Nigeria – Libya row: Liberia’s President Johnson Sirleaf intervenes

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Liberia’s President Ms. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has moved to broker peace between Nigeria and Libya following a strain in diplomatic relations after Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi advised Nigeria to split- first on religious lines before he suggested a split on ethnic lines. Nigeria withdrew its ambassador from Tripoli in disapproval.

According to reports, acting Nigerian President Mr. Goodluck Jonathan met with Libya’s five-man delegation, led by Muhammed Sherif, secretary general of the Tripoli-based World Islamic Call Society (WICS), on Wednesday March 31, in a meeting organized by President Sirleaf.

“The meeting is actually an initiative of President Johnson Sirleaf to broker rapprochement between Nigeria and Libya … to establish the level of rapport so that the two nations can put behind them the recent statement,” spokesman of Nigerian Acting President Ima Niboro was quoted as saying.

According to Niboro the Liberian president’s move aims to reinstate African unity, pull brothers together so they can move ahead.

“It is a process that is continuing. This meeting will continue until Nigeria and Libya are able to resolve this issue. Johnson-Sirleaf was worried about Gaddafi’s statements and their potential effects on African unity, that is why she came and she has made this commendable effort to broker this peace,” Niboro said.

According to Gaddafi, “Nigeria … resembles the Yugoslav union which included several peoples, like Nigeria, and then these people gained independence and the Yugoslav union was ended in peace. The model that fits Nigeria is the Yugoslav one.

“The Yoruba people in the west and south demand independence, while the Igbo people live in the east and south. It became clear that the Ijaw people demand independence and the [Hausa] people in the north call for the establishment of the [Hausa] state.”

Nigerian political analysts had described Gaddafi’s comments as insensitive and irresponsible and diminishes his status and credibility.

As a result of Gaddafi’s claims, some sections of Nigerians suspect that he [Gaddafi] may have sponsored the recent bout of violent clashes between Muslim and Christian gangs that killed hundreds of people around the central Nigerian city of Jos.

And because Gaddafi has a been previously accused of sponsoring rebellions in states like Sierra Leone, Liberia, and DR Congo, some Nigerians feel their suspicion of Gaddafi’s role in these bouts of religious conflicts and uprisings in northern Nigeria are not far-fetched.

However, analysts believe that tensions would be reduced between both countries following Wednesdays meeting organized by President Sirleaf.

In 2006, president Sirleaf was ranked 51 among the most powerful women in the world, by Forbes magazine. She is the first elected black female head of state in the world.

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