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By Daniel N. Arshack
The Republic of Liberia began in the early 1800s as a colony of freed American slaves and became an independent constitutional republic in 1847, making it the oldest democratic country in Africa. The capital, Monrovia, is named after the fifth president of the United States. Recent decades have not been kind to the country or its people, however. A 1980 military coup led by Sgt. Samuel K. Doe overthrew the ruling True Whig Party, which had been all but closed to indigenous peoples for 133 years. His despotic rule, supported during the Cold War by the Reagan administration, brought civil wars from 1989 to 2003 that destroyed the country’s infrastructure along with its social institutions. Seventy percent of the country’s 3.5 million inhabitants are illiterate. Eighty percent of them are unemployed in any real sense of the word. Five volunteers and a staff member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers spent 11 days in Liberia, July 29-August 9, 2009, on a mission to trai
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