President of Liberia

President of the
Republic of Liberia
Coat of arms of Liberia.svg
Coat of arms of Liberia
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

since January 16, 2006
Style Madam President
Her Excellency
Residence Executive Mansion
Term length Six years, renewable once
Inaugural holder Joseph Jenkins Roberts
January 3, 1848
Formation Constitution of Liberia
July 26, 1847
Salary US$90,000 annually

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The President of the Republic of Liberia is the head of state and head of government of Liberia. The president serves as the leader of the executive branch and as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia.

Prior to the independence of Liberia in 1847, executive power in the Commonwealth of Liberia was held by the Governor of Liberia, who was appointed by the American Colonization Society. The 1847 Constitution transferred the executive powers of the governorship to the presidency, which was largely modeled on the presidency of the United States.

From 1847 until 1980, the presidency was exclusively held by Americo-Liberians, the original American settlers of Liberia and their descendants. The original two-party system, with the Republican Party and the True Whig Party, ended in 1878, when the election of Anthony W. Gardiner marked the beginning of 102 years of single-party rule by the True Whigs. Following a coup d'état by disgruntled army officers led by Samuel Doe in 1980, the presidency was vacated until the election of Doe in the 1985 general election. After the overthrow of Doe in 1990, the presidency was again vacated for seven years during the First Liberian Civil War and again for two years following the conclusion of the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003.

Under the 1986 Constitution, the president is directly elected by eligible voters to a six-year term, which may be renewed once. Overall, 22 individuals have served as president. On January 16, 2006, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was sworn in as the twenty-fourth and current president, making her the first elected female president in Africa.



Following the establishment of the Commonwealth of Liberia in 1838, executive power was vested in the Governor of Liberia, who was appointed and served at the pleasure of the American Colonization Society. The first governor, Thomas Buchanan, served from 1838 until his death in 1841. He was succeeded by Joseph Jenkins Roberts, the first black governor of Liberia. Upon independence in 1847, Roberts was elected as the first president of Liberia.

The 1847 Constitution denied suffrage to the indigenous population by requiring voters to own real estate. As a result, the presidency was exclusively held by Americo-Liberians until 1980, when a military coup led by Samuel Doe, an ethnic Krahn, overthrew and assassinated President William Tolbert.

The presidency was vacant from 1980 to 1986, with executive power held by Doe as the head of the People's Redemption Council. Doe was later elected president in the 1985 general election, making him the first president outside of the Americo-Liberian elite. Doe was later overthrown and executed in 1990 following the commencement of the First Liberian Civil War, during which the presidency remained vacant.

Following the 1997 general election, Charles Taylor held the presidency until his resignation on August 11, 2003 as part of a peace deal to end the Second Liberian Civil War. His successor, Moses Blah, ceded executive power on October 13 of that year to Gyude Bryant, the Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia. The presidency was resumed on January 16, 2006 following the 2005 election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as the first female president.

Powers and Duties

The presidency of Liberia is largely modeled on the presidency of the United States.

Executive functions

The 1986 Constitution gives the president the power to appoint all cabinet ministers, judges, ambassadors, sheriffs, county officials and military officers with the advice and consent of the Senate. Additionally, the president has the power to dismiss all appointees from office at his or her discretion. The president may also grant pardons or revoke sentences and fines. The president conducts all matters of foreign policy, though any treaties or international agreements must be ratified by both houses of the Legislature. Furthermore, the president serves as the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia.

The Constitution also grants the president the power to declare a state of emergency during times of war or civil unrest and suspend civil liberties during the emergency as necessary, with the exception of habeas corpus. Within seven days of the declaration, the president must state to the Legislature the reasons for the declaration, which both houses must then approve by a two-thirds majority. Otherwise, the president must repeal the state of emergency.

Legislative functions

The president must sign all legislation passed by the House of Representatives and Senate. The president may choose to veto any legislation, which may be overturned by a two-thirds majority in both houses. Additionally, the president may exercise a pocket veto by refusing to sign legislation when the end of the twenty-day deadline for signing the bill falls during a recess of the legislature. The president may extend a legislative session past its adjournment date or call a special extraordinary session when he or she deems it necessary in the national interest.

The president delivers the oath of office to all senators and representatives following his or her own swearing in before a joint session of both houses. The president must also give an annual report to the Legislature on the state of the country.


To be eligible for office under the current Constitution, a presidential candidate must:

  • be a natural born citizen of Liberia;
  • be at least thirty-five years old;
  • own real property valued at least $25,000;
  • have resided in Liberia for at least ten years.

Additionally, the president may not reside in the same county as the Vice President of Liberia.

Term and election

Under the original 1847 Constitution, the president was elected to a two-year term, which was increased to four years on May 7, 1907.[1] No term limits were placed on the presidency.

Currently, the president is elected by popular vote to a six-year term and is limited to two terms. Under the 1986 Constitution, presidential elections utilize a two-round system, wherein a second round of voting is held between the two candidates with the highest number of votes if no single candidate obtains a majority in the first round. Each term begins and ends on the first January 16 after presidential elections are held. At the time of their inauguration, each president is required under the Constitution to take a presidential oath promising to preserve and defend the Constitution and faithfully execute the law. The oath is administered by the Chief Justice of Liberia in front of a joint session of the Legislature.


Executive Mansion in Monrovia

The President of Liberia resides and works out of the Executive Mansion in the capital of Monrovia.[2][3] Located across the street from the Capitol Building in the Capitol Hill district, the current building was constructed during the presidency of William Tubman.[3]

On July 26, 2006, a fire broke out on the fourth floor of the Executive Mansion during Independence Day celebrations, causing significant damage to the structure. As a result, the Office of the President has been temporarily relocated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, located next to the Executive Mansion.

List of Presidents of Liberia


      Nonpartisan       Republican Party       True Whig Party       National Democratic Party       National Patriotic Party       Unity Party

No. President Took office Left office Party Term
Vice President
1 Joseph Jenkins Roberts.jpg Joseph Jenkins Roberts
01848-01-03 January 3, 1848 01856-01-07 January 7, 1856 Nonpartisan 1.
Nathaniel Brander
Anthony D. Williams
Stephen Allen Benson
2 Stephen Allen Benson.jpg Stephen Allen Benson
01856-01-07 January 7, 1856 01864-01-04 January 4, 1864 Nonpartisan 5.
Beverly Page Yates
Daniel Bashiel Warner
3 Daniel Warner2.jpg Daniel Bashiel Warner
01864-01-04 January 4, 1864 01868-01-06 January 6, 1868 Republican 9.
James M. Priest
4 James Payne2.jpg James Spriggs Payne
01868-01-06 January 6, 1868 01870-01-03 January 3, 1870 Republican 11.
Joseph Gibson
5 Edward James Roye2.jpg Edward James Roye
01870-01-03 January 3, 1870 01871-10-26 October 26, 1871 True Whig 12.
James Skivring Smith
6 SkivringSmith.jpg James Skivring Smith
01871-10-26 October 26, 1871 01872-01-01 January 1, 1872 True Whig Vacant
(October 26, 1871 - January 1, 1872)
7 Joseph Jenkins Roberts.jpg Joseph Jenkins Roberts
01872-01-01 January 1, 1872 01876-01-03 January 3, 1876 Republican 13.
Anthony W. Gardiner
8 James Payne2.jpg James Spriggs Payne
01876-01-03 January 3, 1876 01878-01-07 January 7, 1878 Republican 15.
Charles Harmon
9 Gardiner2.jpg Anthony W. Gardiner
01878-01-07 January 7, 1878 01883-01-20 January 20, 1883 True Whig 16.
Alfred Francis Russell
10 Alfred Russell2.jpg Alfred Francis Russell
01883-01-20 January 20, 1883 01884-01-07 January 7, 1884 True Whig Vacant
(January 20, 1883 - January 7, 1884)
11 Hilary Johnson2.jpg Hilary R. W. Johnson
01884-01-07 January 7, 1884 01892-01-04 January 4, 1892 True Whig 19.
James Thompson
12 Joseph Cheeseman2.jpg Joseph James Cheeseman
01892-01-04 January 4, 1892 01896-11-12 November 12, 1896 True Whig 23.
William D. Coleman
13 William Coleman2.jpg William D. Coleman
01896-11-12 November 12, 1896 01900-12-11 December 11, 1900 True Whig Vacant
(November 12, 1896 - January 3, 1898)
Joseph J. Ross
(1900 - January 3, 1902)
14 Garretson Gibson2.jpg Garretson W. Gibson
01900-12-11 December 11, 1900 01904-01-04 January 4, 1904 True Whig
Joseph D. Summerville
15 Arthur Barclay.jpg Arthur Barclay
01904-01-04 January 4, 1904 01912-01-01 January 1, 1912 True Whig 29.
(July 27, 1905 - January 1, 1906)
J. J. Dossen
16 Daniel Edward Howard.jpg Daniel Edward Howard
01912-01-01 January 1, 1912 01920-01-05 January 5, 1920 True Whig 32.
Samuel George Harmon
17 CBD King of Liberia.jpg Charles D. B. King
01920-01-05 January 5, 1920 01930-12-03 December 3, 1930 True Whig 34.
Samuel Alfred Ross
Henry Too Wesley
Samuel Alfred Ross
18 Edwin Barclay portrait.jpg Edwin Barclay
01930-12-03 December 3, 1930 01944-01-03 January 3, 1944 True Whig James Skivring Smith, Jr.
19 William Tubman 1943.jpg William Tubman
01944-01-03 January 3, 1944 01971-07-23 July 23, 1971 True Whig 39.
Clarence Lorenzo Simpson
William R. Tolbert, Jr.
20 William R. Tolbert, Jr..JPG William R. Tolbert, Jr.
01971-07-23 July 23, 1971 01980-04-12 April 12, 1980 True Whig Vacant
(July 23, 1971 - April 1972)
James Edward Greene
(July 22, 1977 - October 31, 1977)
Bennie Dee Warner
Vacant 01980-04-12 April 12, 1980 01986-01-06 January 6, 1986  
21 Samuel Kanyon Doe - Liberian.jpg Samuel Doe
01986-01-06 January 6, 1986 01990-09-09 September 9, 1990 National Democratic 47.
Harry Moniba
Vacant 01990-09-09 September 9, 1990 01997-08-02 August 2, 1997  
22 No free portrait.svg Charles Taylor
01997-08-02 August 2, 1997 02003-08-11 August 11, 2003 National Patriotic 48.
Enoch Dogolea
(June 24, 2000 - July 24, 2000)
Moses Blah
23 No free portrait.svg Moses Blah
02003-08-11 August 11, 2003 02003-10-24 October 24, 2003 National Patriotic Vacant
(August 11, 2003 - October 24, 2003)
Vacant 02003-10-24 October 24, 2003 02006-01-16 January 16, 2006  
24 Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, April 2010.jpg Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
02006-01-16 January 16, 2006 Incumbent Unity 49.
Joseph Boakai
  • Left office early:
[A] Assassinated in a coup d'etat.
[D] Died in office of natural causes.
[R] Resigned.

Interim and Non-Presidential Heads of State


      Nonpartisan       National Democratic Party       Liberian People's Party       Liberian Action Party

No. Name
Position Took office Left office Party
Samuel Kanyon Doe - Liberian.jpg Samuel Doe
Chairman of the People's Redemption Council 01980-04-12 April 12, 1980 01986-01-06 January 6, 1986 National Democratic
No free portrait.svg Dr. Amos Sawyer
(1945– )
President of the Interim Government of National Unity 01990-11-22 November 22, 1990 01994-03-07 March 7, 1994 Liberian People's Party
1 No free portrait.svg David D. Kpormakpor
Chairman of the Council of State 01994-03-07 March 7, 1994 01995-09-01 September 1, 1995 Nonpartisan
2 No free portrait.svg Wilton G. S. Sankawulo
Chairman of the Council of State 01995-09-01 September 1, 1995 01996-09-03 September 3, 1996 Nonpartisan
3 Image is needed female.svg Ruth Perry
(1939– )
Chairwoman of the Council of State 01996-09-03 September 3, 1996 01997-08-02 August 2, 1997 Nonpartisan
Gyude Bryant.jpg Gyude Bryant
(1949– )
Chairman of the National Transitional Government 02003-10-14 October 14, 2003 02006-01-16 January 16, 2006 Liberian Action Party


  1. ^ Starr, Frederick (1913). Liberia: Description, History, Problems. Chicago. p. 256. 
  2. ^ Johnston, Sir Harry Hamilton; Otto Stapf (1906). Liberia. 1. Dodd, Mead & Company. p. 222. 
  3. ^ a b Massaquoi, Hans J. (October 1971). "Liberia: End of the Tubman Era". Ebony: 48. 

See also


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