In 2019, Liberia had an average population density of 43 residents per km2. However, the population is unevenly distributed; 20 percent live within a 655 km 2 area (corresponding to about 0.6 percent of the total area) around the capital Monrovia. The migration towards the urban areas is extensive. In 2019, 51 percent were estimated to live in urban areas. The civil wars (1989–96 and 1999–2003) had a profound effect on the population distribution – according to estimates, half of the residents were forced to flee their homes. According to Countryaah data, the country’s largest city is the capital Monrovia, which in 2010 is estimated to have 1.1 million residents.
Liberia’s indigenous population officially includes 16 ethnic groups, or “tribes,” all of which rely predominantly on agriculture with rice as a base crop. These 16 groups each have their elected “tribal chief” as head and are divided into a number of clans, each with his clan chief. Linguistically, they divide themselves into three major groups, man, cru, and western Atlantic people.
The male-speaking peoples are located in the central and northern parts of the country and include first and foremost kpelle, which is the country’s largest group (800,000). The other men are Dan (or Gio, 250 000), Mano (224 000) and Loma (196 000). The Mandan people have largely retained their indigenous African religion; Common to them are the secret societies of porn (for men) and sande (for women), who play a significant role as educational institutions and who have political and legal as well as religious functions. Also included are the men (124,000) in the coastal band in the far north, who in the beginning of the 19th century created a writing language with their own alphabet.
The Kruger people inhabit the southern half of the country and include just over a dozen ethnic groups, including the base (479,000), Grebo (300,000), the actual Kru (253,000), who live along the south coast and many of whom traditionally served as sailors on European merchant vessels, as well as the smaller group of krahn (130,000). The latter had great political influence during the 1980s, since President Samuel Doe was a krahn, and the 1990s massacres were largely manos and dance retaliation for 10 years of kahn’s abuse of power.
The western Atlantic peoples are at the far north, towards the border with Sierra Leone; the most important group is the breeze (195,000). The so-called Americo-Liberians are descendants of freed slaves who immigrated from the United States in 1822–92. They regard themselves as the founders of the nation, and their role can be compared to that of European colonizers in other African countries. Until Do’s military coup in 1980, they had the political power in the country; their number is only 107,000.
The indigenous languages of Liberia are made up of some thirty Niger-Congo languages, belonging to the three branches man, cru and atlantic languages. The largest is kpelle (about 12% of the population). English is an official language and is also spoken by the American-Liberian minority. See further population above.
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As in many other countries in West Africa, the indigenous African religions have a very strong position; in Liberia about 70% (1999). Just over 10% of the population is Christian, and about half of the Christians belong to independent African churches. Of churches of western origin, the Protestants are completely dominant. According to thesciencetutor, several of Liberia’s presidents, including Baptist William Tolbert, has been pastors. The Muslims, who make up at least about 20%, are found mainly in the northwestern parts of the country and have at times been harassed by the Christian and Western-influenced elite.