Year-long celebrations have begun in Liberia to commemorate the time when freed slaves from the US first arrived there two centuries ago.

They then went on to establish the country as an independent republic in 1847.

Thousands were at a ceremony on Monday in the capital, Monrovia, led by President George Weah and attended by a number of West African heads of state, star singers and people from the diaspora – mostly African-Americans.

Liberia’s current economic frustrations under Mr Weah’s presidency prompted many people to ask that the celebrations be cancelled.

US envoy Dana Banks, who spoke at Monday’s ceremony, also urged Liberia to do more to “root out corruption”.

But Information Minister Ledgerhood Rennie told the BBC that Liberia needed to showcase its “rich history and culture – and we should tell the rest of the world that we’re back as a country, shining as the oldest black independent country south of the Sahara”.

“Liberia stood as the pedestal for black independence south of the Sahara and also – far afield – where other nations of black people were looking up to Liberia as a glowing nation on the continent of Africa,” he said.

Celebrations are happening as hospitals run out of drugs as well as fuel to power the generators that are needed to deal with frequent blackouts.

University and secondary school teachers go on strike regularly over salary cuts and delays, the cost of transportation has become unaffordable while underpaid police have developed a habit of erecting checkpoints to collect money from motorists in the name of highway patrol.

Mr Rennie insisted “the economic situation of our country is not bad – the economic boom is going on”.