Liberians went to the polls today to vote in their country's first elections since the end of a fourteen-year-long civil war. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, making a bid to become the first female president in Africa, was expected to finish behind 1995 world soccer player of the year George Weah. (Weah played for Chelsea and AC Milan.)
Situated in West Africa between Sierra Leone and Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia has a population of 3.5 million and a GDP per capita of $900. The nation was devastated by a civil war that ended in August 2003 when President Charles Taylor agreed to go into exile in Nigeria. The capital, Monrovia, is still without running water and reliable electricity.
Liberia was colonized by freed slaves from the United States. It declared its independence in 1847, but was not recognized by the United States until 1862.
For 133 years, Liberia was well established as a republic with a presidential system of government based on the American model. in 1980, Samuel K. Doe assassinated Liberia's president during a military coup. A second republic was formed in 1986 with Doe continuing as head of state until his ouster in 1989 by Charles Taylor. For the next fourteen years, civil war raged in Liberia. Plans for today's elections were made when Taylor's departure was negotiated in 2003.