Liberia

Africa's first and oldest modern republic, Liberia declared its independence in 1847 under slaves returning from the Americas. The country retains elements of the Afro-Caribbean culture its founders returned with, and succesfully stayed independent during Europe's colonization of the continent. Two civil wars since 1990 wrecked the economy, however, and left more than 500,000 people dead. A return to democracy is now sparking hopes of better times.

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