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Monday, 9 July, 2001, 17:08 GMT 18:08 UK
Do Africans love their neighbours?
A vessel crowded with Liberians recently spent a month at sea after being refused entry from a variety of nearby ports.

A voyage, which should have taken a mere five days, turned into a nightmare of sickness and starvation.

Some of the refugees, including children, were in poor health and the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) expressed concern over their plight.

The Nigerian Government finally allowed the ship to dock in Lagos, saying it was taking humanitarian action in order to prevent a tragedy.

Has Africa lost its famed qualities of welcome and hospitality? Do Africans love their neighbours?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The major problem is host fatigue

G D Roberts, Liberian/Washington DC,
Being a refugee for the past ten years and having lived and travelled to most of the countries that reject the landing of the Liberians, the major problem is host fatigue. African hospitality is still alive but it is time Liberians and their leaders prioritise peace so we can stay at home.
G D Roberts, Liberian/Washington DC,

My country has played a host to hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers in its entire history as an independent nation. Back in time we had had the South Africans, the Mozambicans, and the former Rhodesians during their independence struggles. We are currently hosting a threatening flow of desperate Congolese, Rwandans and Burundians; and all this against the backdrop of our social and economic hardships as a nation. For God's sake what love is more affectionate than that?
Aboud Suleiman, Zanzibar, Tanzania

I think that the problem we, as Africans have today is the adoption of European culture, which unfortunately is not good for us.
Lehlokwa, South Africa

Neighbours helping neighbours philosophically is a new phenomenon. Rules and regulations softened the attitude of human beings towards each other (civil or spiritual). Without these, Man my dear friends is wolf to Man.
Henry Williams, New York/Sierra Leone

I agree with Cillaty Daboh. At the start of the Liberian civil war we Sierra Leoneans took Liberians into our homes because thought of them as family. In return we were given a war of our own courtesy of Charles Taylor. We will help our neighbours, but not at the expense of the lives of our families and friends, we have lost enough already.
Lloyd J. Mac-Thompson, USA / Sierra Leone

Hospitality is part of our nature

Zain Omar, Accra Ghana
Brothers and sisters, hospitality is part of our nature, we can't change that. That's why we are victims in the hand of westerners who took advantage of it. But for us not accepting our own people is scary. I would not blame Ghana as such because Ghana already has thousands of Liberian refugees in Accra. As Africans, our nature is very spiritual and moral and we respect human nature but when we start getting western civilization and their education system then we become a lost generation. Let's go back to principle of our nature, then we can really love our people. It is unfortunate that African leaders are all westernised. A glass of wine is ok for them while their own people starve. How did we become like this when the root of civilization came from us and we end up chasing other civilizations. We really have to look into this western education that millions of us are getting into.
Zain Omar, Accra Ghana

Africa may have lost everything but will never let go of love for human kind. There is nowhere on the planet earth where people are treated with love and dignity like Africa and that is why receiving refugees is very natural and was expected of Nigerians.
Lilian Kimeto, Kenya

I've been in Namibia for three months and there wasn't one person who didn't show hospitality. Poor people who did anything for us to get on well. People in Africa are rich in another way - a way that I want everybody to be. So I'm moving!
Nina Svensson, Sweden

The Nigerian authorities have shown that African love and hospitality is still very much alive

Dolores Atwood, Canada
It is often said "that charity begins at home". The Nigerian authorities have shown that African love and hospitality is still very much alive. Nigerians known for their generosity, despite their own hardship, have welcome these Liberians. Let us not condemn the Ghanaians or Togolise authorities. Instead, condemn the war in Liberia and those who are responsible for it.
Dolores Atwood, Canada

Due to corruption, wars and evil leaders in the continent, it looks like people have lost their sense of being good neighbours. People are becoming a kind of "Who Cares!" type.
Genanaw, USA

The US constantly restricts Mexican economic refugees from crossing in to the US. Why then should an isolated case in Western Africa qualify the entire Africa as being inhospitable and unloving!
Stephen Mbola, Kenya

Africans are still their neighbours' keepers. They are still a united force despite too much politicking on the continent. Whatever happened to the Liberian ship was unfortunate and it is hoped nothing similar would ever happen again. Our hospitality can never be erased for as long as we remain Africans. It is a part of the continent and will remain as such.
Sedinam Akpedonu, Ghana

The African tradition of love thy neighbour is still alive

Cillaty Daboh, USA/ Sierra Leone
The African tradition of love thy neighbour is still alive even though the recent Liberian refugee ship saga may say otherwise. In a continent where war lords rule supreme and territorial ambitions of dictators have become larger than the scramble for Africa by Europeans, one cannot help but understand why those countries refused berthing rights to the vessel carrying Liberian refugees. I love my fellow Africans, but when they come in droves from countries like Charles Taylor's Liberia, my African hospitality will become secondary to my personal safety.
Cillaty Daboh, USA/ Sierra Leone.

All I can speak for is West Africa and I can say no, we do not love our neighbours. Peace and stability is hard to maintain because there is always one country after another who is having civil unrest and needs help from its neighbour. All the West African countries have had their ups and downs but once they prosper again they forget that they were once in the same situation and think too highly of themselves to understand where another country's problems may be coming from. Time will heal each country's wounds but if we don't learn from our mistakes and help others in the same situation, we will be doomed to continue this un- neighbourly cycle.
Shodeke, Liberia/USA

Heathrow or New York would have equally sent them packing

S. Ike, Nigeria
Shameful, at least, is the action of these West African countries. The reason for turning back their Liberian brothers, borders on western values - in order to preserve their new economic spoils, they have adopted western immigration tendencies to deny the poor and accept the rich and thieves. The goal is to present Ghana and Togo as tourist heaven, not a sprawl of refugees. However, if these were ex-convicts with thick sacks of stolen wealth, the president would have granted them automatic citizenship, even while still in territorial waters. It also flies in the face of the "Free-Movement" ECOWAS doctrine, which permits a 90day visa free travel amongst citizens of member nations. The poor will be treated alike everywhere -- Heathrow or New York would have equally sent them packing on the next available flight. What an unbecoming world we inhabit.
S. Ike, Nigeria

You cannot judge the whole of Africa by what one or two criminals did. We Africans love our neighbours, we may not like some of the leaders (criminals). After all there are so many refugees in Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania and in so many others. African people are very loving people!
FIT, Canada

It is unfortunate humanitarian assistance was not extended soon enough for those Liberian refugees. This obviously is inhumane and typically un-African. I believe that Africans would have welcomed them warmly if they had crossed into another country by land. But because this was a sea borne incident, politicians have to take blame because they are the ones to allow such cases. Politics has evaded some Africans who believe that every man is for himself. This is not for a majority of Africans! Pan Africanism boils in their blood ready to share whatever little they have with their brethren.
Huruma, Uganda

These countries don't have the capability to feed their own people let alone absorb constant immigration of people

Desta Woudenh, Ethiopia/USA
No. Africa did not lose its famed qualities of welcome and hospitality. Unfortunately, as the result of many natural disasters, wars and human stupidities the people are forced to leave their homeland and go to their neighbouring countries. As most of you know, these countries don't have the capability to feed their own people let alone absorb constant immigration of people to their countries from their neighbours. If you go to Sudan, Ethiopia or Kenya you see a large number of refugees living with the locals without a lot of problems. It was not until a few years ago in Sudan people eat outside and invite anyone who pass by their house to sit and eat with them. I think the fact that one of the poorest countries in the world still taking refugees from their neighbouring countries for me is the sign of qualities of welcome and hospitality.
Desta Woudenh, Ethiopia/USA

The title is misleading. African hospitality is unsurpassed. One only needs to go there to see it for himself. The shameful conduct of present day African leaders should not be used as a way to tarnish our reputation.
Muhudin Omar Rageh, Somali living in Finland

Which Western country (Europe or the U.S.) would have accepted a boatload of African refugees? Probably not one.
Susan Feldmann, USA

It is quite normal for households to admit people who are not related to them

UE, Nigeria/UK
Certainly not. Regrettably, the rest of the world often judges us by the standards of the various criminal gangs that rule most of our continent. In traditional African societies, it is quite normal for households to admit people who are not related to them, even when no one is sure where the next meal is coming from. The so-called leaders in this tragic case did not act, for the simple reason that they do not have any social conscience or sense of responsibility - not even towards their own citizens. They obviously do not represent us in any sense. They are a pack of criminals, and a disgrace to humanity.
UE, Nigeria/UK

The rejection of the Liberians vessel should not been seen as lack of love for their brothers. West African country and Nigeria in particular have put in both human and material resources for peace in Liberia. Most country have their domestic problems to handle. If Liberians in spite of all their West African sisters have done for them cannot maintain peace, then the action of Ghana and others should not be taken to wicked. After all, there are still many Liberian refugees living these countries in question. Liberians themselves especially their leaders should be held responsible for all this unbrotherly attitude.
Peter Emusa, Canada.

Love thy neighbour in the hearts of Africans is still alive and well, but when politics infiltrates their thinking they turn their hearts into warriors. The geopolitical influence we are going through is so far from religious dogmas. It will take many preachers to restore the warmness to our neighbours.
Giraane, Congo

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