The early history of Liberia was promising. Under the auspices of white Americans, freed slaves had been offered a new home in the West African region during the early 19th century. In 1847 the settlers founded the continent's first independent republic--a full century before the rest of Africa began to shake off colonial rule.
Although the new republic modeled itself on the United States--and even named its cities after U.S. leaders--it has nevertheless endured sluggish development, class division, and a brutal civil war during the 1990s that resulted in 200,000 deaths. In their struggle for stability, the Liberian people have forged peace agreements between the warring political parties and established a new, freely elected government in 2006, becoming the first African country to elect a woman as president.
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