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Author: Dr. Fred P.M. van der Kraaij

Past & Present of Africa's
Oldest Republic








The Colony The Republic Political History Economic History
International Relations Money Maps Culture

 George Weah Made History!

First President of Liberia
J.J. Roberts

The Pepper Coast before 1822

According to the traditions of many African tribes their ancestors were persons of small size. Although no trace of their existence was ever discovered in West Africa they are well-known to the peoples of this subregion. The Sousou in what is now Guinea call them ‘Doki’, the Ouolofs in Senegal call them ‘Kondrong’ while in Liberia they are called ‘Jinna’.

It is generally believed that before 1822 there were 16 different tribes living in what was called the ‘Pepper Coast’, ‘Grain Coast’ or ‘Malaguetta Coast’.
One of them was (...) more


First democratically elected
indigenous president of Liberia

Providence Island where the first colonists settled
Liberia Colony, showing the American colonization societies, 1839 (Mitchel)


The Colony

The creation of Liberia (1822-47)

In the beginning of the 19th century, groups of free-born blacks, freed slaves and mulattoes from the United States of America emigrated to the west coast of Africa. In 1847, 25 years after the first successful colonization, they proclaimed an independent Republic, which they named Liberia. At that time they numbered about 3,000: men, women and children.

The American Colonization Society
The American Colonization Society (ASC) was created in 1816. Its objective: the settlement of free blacks in West Africa ('Back to Africa').

The Colony based on US newspapers


The seal

The national anthem: text

The flag

The national anthem: sound

Click on map to zoom in on
Google map of Liberia













Religion and superstition:

History  of ritutal killings in Liberia

Ritual killings continue to be a plague.  

Not only  in Liberia.
Other African countries  



Political History

The Presidents

Three assassinated presidents:

Four presidents who resigned:

Three presidents who made world history:

Guest: D. Elwood Dunn:
On the transfer of presidential powers, from J.J. Roberts to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: A historical overview, 1847 - 2018


Special topics:


Liberia and the
United Nations

Security Council Committee  established pursuant to resolution 1521 (2003)
  Panel of Experts 2001 - 2018
  Security Council Terminates Sanctions Regime on Liberia, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2288 (May 25, 2016)
  Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2237 (2015), Security Council Renews Arms Embargo on Non-State Actors in Liberia, Terminates Other Sanctions (September 2, 2015)
  Liberia: UN and EU repeal financial sanctions (November 3, 2015)
  Arms A UN Security Council arms embargo on Liberia existed in various forms from 1992 to 2016
UN timber embargo lifted June 20, 2006
UN diamond embargo lifted Nov. 1, 2009
UNMIL (UN site)
  UNMIL (Wikipedia)
  UNMIL on Facebook
  UNMIL Radio - FM 91.5 - Monrovia
  The end of UNMIL (March 2018)


Truth and



Economic History

The subsistence economy:

Foreign investments:

The Open Door Policy of Liberia. An Economic History of Modern Liberia

The original publication of 'The Open Door Policy of Liberia. An Economic History of Modern Liberia' by Fred van der Kraaij (Bremen, 1983) available as pdf-file.

The study covers the prelude,  introduction, growth and zenith of foreign investments in Liberia.
  • Volume 1 (460 pp.)
    Chapter 1: The Pepper Coast Before 1847
    Chapter 2: The origin of the Closed Door and Open Door Policies 1847 - 1947
    Chapter 3-10: Agriculture, Mining, Forestry (Firestone, Lamco etc.)
    Chapter 10-13: Analysis of impact (Fiscal contribution, transfer of technology, transport and communication)
    Chapter 13: The change from a subsistence economy into a developing economy 1900 - 1979
    Chapter 14: Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Volume 2  (234 pp.)
    (Annexes, Bibliography, Footnotes, Index)

Buy the book:

External debt:

The 1871 loan: Prelude to a coup d'état

The 1906 loan: Foreigners in strategic positions

The 1912 loan: More foreigners appointed

The 1926 Firestone loan: Sovereignty impaired

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf realizes a historic debt relief for Liberia



Under construction
Foreign investments after 2000

Oil & Gaz
Agriculture & Forestry















President Tubman and Queen Juliana during a State visit to the Netherlands in 1956

















International Relations
Liberia and the Netherlands:

Timber baron Guus Kouwenhoven, 'The Godfather of Liberia'

In 2000, the United Nations reported that Guus Kouwenhoven, a Dutch businessman, belonged to then President Charles Taylor's 'inner circle'. Kouwenhoven - in Liberia known as 'Mr Gus' - was accused of illegal arms trading and war crimes in Liberia during the country's civil war.

He was arrested in the Netherlands in 2005, convicted (2006), acquitted (2008), acquittal overturned (2010). In February 2017 his trial re-opened in the Netherlands.

On April 21, 2017 the Appeal Court found him guilty and sentenced him to 19 years in prison. The court ordered his immediate arrest. Guus Kouwenhoven, then 75 years old, did not attend his trial and fled to South Africa.

Interpol South Africa arrested him in Cape Town on December 8, 2017. Subsequently, the Dutch sent an extradition request to the South African authorities.

On December 19, 2017 Magistrate Vusi Mhlanga of the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court granted the fugitive Dutch war criminal release on bail, under strict conditions. Kouwenhoven was allowed to stay in his US$ 8 million mansion in Fresnay, Cape Town, awaiting a final decision regarding his extradition.

The extremely wealthy Kouwenhoven - who belonged to a select group of 500 richest Dutchmen - hired South Africa's best and most expensive lawyers. They managed to obtain postponement after postponement; the procedures dragged on for years. Finally, in February 2020, the final ruling came: South Africa proved to be a safe haven for the convicted war criminal.

On February 21, 2020, Cape Town magistrate Ingrid Arntsen said that it was with “great regret” she had decided that Dutch arms dealer Augustinus Kouwenhoven could not be extradited to the Netherlands.
Arntsen said the Extradition Act made it clear that people could be extradited only in relation to offences alleged to have been committed within the territorial jurisdiction of the state requesting extradition.

Because Kouwenhoven had committed the crimes in Liberia (illegal arms trafficking and responsibility for war crimes) he could not be extradited to the Netherlands.



Kissi Money
One dollar banknote Liberia 1862, signed by Vice-President Daniel Bashiel Warner
Colony of Liberia coin issued 1833 American Colonization Society





Monetary development

The decision of President Edwin Barclay (1930-1944) to adopt the US dollar as the sole legal tender in Liberia as from December 31, 1943 very clearly symbolizes the political orientation of the first African Republic as well as it's financial and economic dependence more    






1743 map by Professor Johann Matthias Haas (or Hasias), Heirs of Homann
The Colony of Maryland
(1831-41) became Maryland in Liberia (1841-57) which was admitted into the Republic of Liberia on February 28, 1857, ten years after the creation of the first African republic.








8½" solid brass ring known as 'waterspirit' or 'nitien', sometimes called Kru money. Weighs nearly 9 lbs.
Collected 1975 near Tchien, Grand Gedeh County













Ritual object or 'Kru money'? 
The origin of these objects is not known with certainty. They were used among the Kru and the Grebo in southeastern Liberia. They call them 'Dwin', 'tien' or 'nitien', meaning water spirits, or 'Gods of water'. More

The mystery of the Kru or Grebo rings – Part I
More than 30 different languages are spoken in Liberia. They are subdivided into three language groups: the West Atlantic or Mel group, the Mande group and the Kru speaking peoples. More…

The mystery of the Kru or Grebo rings – Part II
Part I which focuses on the lost history of the Kru or Grebo rings gave rise to valuable comments from Mark Clayton and Scott Shepperd, probably the two most authoritative non-Liberian experts on nitien. More...

The mystery of the Kru or Grebo rings – an important discovery
In 2015, the American expert and collector of nitien Mark Clayton made an important discovery. He discovered a nitien on the ground of a medicine man’s hut as shown on a photo published online by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology of Harvard University. The original photo had been published in ‘Tribes of the Liberian Hinterland‘, the report of the Peabody Museum Expedition to Liberia in 1929-1930. More…

A ‘Kru ring’ found in a thrift shop in the Netherlands
In 2017, I received a letter from a Dutchman who had found a strange object in a local thrift shop. Attracted by its shape, weight and material (…) More...


Liberian Music

Songs of the African Coast: Liberian Café Music
ARTHUR ALBERTS: Songs of the African Coast: Cafe Music of Liberia Arthur Alberts recorded music throughout Africa and in 1950 released the landmark 78 rpm set "Tribal, Folk and Cafe Music of West Africa". The music on this release included a mix of genres as well as detailed notes by leading academics. The recording showed the intricate connections between African and American music. Read more on the website of and listen to all the tracks.
"President Tubman" by Ali Ganda and the Sierra Leone Crackers Band
Tubman Goodtype Songs of Liberia by
Congress-Woman Malinda Jackson Parker
More sounds from Liberia



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