Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, on Bushrod Island and Cape Mesurado is the country’s chief Atlantic port. The civil war has destroyed much of the city. In 2001, the UN imposed an embargo on Liberia, banning trade. In Feb. 2002, President Taylor declared a state of emergency, to contain tension in the regions around Monrovia. In May 2002, the UN renewed its sanctions. Businesses and schools closed down following rebel attacks outside Monrovia. Travel to the capital is not recommended.
Monrovia (originally called Christopolis) was founded in 1822 by the American Colonization Society, as a settlement for freed American slaves. The city was named after the US President James Monroe. The population consists of descendants of settlers from North America who arrived 1830–71 and domestic migrants. In 1961, Monrovia hosted a conference serving to launch the Organization of African Unity. In 1989–92 there was a civil war. In 1996, violence erupted again and has since damaged the country and its capital.
Monrovia is linked to Guinea and Sierra Leone through the Mano River Union. Prior to the UN embargo, core exports were iron ore, diamonds, rubber, timber and coffee. Industry is limited to food processing. The capital, a centre for higher education in Liberia, has a university (founded in 1851). The city’s architecture is characterized by ruined shacks and colonial buildings in the style of the US southern states. There is an international airport (Robertsfield Airport).
In June 2003 the city witnessed fighting between government troops and forces from Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (Lurd), leaving 300 civilians dead, 1,000 injured and 250,000 displaced before a ceasefire was called. International peacekeeping forces arrived in Aug. 2003.
Places of Interest
The Liberia National Cultural Centre includes artists from 16 ethnic Liberian groups. Fort Norris has a statue of Liberia’s first president, Joseph Jenkins Roberts. Sapo National Park is just outside the capital. Among important buildings in Monrovia are the Capitol (founded in 1958), the Executive Mansion (founded 1964), The Temple of Justice and the City Hall, though many have been damaged in the wars. There is a National Museum.