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To some Liberia is Africa’s Banana Republic and to others the Spearhead of Pan-Africanism.
From America a large back to Africa migration of the 1920s sponsored by UNIA and shipped by the Black Star Line, however it did not had official support from Liberian authorities. The new emigrants established themselves in the North coast and interior of Liberia.
The black-americans, or Garveyites has they called themselves, were friendlier in their relationship with the natives, being treated in equal terms, instead of the denigratory and segregationist practices of Americo-Liberians.
In early phase of the emigration alliances were forged with the natives, resulting in no attacks made to Garveyites settlements. Cooperation in clearing and cultivating land were the most characteristic tasks of the first years of settlement. In exchange natives received medical assistance and schooling. Subsidiaries of the Negro Factories Corporation were established and an industrial and agricultural training school was founded and open to Liberians natives. A wage systems became commonplace. Intermarriage became common and so did syncretic religious practices and usage of Kreyol as a common medium of communication.
Large population and migration Garveyites became a threat to the long established order and privileges of Americo-Liberian elites.
The Daniel Edward Howard presidency had at least secured the frontiers of Liberia against the French and British expansion. Liberian Government was already troubled by constant foreign loans crisis and accusations of slave trading and force labor made to the League of Nations (LoN). On slavery a fact finding commission of the LoN reported.
The Americo-Liberians by the 1930s started to impose immigration quotas, and judicial and police harassment of Garveyites became common and so did the seizure of lucrative lands a common legal practice. The Universal African Legions, organized by the UNIA and enlarged with native recruitment, began to provide guard services for Garveyite settlements and native villages. Clashes between the Liberian Frontier Force and Universal African Legions became increasingly common and so did the disfranchisement and persecution of Garveyites in coastal Liberia.
By the end of the 1930s political and social disputes of Natives and Garveyites with governing Americo-Liberian elites lead to the Civil War of 1934-1935. The spark of the conflict was the deportation of Marcus Garvey to America. The victorious alliance of Garveyism and inner tribes lead to a political enfranchisement of all Liberian habitants.
Pan-Africanism in action
After the Civil War, Garveyism had strong foothold in an African country. From there it spread out pan-African propaganda and encourage migration to Africa. Back to Africa also meant cultural Africanization. Emphasis was given to native African culture and language. Kreyol print media and broadcasting services became commonplace and popular.
International African Emigration Service Bureaus were established in several countries and provided tourism and immigration services to Liberia.
The establishment of the Black African Communities League to incorporate all bantustans of the African continent was the main goal of foreign policy of Garveyism. However, despite having cordial relationships with Ethiopia, the said country never gave the political or material support to establish it.
The government of Liberia, modeled on the government of the United States, is a unitary constitutional republic and representative democracy as established by the Constitution of 1847 and amendments. Important post Civil War reforms were approved and enacted.
Under the Constitution of 1847 only male Liberian citizens over 21 years of age and own land had political rights (suffrage and be elected). After Civil War, the Constitution was amended giving political rights to all male and female Liberians over 21 years of age and 1 year of residency. The nationality requirements of the 1847 Constitution, which limits citizenship to "persons who are Negroes or of Negro descent’’ is still in place.
The government has three co-equal branches of government:
- a executive, headed by the president. The president serves as head of government, head of state and the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia. Among the other duties of the president are to sign or veto legislative bills, grant pardons, and appoint Cabinet members, judges and other public officials. Together with the vice president, the president was elected to a four-year term elected by popular vote by simple majority with no limitations on re-election. Later changed from simple majority vote to a a two-round system and can only serve up to two consecutive terms in office and elected by all Liberians over 21 years of age and 1 year of residency.
- legislative, consisting of the bicameral Legislature of Liberia; The Legislature is composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The House, led by a speaker, has its members apportioned among the 15 counties on the basis of the national census, with each county receiving a minimum of two members. Each House member represents an electoral district within a county as drawn by the National Elections Commission and is elected by a plurality of the popular vote of their district into a four--year term (previously six-year term). The Senate is made up of three senators (previously two) from each county for a total of 30 senators. Senators serve eight-year terms (previously nine-year) and are elected at-large by a plurality of the popular vote. The vice president serves as the President of the Senate, with a President pro tempore serving in his absence.
- and judicial, made up of the Supreme Court and several lower courts. Liberia's highest judicial authority is the Supreme Court, made up of five members and headed by the Chief Justice of Liberia. Members are nominated to the court by the president and are confirmed by the Senate, serving until the age of 70. The judiciary is further divided into circuit and speciality courts, magistrate courts and justices of the peace. The judicial system follows the Anglo-American common law. An informal system of traditional courts existed within the rural areas of the country, with trial by ordeal remaining common despite being officially outlawed. Post Civil War reforms places previously absent requirements on judicial appointees, requiring Supreme Court justices to have been counselors of the Supreme Court Bar for at least five years and requiring all other judges to have been either practicing attorneys for three years or a member of the Supreme Court Bar. Native Courts are formally established having trials by jury and supervised by the District Tribal Laws Councils.
Constitutional amendments may be proposed by either a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature, or by a petition signed by at least 10,000 registered voters and approved by a two-thirds vote in the Legislature. A proposed amendment must be ratified by two-thirds of voters in a popular referendum held no sooner than one year after its approval by the Legislature.
Politics of Liberia
The True Whig Party was between 1876 and Civil War the dominant and sole government party.
After the civil war the Pan-African Liberian Party (Garveyism) became the dominant party, along the Natives Rights League of Liberia. The True Whig Party and Republican Party formed the opposition.
In the 1940s the All-African Workers Party (AAWP), a vehicle of afro-socialism was formed. It had most of the time the approval of Garvey. The AAWP is representative of organized labor and cooperatives. Anti-communist legislation outlaws any Communist Party activity.
Liberia is administratively divided in provinces, counties, territories and districts.The provinces and other units are administered by commissioners appointed by the President.
Local government in the capitals of provinces, counties and cities is organized in elected city corporations. All other unorganized territories of the counties, territories and districts fall under the administration of presidential commissioners.
Primary and secondary education is free and compulsory from the ages of 6-16, though enforcement of attendance is lax. The country's education sector is hampered by inadequate schools and supplies, as well as a lack of qualified teachers.
The University of Liberia (UL) is a publicly funded institution of higher learning located in Monrovia, Liberia. Authorized by the national government in 1851, the school opened in 1863 as Liberia College and became a university in 1930s. The law school is the only law school in Liberia.
Cuttington University is a private university in Suacoco, Liberia. Founded in 1889 as Cuttington College by Episcopal Church of the United States (ECUSA), it is the oldest private, coeducational, four-year, degree-granting institution in sub-Saharan Africa.
Vocational and technical and agricultural education is given by the Liberia Technical College (founded in 1925) and the Booker Washington Agricultural and Industrial Institute (1926). There are also two public Rural Teacher Training Institute.
Richly endowed with water, mineral resources (iron ore, diamonds, gold and tin), forests, and a climate favorable to agriculture. The main crops are coffee, cocoa, sugarcane, rice, cassava, palm oil, bananas, plantains, citrus, pineapple, sweet potatoes, corn, and vegetables. Liberia had been a producer and exporter of basic products - primarily raw timber and rubber. Local manufacturing, mainly foreign owned, had been small in scope.
In 1926 the Firestone Concession Agreement for the exploitation of rubber plants was signed. Become the chief employer of Liberia and major supplier of rubber to US. After the Civil War a new Concession Agreement was signed in 1935 giving more generous income to Liberia in exchange of the control of Liberia´s railways by a Firestone subsidiary.
Until 1926, force labor of the inner tribes was the common source of manpower for public works and agriculture. After 1929 it was outlaw but practiced informally until the end of the Civil War that definitely abolished it. Any form of slavery was effectively abolished in 1929.
The constant crisis of foreign loans were solved in 1932. In that year an assistance plan created an International Loan Commission, administered by US and LoN in charge in dealing with foreign loans and Liberia’s Treasury. The 5 member committee also gave technical assistance in the administration of the Treasury, budget administration, customs and tax revenue. After the Civil War a new agreement reduced the LoN representation from 3 to 2 members, giving the US one more delegate. It also organized a financial comptroller office under guidance of the US.
The new government started an Open Door policy of foreign concessions and investments. In 1936 it was repeal the famous Port of Entry Law of 1864 that had restricted the economic activities of foreigners in the country.
Legal monopolies are usually the norm in timber exploitation, construction and industry.
In 1940 US Steel was giving the mining ore concession, since then the Liberian economy has relied heavily on the mining of iron ore. Liberia is a major exporter of iron ore on the world market.
The National Bank of Liberia (NBL) functions as the central and government bank.
Transport and Communications
Liberia is served by several sea passenger and shipping line, being the most important the Black Star Line, the de facto merchant navy of Liberia.
The national state airline, Air Liberia operating airships and airplanes and serving as the national freighter. Aero Black, affiliated to Black Star Line, is the major private company.
The Freeport of Monrovia is the main commercial port facility. The port was artificially created on Bushrod Island near Monrovia in 1941, thanks to a loan from the US. The port facility contains four piers and one main wharf with four berths. The port also has tanker facilities and a fishery pier. The National Port Authority operates the port
Broadcasting services are provided mainly by the Liberian Radio Corporation, Firestone Radio and the state run Liberia Radio Service. The Voice of America has antenna for its services in Africa.
The Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) are the armed forces of Liberia. Founded as the Liberian Frontier Force in 1908, the military was retitled in 1930s. For virtually all of its history, the AFL has received considerable material and training assistance from the United States.
On February 6, 1908, the militia was established on a permanent basis as the 500-strong Liberian Frontier Force (LFF). The LFF's original mission was "to patrol the border in the Hinterland [against British and French territorial ambitions] and to prevent disorders." The LFF was initially placed under the command of a British officer, who was quickly replaced after he complained the Force was not being properly paid. In 1912, the United States established military ties with Liberia by sending some five black American officers to help reorganize the force. The LFF in its early years was frequently recruited by inducing men from the interior forcibly. When dispatched to the interior to quell tribal unrest, units often lived off the areas that they were pacifying, as a form of communal punishment. The Force's officers were drawn from either the coastal aristocracy or tribal elites.
During the Civil War the LFF was unable to surpass the Legions guerrilla tactics and left the interior to concentrate in coastal areas and Monrovia. Poor discipline and logistics, along tactical disarray were the sources of its defeat in the Civil War.
After the Civil War the LFF was reorganized in the AFL. The former members of the LFF and the Universal African Legions become part of the AFL or the new law enforcement forces. Militia service was made compulsory by law for all eligible males, but is enforced in a lax manner. The three services of the AFL are:
- Liberian Army,
- Liberian Air Force, and
- Liberian National Coast Guard.
The Liberian National Guard is in charge of law enforcement, except in municipal corporations that is duty of the Liberian National Police.
In 1941 a US–Liberia Defense and Cooperation Treaty was signed, receiving the AFL considerable material and training assistance from the United States. A naval base for the US Navy was built near Monrovia.