Independence: From American Colonization Society July 26, 1847.
Constitution: January 6, 1986.
Political parties: 30 registered political parties.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Liberia has a bicameral legislature consisting of 64 representatives and 30 senators. The 2005 election placed a spectrum of political personalities in the legislature, most for six-year terms. Senior senators were elected for nine-year terms. Party structures remain weak, and politics continues to be personality-driven. Historically, the executive branch heavily influenced the legislature and judicial system.
The judiciary is divided into four levels, including justices of the peace, courts of record (magistrate courts), courts of first instance (circuit and specialty courts), and the Supreme Court. Traditional courts and lay courts exist in rural areas of the country. Trial by ordeal, though officially outlawed, is practiced in various parts of Liberia. The formal judicial system remains hampered by severe shortages of qualified judges and other judicial officials. Locally, political power emanates from traditional chiefs (town, clan, or paramount chiefs), mayors, and district commissioners. Mayors are elected in principal cities in Liberia. Superintendents appointed by the president govern the counties. There are 15 counties in Liberia.
PRINCIPAL GOVERNMENT Agencies
Liberia has maintained traditionally cordial relations with the West. Liberia currently also maintains diplomatic relations with Libya, Cuba, and China.
Liberia is a founding member of the United Nations and its specialized agencies and is a member of the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Development Bank (ADB), the Mano River Union (MRU), and the Non-Aligned Movement.
During the administration of Charles Taylor, relations between Liberia and its West African neighbors became seriously strained. West African countries backed by the African Union and the United Nations negotiated a peace agreement in Accra, Ghana that subsequently led to the exile of Charles Taylor to Nigeria in August 2003. With the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia has seen significant improvements in relations with its West African neighbors and the wider world. Relations between Liberia and its immediate neighbors in the Mano River region are back on track, and efforts are underway to strengthen relations with other countries. Liberia currently holds the chairmanship of the reinvigorated Mano River Union. Liberia signed a non-aggression pact with Sierra Leone when newly elected President Ernest Bai Koroma visited in September 2007. Liberia is a major proponent of regional integration.
Liberia has taken steps to forge closer ties with Western countries, especially the United States. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has visited several Western countries, including the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Spain, France, and Germany. President Sirleaf has also visited China and Libya, with whom Liberia maintains close ties.