/div>Republic, western Africa. Area: 37,466 sq mi (97,036 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 3,955,000. Capital: Monrovia
. Liberia's ethnic groups include the Americo-Liberians, descendants of the black freedmen who emigrated from the U.S. in the 19th century; and 16 indigenous peoples of the Mande, Kwa, and Mel linguistic groups. Languages: English (official), indigenous languages. Religions: traditional beliefs, Christianity, Islam. Currency: Liberian dollar. Liberia has coastal lowlands extending 350 mi (560 km) along the Atlantic; farther inland are hills and low mountains. Roughly one-fifth of Liberia consists of tropical rainforest. Agriculture is the main component of the economy, but only a portion of the arable land is cultivated. The country also has rich iron ore reserves, which are a major source of exports. The principal cash crops are rubber, coffee, and cacao; the staple crops are rice and cassava. Constitutionally, Liberia is a multiparty republic with two legislative houses, and its head of state and government is the president. Africa's oldest republic, Liberia was established on land acquired for freed U.S. slaves by the American Colonization Society, which founded a colony at Cape Mesurado in 1821. In 1822 Jehudi Ashmun, a Methodist minister, became the director of the settlement and Liberia's real founder. In 1824 the territory was named Liberia, and its main settlement was named Monrovia. Joseph Jenkins Roberts proclaimed Liberian independence in 1847 and expanded its boundaries. Border disputes with the French and British lasted until 1892, when its boundaries were officially established. In 1980 a coup led by Gen. Samuel K. Doe
marked the end of the Americo-Liberians' long political dominance over the indigenous Africans. A rebellion in 1989 escalated into a destructive civil war in the 1990s. A peace agreement was reached in 1996, but fighting broke out again in 1999 and lasted until 2003. The National Transitional Government, supported by United Nations peacekeeping troops, was established later that year and ruled until a new administration was democratically elected and installed. Presidential elections were held in late 2005, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was declared the winner; she became the first woman to be elected head of state in Africa.