SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has suggested that Nigeria be broken up into several states along ethnic lines like the former Yugoslavia, in comments likely to worsen a diplomatic spat with Africa’s most populous nation.
Nigeria recalled its ambassador from Tripoli earlier this month when Gaddafi proposed that Nigeria split into two countries formed from the Muslim north and mainly Christian south.
His comment followed violent clashes between Muslim and Christian gangs that killed hundreds of people around the central Nigerian city of Jos and prompted Nigeria’s government to question whether Libya might be sponsoring the violence.
Nigeria said Gaddafi’s comments were insensitive and irresponsible and “diminished his status and credibility”.
Responding to the Nigerian government, Gaddafi repeated the idea of dismantling the country, but this time suggested not two but several independent states for its multiple ethnic groups.
“The partition into Christian and Muslim states will not resolve Nigeria’s problems because there are other peoples claiming independence despite the religion issue,” official news agency JANA cited Gaddafi as saying.
He compared Nigeria to the former Yugoslavia, which collapsed after the end of the Soviet Union and split into several independent states, sparking conflicts in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and then Kosovo.
“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,” said Gaddafi. “The model that fits Nigeria is the Yugoslav one.”
Gaddafi was chairman of the African Union until recently and has adopted the title “King of African Kings”, but the veteran Libyan leader has a mixed reputation on the continent.
Praised by some African leaders as a generous benefactor and champion of development, he stands accused by others of financing rebellions and fomenting instability, often to counter the interests of the United States and its allies.