Liberia Government and Politics

State and politics

Liberia Country Flag

Reference: Liberia Flag Meaning

After decades of dictatorship and civil war, Liberia has stabilized during the 2000s and implemented several peaceful shifts of power. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of LR and its meanings of Liberia.


According to Liberia’s constitution, which came into force in 1986, power is to be divided by three independent bodies: an executive, a legislator and a judge. The executive power is held by the president, who is the head of state, head of government and commander-in-chief and who is elected in general elections for six years with the possibility of being re-elected. In 2006, Ellen Johnson became Sirleaf Africa’s first elected female president.

According to, the legislative power is held by Parliament, which is divided into two chambers. The 73 members of the House of Representatives are elected in general elections for six years, while the residents of each county nominate two members of the Senate (a total of 30) for a period of nine years. The Constitution provides for multi-party systems and contains provisions that prevent the introduction of one-party systems.


On August 18, 2003, a peace agreement was concluded that ended a civil war that had been going on since December 1989 with a few years of interruption. In accordance with the peace agreement, a transitional government and a provisional parliament were appointed. General elections for the presidential post and both chambers of parliament were held in the fall of 2005. They resulted in a split parliament with no clear dominance for either party. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was previously Finance Minister and has a past in international banking and the UN, was elected as new President. In the decisive round of the election, she defeated former football star George Weah. Johnson Sirleaf formed a government mainly consisting of experienced trade experts with no party affiliation.

Weah decided to stand behind Winston Tubman (born 1941) in the 2011 election, who proved to be Johnson Sirleaf’s toughest opponent. After becoming second in the first round with 33 percent of the vote against 44 percent for Johnson Sirleaf, Tubman decided to boycott the decisive round and he accused the Election Commission of cheating with the vote. However, the election was held as planned and Johnson Sirleaf was re-elected for another six years in power. In the parliamentary elections, the president’s party Unity Party (UP) received the most seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

In the first round of the 2017 presidential election, Weah and Vice President Joseph Boakai (born in 1944), who thus ran for the UP government, received the most votes (38 and 29 percent, respectively). After the UP and Liberty Party (LP) filed formal protests with allegations of electoral fraud, the Supreme Court decided to postpone the second round of elections. After an investigation, the Election Commission ruled that there was no evidence that irregularities had occurred.

The decisive round of elections between Weah and Boakai was held at the end of December 2017 and resulted in a victory for Weah with 61.5 percent of the vote. In the election to the House of Representatives held the same autumn, Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) assumed the position as the largest party from the UP. With 21 and 19 seats respectively, these two parties were clearly the largest. Of the total number of members, seven (10 percent) were women.


The legal system in Liberia rests on domestic legislation, local custom and a continuous reception of American and English law. The highest court is the Supreme Court, which also serves as a constitutional court. The sub-bodies include small-scale courts, general courts, a number of special courts and even local tribunals. The death penalty remains in the penal code but is de facto abolished in 2000.

Human Rights

Liberia is one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries. The country was ravaged in 1989–2003 by two civil wars (see History), which were characterized by enormous atrocities against civilians and widespread devastation. Human rights violations, such as mass murder and rape, were very common during the civil wars and most vulnerable were the children who were forcibly recruited as child soldiers and often forced to commit cruel crimes under the influence of drugs.

The first free and fair election was held in the country in 2005 and won by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Since the peace agreement in 2003, Liberia has ratified a number of conventions for the protection of human rights, but their adaptation to national law is slow. One step back is the reintroduction of the death penalty in 2008.

Some progress has been made in strengthening the rule of law and in improving access to important economic rights, including healthcare and basic education, but progress is hampered by corruption. Police brutality is common.

Serious abuses and deaths from traditional practices occur, in part due to distrust of the justice system, which is linked to a lack of capacity and competence in the legal sector, a tradition of impunity and the lack of active law enforcement. The abuses include ritual murders of alleged witches. This is condemned by the government.

The media is relatively free and independent, but is characterized by a lack of professionalism and the spread of reputation without source criticism. Corruption and bribery in the journalism corps occur. In  Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index 2015, Liberia is ranked 89 out of 180 countries.

The Convention on Women was ratified in 1984 but has not been implemented in 2013 in legislation. Divorce at a young age, violence and sexual violence against women are common, despite the fact that laws against gender-based violence were established in the 2000s. When compliance with the legislation against said crimes fails, the perpetrators often go free. Genital mutilation is not prohibited by law.

Children are at risk of being forced into prostitution and child labor, and most rape victims in the country are children between the ages of 10 and 14. The civil wars left many children orphaned or born into flight without access to a protected childhood.

There is a large group of disabled people in the country as a result of the civil war and this group is discriminated against in society and enjoys no special protection in the legislation.

Homosexuality is prohibited by law and nothing that is openly spoken about in society.

Heads of State


1847-56 Joseph Jenkins Roberts
1856-64 Stephen Allen Benson
1864-68 Daniel B. Warner
1868-70 James Sprigg Payne
1870-71 Edward James Roye
1871-72 James S. Smith
1872-76 Joseph Jenkins Roberts
1876-78 James Sprigg Payne
1878-83 Anthony W. Gardiner
1883-84 Alfred H. Russell
1884-92 Hiliary RW Johnson
1892-96 Joseph J. Cheeseman
1896-1900 William D. Coleman
1900-04 Garrett W. Gibson
1904-12 Arthur Barclay
1912-20 Daniel E. Howard
1920-30 Charles DB King
1930-44 Edwin Barclay
1944-71 William Tubman
1971-80 William Tolbert
1986-90 Samuel Doe
1990-94 Amos Sawyer *
1994-95 David Kpomakpor **
1995-96 Wilton Sankawulo **
1996-97 Ruth Perry **
1997-2003 Charles Taylor
2003 Moses Zeh Blah
2003-06 Gyude Bryant *
2006-18 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
2018- George Weah

* interim president

** Chairman of the Cabinet

Liberia Head of Government

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