arrested, then publicly executed. A People's Redemption Council headed by Doe suspends constitution and assumes full powers.

1984 - Doe's regime allows return of political parties following pressure from the United States and other creditors.

1985 - Doe wins presidential election.
Doe claims victory in a presidential election under a cloud of controversy and charges of vote-rigging. Despite the allegations, the United States accepts the results of the election and offers support to the new president.

1989 - National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) led by Charles Taylor begins an uprising against the government.

1990 - Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) sends peacekeeping force. Doe is executed by a splinter group of the NPFL.

1991 - Ecowas and the NPFL agree to disarm and set up an Interim Government of National Unity.

1992 - The NPFL launches an all-out assault on West African peacekeepers in Monrovia, the latter respond by bombing NPFL positions outside the capital and pushing the NPFL back into the countryside.

Tentative ceasefire

1993 - Warring factions devise a plan for a National Transitional Government and a ceasefire, but this fails to materialise and fighting resumes.

1994 - Warring factions agree a timetable for disarmament and the setting up of a joint Council of State.

1995 - Peace agreement signed.

1996 April - Factional fighting resumes and spreads to Monrovia.

1996 August - West African peacekeepers begin disarmament programme, clear land mines and reopen roads, allowing refugees to return.

1997 July - Presidential and legislative elections held. Charles Taylor wins a landslide and his National Patriotic Party wins a majority in the National Assembly. International observers declare the elections free and fair.

Border fighting

1999 January - Ghana and Nigeria accuse Liberia of supporting Revolutionary United Front rebels in Sierra Leone. Britain and the US threaten to suspend aid to Liberia.

1999 April - Rebel forces thought to have come from Guinea attack town of Voinjama. Fighting displaces more than 25,000 people.

1999 September - Guinea accuses Liberian forces of entering its territory and attacking border villages.

2000 September - Liberian forces launch "massive offensive" against rebels in the north. Liberia accuses Guinean troops of shelling border villages.

2001 February - Liberian government says Sierra Leonean rebel leader Sam Bockarie, also known as Mosquito, has left the country.

2001 May - UN Security Council reimposes arms embargo to punish Taylor for trading weapons for diamonds from rebels in Sierra Leone.

2002 January - More than 50,000 Liberians and Sierra Leonean refugees flee fighting. In February Taylor declares a state of emergency.

Rebel offensives

2003 March - Rebels advance to within 10km of Monrovia.

2003 June - Talks in Ghana aimed at ending rebellion overshadowed by indictment accusing President Taylor of war crimes over his alleged backing of rebels in Sierra Leone.

2003 July - Fighting intensifies; rebels battle for control of Monrovia. Several hundred people are killed. West African regional group Ecowas agrees to provide peacekeepers.
Taylor in exile

2003 August - Nigerian peacekeepers arrive. Charles Taylor leaves Liberia after handing power to his deputy Moses Blah. US troops arrive. Interim government and rebels sign peace accord in Ghana. Gyude Bryant chosen to head interim administration.

2003 September-October - US forces pull out. UN launches major peacekeeping mission, deploying thousands of troops.

2004 February - International donors pledge more than $500m in reconstruction aid.

2004 October - Riots in Monrovia leave 16 people dead; the UN says former combatants were behind the violence.

2005 September - Liberia agrees that the international community should supervise its finances in an effort to counter corruption.
Johnson-Sirleaf elected

2005 23 November - Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf becomes the first woman to be elected as an African head of state. She takes office the following January.

2006 February - Truth and Reconciliation Commission is set up to investigate human rights abuses between 1979 and 2003.

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

2006 June - UN Security Council eases a ban on weapons sales so Liberia can arm newly trained security forces. An embargo on Liberian timber exports is lifted shortly afterwards.

2006 July - President Johnson-Sirleaf switches on generator-powered street lights in the capital, which has been without electricity for 15 years.

2007 April - UN Security Council lifts its ban on Liberian diamond exports. The ban was imposed in 2001 to stem the flow of "blood diamonds", which helped to fund the civil war.

2007 May - UN urges Liberia to outlaw trial by ordeal.

2007 June - Start of Charles Taylor's war crimes trial in The Hague, where he stands accused of instigating atrocities in Sierra Leone.

2007 December - UN Security Council extended arms and travel embargoes for another year in response to increased gun violence.

2008 January - Supreme Court rules that the president can appoint local mayors because the government cannot afford to hold municipal elections. Municipal elections have not been held since 1985 because of financial constraints and successive civil wars.

2008 March - Liberia conducts its first census since 1984.