Wide Angle

History : When Muammar Gaddafi angered king Mohammed VI by calling him «my son»

At the beginning of the 21st century, Morocco and Libya worked on strengthening their bilateral ties. In 2001, King Mohammed VI visited Tripoli, where he met Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. The latter, however, was rude to the Moroccan monarch whom he called «my son».

Former Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Morocco's King Mohammed VI and Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on April 3rd, 2000, on the sidelines of a first-ever EU-Africa summit in Cairo./Ph. AFP
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Bilateral relations between Morocco and Libya were marked by decades of animosity and mistrust during the reign of King Hassan II. The situation worsened when the North African country decided to support the Polisario Front.

But even after King Hassan II passed away and King Mohammed VI ascended the throne relations between Rabat and Tripoli remained cold. Despite Morocco’s attempts to overcome differences and normalize ties with Libya at the beginning of the 21st century, the behavior of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi prevented that from happening.

Gaddafi’s annoying comments

In November 2000, Moroccan Prime Minister Abderrahmane Youssoufi announced that king Mohammed VI was to visit Libya for the first time. Arabic international newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported, at the time, that the Moroccan sovereign had informed Libya’s former Prime Minister Imbarek Shamekh of his intention to meet the Libyan leader.


According to the book of Sudanese journalist and writer Talha Jibril «The King and the Colonel» (Dar Bou Regreg, 2013), king Mohammed VI visited Libya in January 2001. Jibril wrote that he «was part of the press delegation accompanying the Moroccan monarch for his visit to Libya».

Talha Jibril stressed that King Mohammed VI’s trip to Libya was marked by «improvisation in terms of protocol». «The dinner held by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in honor of King Mohammed VI was hosted in a tent and the food presented was prepared by cooks from Yugoslavia», he recalled.

According to the same source, Gaddafi called the Moroccan King who has just ascended the throne my «son Mohammed», which «was not appreciated by the king, who preferred to hide his discontentment».

During the dinner held near Bab Al-Azizia in Tripoli, Gaddafi showed the Moroccan King a photo he had taken with King Hassan II, which according to Jibril had «no significance».

The same account was confirmed by the former Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalgham who declared in an interview published on July the 11th, 2011, by London-based newspaper Al-Hayat that Gaddafi was «rude» to several Arab leaders.

«Gaddafi once called Tanzanian President (Jakaya Kikewete), who is 61 years old, my son», Shalgham said. The Libyan Colonel did the same thing with King Mohammed VI, who did not like that appellation, King Abdullah II and Bashar Al Assad. To the former Foreign Minister, Gaddafi used this method to «make his addressees believe that he is more important and more experienced than them».

Gaddafi and Abderrahmane Youssoufi

When receiving King Mohammed VI, Gaddafi spent most of the time «talking about the Community of Sahel-Saharan States», a free trade area within Africa created in 1998. At the time, he invited the Moroccan monarch to participate to the Community of Sahel-Saharan States summit held in Khartoum.

However, the King ended up not attending the summit and sent Prime Minister Abderrahmane Youssoufi instead to the Sudanese capital to represent Morocco at the meeting, which Gaddafi did not like.

When Gaddafi met Youssoufi at the summit he couldn’t hide his «disappointment» at the fact that the King did not attend the meeting although he promised him to do it in Tripoli.

At the summit, Gaddafi and the Moroccan Prime Minister did not get along after a brief conversation on the Western Sahara dispute. According to Talha Jibril, during their meeting, Gaddafi insisted on calling Youssoufi «Abderahim» just out of spite.

Despite King Mohammed VI’s visit to Libya, relations between the two leaders remained filled with «animosity and mistrust». In fact, Gaddafi insisted on providing help and support for the Polisario Front.

In 2009, the Colonel invited the Polisario’s former leader Mohamed Abdelaziz to attend the September Revolution festivities, which angered King Mohammed VI. The latter ordered a «Moroccan delegation that was attending the event to withdraw and leave Libya», Jibril wrote.

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