Liberia

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Republic of Liberia

The Republic of Liberia was originally inhabited by Mende-speaking tribes and was later peopled with refugees from the declining Mali and Songhai Empires. Between 1461 and late 17th century, Portuguese, Dutch and British traders made contact with coastal tribes and built a number of trading posts in what became Liberia. The Portuguese had named the area Costa da Pimenta (Pepper Coast) due to the abundance of certain types of chile peppers.

Modern Liberia began to take shape in 1822, when the American Colonization Society began working to repatriate former slaves there. Known as Americo-Liberians, many chose to emigrate and on July 26, 1847 these settlers declared the independence of the Republic of Liberia. Yet these American settlers did not integrate easily into African society, prefering instead to establish many of their own American style institutions. The nation retained its independence during the European "Scramble for Africa" and enjoyed large-scale support from the United States and American businesses throughout much of the 20th century.

In 1980, a group of NCOs under the leadership of Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe staged a military coup d'etat and wrested power from the legitimately elected leaders, claiming marginalization of tribal societies at the hands of the Americo-Liberian descendants. In 1985 new elections were held, but the results were nullified by Samuel Doe's National Democratic Party of Liberia, which in turn claimed his own victory as president. An attempted counter-coup in November of that year failed, while under Doe's regime government oppression intensified.

The First Liberian Civil War erupted in 1989, resulting from nine years of iron-fisted rule under Doe. Two non-cooperating movements waged war against the goverment forces of Doe's regime, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (under Charles Taylor) and the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (under Prince Johnson). In August 1990 an intervention force sponsored by the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) entered the country to impose a cease-fire. Doe was captured, tortured and executed the next month, and an interim government established in Novemeber succeeded in ending hostilities for only a few days. The United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO) was formed in June 1991 by supporters of former President Doe and former members of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) who had since disbanded and fled to neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone. Although another peace agreement was brokered in September 1993, renewed hostilies broke out in May 1994. The experience was essentially repeated in August 1995, with a new agreement signed but having effect only until April of the following year. In August 1996, the warring factions finally agreed to and upheld a peace agreement that included demobilization and disarmament. In 1996, Charles Taylor was elected president of Liberia.

Taylor's regime was unfortunately no more liberal or democratic than government under Doe, and in 1999 a Second Liberian Civil War broke out. Supported by Sierra Leone and Guinea, two rebel groups, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MDL) fought the newly constituted Armed Forces of Liberia under Charles Taylor. After four years of fighting, culminating in a military intervention by the USA and ECOMOG, as well as non-violent demonstrations by the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, Taylor accepted asylum in Nigeria and a transitional government established in 2003. A United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNIMIL) has been in place since.

With the aid and assistance of the United States, the Armed Forces of Liberia were restructured in 2005, and presently stand at a strength of 2000 personnel.

Camouflage Patterns of Liberia

  • In addition to standard olive green uniforms, some personnel of the Liberian Army wore leaf or ERDL pattern camouflage uniforms during the 1980 coup d'etat and well into that decade. Photographic documentation suggests several uniform styles, including what were probably donated M1964 jungle uniforms from the United States.

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  • Photographic and anecdotal evidence suggests a version of tiger stripe pattern camouflage was worn by the Liberian Army, possibly as far back as the 1980s. Photographs of combatants during the civil war confirm a certain type of uniform was in circulation at some point prior to that period, and continued to see sporadic use during the internecine fighting.

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  • Most personnel of the Armed Forces of Liberia now wear US-supplied m81 woodland camouflage uniforms and field equipment.

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  • Primarily responsible for issuing residence permits, visas and passports, the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) has worn the US-designed "tricolor desert" pattern for several years.

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  • Beginning in 2014, some personnel of the BIN began wearing a pixelated camouflage design that seems to be loosely based on the desert MARPAT camouflage of the USMC.

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