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Liberia is a small country on the northwest coast of Africa and home to 3 million people. Founded in 1821 by liberated American slaves, its name means "land of the free." For the past two decades, however, life for Liberians has been a struggle. In the early 1980s, a bloody civil war broke out when civilians revolted against their repressive dictator, Samuel Doe.

Eventually, he was overthrown from power and expatriate Charles Taylor was elected president. But the violence and chaos continued. Women were gang raped, their husbands were executed and thousands of children were given guns and taught to kill. Under Charles Taylor's reign of terror, more than 250,000 people were murdered. In 2003, he was forced to resign.

Today, the scars of war can be seen everywhere. The country lacks running water and electricity, and schools and hospitals have been destroyed. More than 80 percent of the people are unemployed and most live on less than one dollar a day.

In November 2005, for the first time in more than 20 years, the people of Liberia got to freely vote for a new leader. Their choice made history when a 67-year-old grandmother of nine became Africa's first-ever elected female president—President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
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FROM: Meet the World's Youngest Queen
Published on May 17, 2006

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