Liberia’s president brokered talks between Nigeria and Libya to try to ease tension between the two countries after Libya’s leader suggested Nigeria be broken up along ethnic lines.
Nigeria recalled its ambassador from Tripoli earlier this month when Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi proposed that Nigeria be split into two countries formed from the Muslim north and mainly Christian south.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and a Libyan envoy met Nigeria’s acting president in Abuja yesterday, but were unable settle the dispute immediately.
“The purpose of the meeting basically is to establish the level of rapport so that the two nations can put behind them the recent statement that has been made and move forward,” said Ima Niboro, spokesperson for Nigeria’s presidency.
“The next step is that this meeting will continue until Nigeria and Libya are able to resolve this issue.”
Gaddafi this week repeated the idea of dismantling Nigeria, but this time suggested not two, but several, independent states for its multiple ethnic groups.
Hundreds of people have been killed in violent clashes this year between Muslim and Christian gangs around the central Nigerian city of Jos and prompted the government to question whether Libya might be sponsoring the violence.
“(Nigeria’s) acting president made it abundantly clear that all leaders should be diplomatic in their comments about other nations,” Niboro said.
“There are certain kind of statements that you can make that can substantially ruffle feathers in other nations.”
The Liberian leader and members of the Libyan delegation declined to comment. It was unclear when the next meeting might take place.
Gaddafi was chairman of the African Union until recently and has adopted the title “King of African Kings”, but the veteran leader has a mixed reputation on the continent.
Praised by some leaders as a generous benefactor and a champion of development, he is accused by others of financing rebellions and fomenting instability, often to counter the interests of the United States and its allies.
Pic: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia