Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point: Debates: African
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Tuesday, 10 October, 2000, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
Gaddafi's Libya: African brother or simply racist ?

During the past week, thousands of African immigrants living in Libya have been attacked by local residents. Some have had to take refuge in their respective embassies.

News and Information for Africa
Nigeria has already taken steps to repatriate all illegal Nigerian immigrants from Libya. This eruption of xenophobia comes in the face of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's attempts to build an African Union.

So how do you regard Gaddafi's Libya? As a beacon of hope and unity for Africa? Or as a country where racism is as rife as anywhere else?

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

Your reaction

As a Libyan I fully support the revolts that are taking place against Gaddafi's "imported" criminals. Our society, culture and economy is being raped. Ask Mr. Gaddafi: Where is the 350 billion dollars of our national budget missing?
Abdesalam Zoueh, Tripoli, Libya.

The name 'Gaddafi' is an omen and a sign of bloodshed. It connotes terrorism and criminality par excellence. It portends evil to Africa and to the world at large. How can you expect good thing to come out of evil? Gaddafi has not represented any good to Africa. Truly, the only people he can lead are the Libyans since 'in the land of the blinds, one-eyed man is the king'.
Vincent Biyi, Nigeria/Malaysia

The idea of African unity is nothing new

Robert A, Liberia
I have no respect for the man. He speaks of African unity but he allows his country's resources to be used for the killing and displacement of Liberian and Sierre Leoneans. The man may have forgotten or he may not know but the idea of African unity is nothing new. He needs to read up on West African history, particularly the Pan African idea suggested by Guinea, Ghana and Liberia.
Robert A, Liberia

Let's be realistic. Libyan society has to protect the values that made the country such a source of admiration - hence the influx of immigrants. They don't want a repeat of South Africa where crime and social unrest is out of control. My advice is, don't blame Gaddafi and the Libyans, blame your leaders back home.
Franklin Okot, Canada

Gaddafi is a troubled leader for a troubled country in a troubled continent.
Unanimous, Russia

I still regard Gadaffi as an African hero and a strong leader who is at the vanguard of African unity. It is up to every independent country to uphold the constitution of their land and bring to justice anyone who violates the law.
Russ, Liberia

I would not go that far to call Libyans or Gaddafi racist because we Africans should remember who our friends were during the apartheid era. Gaddafi played a key role in the anti-apartheid era. Therefore, he should at least get credit for that.
Zelalem Tamre, Ethiopia/ USA

Let us be more realistic about this issue. If you commit a crime, you have to pay the consequences, that is all that's happened in Libya. Every country has a right to protect their society by any means. I support the Libyan people and their government. Africa would be a better place today if we had more leaders like Gaddafi.
Ashraf Ali, Somalia

Gaddifi is truly a beacon of hope and unity in Africa

Charles Puyue Karrow, Liberia/ USA
Gaddafi is truly a son of African redemption and all Africans should respect his views. He's one of the few African presidents who is able to stand up to the West and tell them what's right or wrong. America and the rest of the West always want to tell Africa what to do which is nonsense. We can solve our own problems if we are given the chance. Gaddifi is truly a beacon of hope and unity in Africa. The other is Charles Taylor.
Charles Puyue Karrow, Liberia/ USA

Those who buy into Gaddafi's promises, no matter where they come from, are either ignorant of his reality, or else they know it but choose to gamble with their own and their citizens' safety and future. It is foolish to think that the governments of Africa are ignorant of Gaddafi's record. They have no one to blame but their own greed and opportunism.
J. B. Khisha, Libyan-American in USA

The truth is out. There can never be any 'African Unity' with the Arabs of the Maghreb. They see themselves as Middle Eastern and not African.
Tawanda Maromo, Zimbabwe

The recent deportation of a few Africans from Tripoli shouldn't nullify Gaddafi's credit and struggle towards uniting African nations. A country is entitled to take its own legal measures when people violate its laws and that is what happened to the illegal African immigrants.
Nebiyou Desalegn, USA/ Ethiopia

Is Gaddafi a racist? Is the sky blue? Is it cold in the Antarctic? People often wonder why there are so many wars in Africa. Well, the answer is in Tripoli. Gaddafi has sown, financed, and midwifed conflicts everywhere in Africa. It is obvious that the lives of black Africans mean nothing to him. In my book, that makes him a racist.
Jane Bangura, Sierra Leone

Gaddafi's acts are directed by his urge to gain popularity so that he can have some political gains in future. He is committing a heinous crime against the human race and doesn't know that he is causing an embarrassment to his country!
Riteshverma, India

I do not think Libyans are any more racist than other people

Daniel Berhane, Eritrea/ UK
Let's be a bit realistic about racism. There is no society or country in the word where it doesn't exist. We need to speak in relative terms and I do not think Libyans are any more racist than any other people. Racism starts to occur when citizens of one country feel threatened by a big influx of immigrants who are now becoming a economical necessity for the more developed nations.
Daniel Berhane, Eritrea/ UK

African nations have to be strong economically before unity can be achieved. We have to strengthen regional economies, through trade, market reforms, banking and currency evaluation before true African unity can exist.
Ras Dennis, Liberia

Libya never has been and never will be a racist country. I am proud of being a Libyan and it really hurts to be called a racist. What's happened in Libya is that we try to protect our society from those thugs who attempt to offend our generosity and integrity. We are a very conservative society and we will never allow people to abuse our religion by selling alcohol and drugs. We are proud of our leader and we will support him for achieving his goals.
K.S. Nasser, Dublin (Ireland)

I think most African leaders are afraid of Gaddafi and it's very sad for the continent.
Laurent Lorenzo, UK

The Libyan outburst has its roots in the black Africans' disregard for Libyan traditions

Mustafa Saleem, Libya
I think it is unfair to label Libyans as racists. But it is fair to say Gaddafi is. Indeed, even within Libya, Gaddafi has a stratification system whereby members of his tribe have power and money without having to work for it. However, the Libyan outburst has its roots in the black Africans' disregard for Libyan traditions. Too many of them took Gaddafi's invitation as a license to do as they wish, including selling drugs and prostitution. Many black Africans worked and lived in Libya in the past with few problems because they respected the host people's values and traditions.
Mustafa Saleem, Libya

Gaddafi is neither a beacon of hope and unity for Africa nor the Arab world - that position is simply too big for him. The problem with Mr Gaddafi is that he is not a politician; he is more like a traditional leader who just happened to be in the wrong job. He lacks any consistency in politics and he hardly takes anything seriously. Even people who don't have any grudge against him don't trust him because of his sudden change of heart, often without a good reason. As for racism, I think the people of Libya are like any other people in the world.
Mohamoud H. Hassan, Somaliland

Gaddafi should work with other Africans on what they want and not what Libya and Gaddafi want for the continent. Let the Libyans and Gaddafi prove their love for Africa by at least accommodating other Africans in Libya.
Ugo Harris, Nigeria

Gaddafi is just simply protecting his home front from colonial looters which I believe we all have seen in the past. If he is doing or trying to make fellow Africans to be conscious, does that make him a racist?
Ernest Omo-Abu, USA/Nigeria

Kabbah has made Gadaffi a sort of Godfather with whom he consults every move of his Army

Hashim K Daboh, Sierra Leone
Despite abundant facts that the mayhem in Sierra Leone now engulfing the sub-region has its root and continued life blood in Tripoli, not a single word of condemnation from our leaders. Rather Kabbah has made Gadaffi a sort of Godfather with whom he consults every move of his Army.
Hashim K Daboh, Sierra Leone

Is it racism if someone doesn't want to be offended by his religion and dignity? No of course. I think what Gaddafi is saying no to alcohol, prostitution and drugs; which are already destroying Islamic culture.
Abdirisaq sh. Mahamud, USA

How do you believe that Gadaffi is interested to unify Africa? He is racist and has a hidden agenda that is simply to spread his philosophy or "Libyanism" to Africa. He is trying to exploit some poor African nation. He is trying to be popular in Africa by donating money to some poor nation. If he wants African Unity what happen in Libya should not be occur. I really feel sorry to those African brothers who become victims in Libya. Gaddafi should be ashamed of himself.
Yesuf, Egypt

This is definitely a country where it does not matter what you know but who you know

James Cameron, UK/ Tripoli
I am presently an ex-pat working in Tripoli. The recent troubles have been explosive in the extreme based upon several factors. The main one is the lack of direction of Libyan youths who can only achieve success by knowing someone in power. This is definitely a country where it does not matter what you know but who you know. It's called wasta and this means that fully qualified doctors work for several years for free simply for experience. But someone from a rich background with contacts can become even richer. This leads to a generation without hope and therefore looking for a target. In the latest disturbances it was clearly the 12-18 year olds that were at the forefront.
James Cameron, UK/ Tripoli

One only has to look the war in Sudan and slavery in Mauritania, to know that there is a deep divide between Arab and Black Africa. If you ignore the grandiose statements of people like Gaddafi, the reality is that Arab Africa looks to the Middle East and the Mediterranean as its natural home not Africa. A lot of North African consider themselves, nationals of their country first, Arabs second, and Africans last if at all.
Jacob Taylor, Sierra Leone in UK

Racism is caused by ignorance coupled with scarcity and it is little wonder why tensions arose

Daud Mohammed, Somalia
I can only speak for those Libyans I have met and they have all been kind, generous and beautiful people. Racism is caused by ignorance coupled with scarcity and it is little wonder why tensions arose.
Daud Mohammed, Somalia

Gaddafi is too arrogant. And his behaviour has also made Libyan people blindly arrogant. Such arrogance has simply become racism. Gaddafi is too irrational and the only people he can lead are the Libyans.
Kolawole Raheem, Finland

In my association with Arabs, l think they are the biggest racists l have ever known. The recent assault on African immigrants in Libya is a heinous crime and entirely contradicts the preaching of Gaddafi's Africanism.
Sheikh Abdullahi Irshat, Somalia

Gaddafi, a beacon of hope and unity in Africa? What a joke. Does he think that the world has forgotten that he still has blood on his hands? African leaders are afraid of him. They do not want to annoy him knowing fully well that he is capable of committing heinous crimes in any part of Africa.
Henry Williams, New York/ Sierra Leone

During slavery, Africans were sent both East (to the Arab world) and West to the Americas. The slaves endured inhumane treatment on both sides, but several generations later, those that went to the Americas at least claimed some of their freedom. But the slaves that went East to the Arab world were not that lucky. I am not saying all Arabs are racists, but the majority look down on Africans, based on their mistaken race profiling, which is there are whites, then Arabs, finally Africans!
Yonas Afeworki, Eritrea/USA

Gaddafi's Libya is no more a beacon of hope and unity for Africa than a mere country where racism is as rife as anywhere else or even more. How can the Libyan authorities allow the local residents to attack their fellow African immigrants, harassing and intimidating them in the eyes of the so-called African freedom fighters? I understand that it is getting worst to the extend that some immigrants have had to take refuge in their respective embassies. What a total embarrassment and disgrace to Africa!
S.T. Saine, The Gambia

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

29 Sep 00 | Africa
Libyan unrest over immigration
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to other African stories