Indigenous African tribes constitute 95% of the population. Besides the descendants of the early settlers, Liberia is peopled by about 28 ethnic groups, each with its own language. They are believed to have migrated from the north and east between the 12th and 16th centuries AD , bringing with them elements of Egyptian and Arabian culture, such as the spinning and weaving of cotton and the smelting of iron. Linguistically, the tribes may be divided into three main groups: the Mande people in the north and far west, the Kru tribes (including the Krahn) in the east and southeast, and the Mel in the northwest. The largest groups are the Kpellé, Bassa, Gio, Kru, Grebo, Mano, Krahn, Gola, Gbandi, Loma, Kissi, Vai, and Bella. About 2.5% of the population is Americo-Liberian, descendants of immigrants from the US who had been slaves. There are also two tribes not strictly Liberian: the Mandingo, who are itinerant Muslim traders, and the Fanti fishermen, who come from Ghana and stay a few years at a time in Liberia.
Because of intermarriage and an aggressive national unification program, tribal divisions are rapidly becoming less distinct, especially around the capital. Nevertheless, there is a strong tendency among the indigenous people to preserve their tribal identities.
Of the non-African resident population, the biggest component consists of Lebanese and Syrians.