The survival of the biafran civilian population during the nigeria civil war icon

The survival of the biafran civilian population during the nigeria civil war

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Keynote Address

Biafra, Civil War, and Genocide

Michael J. C. Echeruo

William Safire Professor of Modern Letters

Dept of English, Syracuse University, USA

My Address will be based on a personal experience of the Biafra-Nigeria War. I intend to speak to some elements in the causes of the War, the actual conduct of the war on both sides, and the very manner of the ending of the War in January, 1970. I hope to show how and why the underlying motivation for the war was genocidal rather than political. Biafra should stand in the world’s conscience as a monument to the possibility of successfully resisting “final solutions.”




Bernard Nnamdi Adinuba

Department of International Studies

University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos Nigeria

Scholars, analysts and commentators on the Biafran war are chagrined to understand the enigma behind the survival of the mass population in spite of the severe economic blockade and continuous shelling, bombarding and massive air raids unleashed on the zone by the federal troops, thus leaving in their trail hordes of destitute and refugee causalities. Answers to this and other related posers are located in the apostolic zeal to the point of martyrdom with which a consortium of religious and humanitarian organizations embarked on the rescue mission of saving a starving population with a view to forestalling the genocidal mission of the Nigeria Military Government acting in tandem with its British and Soviet backers and arms suppliers. By their selfless service to humanity, at the risk of their precious lives, these agency officials undertook the daunting task of feeding, clothing and administering to the health-care needs of a defenseless people. Their strictly, nightly flights, using Hercules cargo planes were routed at various times through Cotonou, Sao Tome, Fernando Po and Libreville airports, to the efficiently run terminal airstrip complex at Uli. This paper examines the relief delivery and its distribution strategy to the numerous refugee camps and sickbays.

The indefatigable role of the charity organizations notwithstanding, the paper also looks at the selfless effort of the people themselves, exemplified in the farming activities in the safer areas and more interesting, the cross-border trade known in the local parlance as “ahia attack”, the proceeds of which gave succor to the starving population. Sight cannot however be lost in the diplomatic initiatives of the Biafran Government which among others earned it the recognition of well meaning governments both in Europe and Africa and whose deliveries of large tonnage of relief materials also paid off, even as the Biafran currency achieved the status of legal tender in far off places like Lisbon.



Bernard Nnamdi Adinuba

Department of International Studies

University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos Nigeria

Since the Biafran war, there has been persistent and vociferous denials by the General Gowon regime and its successors that the genocidal charges as leveled by the Biafran authorities were baseless propaganda serving rather as General Ojukwu’s grand design of using starvation as a political weapon to attract the sympathy of the world with a view to achieving political recognition . The objective of this paper however, is to demonstrate that beyond General Gowon’s pious Christian looks and the saccharine image painted by the British on their role in the conflict, it was in all intents and purposes a state sponsored bulwark campaign aimed at finding ‘a final solution’ to ‘a problem population’. The ethnic cleansing content of the conflict agrees in all ramifications with the UN Convention Article 11 definition on Genocide. It ought to be noted that the war started as a pogrom-like massacre of the Igbos and others of Eastern Nigeria origin domiciled in the different northern and western parts of the federation and ended likewise. Inspite of the fact that it ended officially in January 1970, the federal soldiers billeting at the different towns of the war torn enclave took to rapping, killing and decimating the population with the result that the number of people killed in the six months post-war peace period nearly equaled those who died as the conflict raged. The paper therefore takes a hard look at the report of the International Observer Team on which platform the denials are anchored and dismisses it as biased, subjective and apologetic. It is against this backdrop that the essay concludes, that the effete and defective binoculars and modus operandi with which the International Community viewed the conflict was among the factors that gave vent to the eruption of other preventable, horrendous crimes against humanity as occurred in the post-Biafra era in Burundi, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and others in Africa.


^ From Biafrans to Niger Deltans: Changing Paradoxes of Oil, State

and Genocide in Post-Civil War Nigeria.

Kenneth N. AKALI

Dept. of History and Strategic Studies,

University of Lagos.

The contradictions that constitute the Nigerian state, which first manifested in political crises, military coups -the fall of the first republic in 1966- and the consequent genocidal civil war against the secessionist Eastern flank of Nigeria, have turned full circle and paradoxical in the current fourth republic against minority Niger Deltans. This is depicted in the post civil war domination and contradictory dynamics of state-power, in the ruling elite’s marginalization of minorities and appropriating oil rents and other hydrocarbons resources that has turned genocidal today-from the Igbo to other peoples- in the Niger Delta Basin.

The historical root of the current Joint Task Force (JTF) military incursion in the Niger Delta is located in the scorning of the Willink Minority Commission Report of 1959 for the special treatment of people located in the Delta; Isaac Adaka Boro’s “12-Day Revolution” grievances, and the genocide committed against the Igbo people in the civil war 40 years ago. This primitive quest for hegemony and state-power has pauperized the Ijaw, Ogoni and other ethnic nationalities of the region, hence, their struggles against the state and oil transnational companies for oil rents, environmental remediation, and social justice.

This budding genocide in the area currently depicts the paradoxical dynamics of oil, state, society, resources rights, and revenue distribution in Nigeria. Especially, the contradictions of post civil war Nigeria, because, most of the minority elements/ethnies that supported the federal state against the secessionist Biafra’s clamor for self-determination are today vanquished and being decimated by the Hausa-Fulani ruling elites that used them as instruments of destabilization during the civil war. This paper critiques the systematic genocide of the Nigerian state against it people, especially with the current use of warfare and aerial bombardment of civilians in the state’s avowed quest to deal with oil criminals in the Delta and the Gulf of Guinea.


^ The “Biafranisation” of Igbo Identity: Rethinking the Igbo in Post-Civil War Relations

and Nation-Building in Nigeria

Kenneth N. AKALI

Dept. of History and Strategic Studies,

University of Lagos.

In reviewing forty years of the Nigerian Civil war that commenced with ethnic pogroms against peoples of Eastern Nigeria and later their proclamation of the republic of Biafra on May 30 1969, the consequently 30 month civil war from July 6, 1969 to January 15, 1970. It is imperative to reflect on the post civil war national identity and nation building that was predicated on the “no victor no vanquished”, “re-conciliation”, and “rehabilitation” slogans of the federal government. Especially, against the background of subtle economic pauperization and political and economic marginalization of the Igbo people in their quest for enterprise and nation-building.

This paper specifically, examines this phenomenon “Biafranisation” or fear of “the Igbo factor” in Nigerian state and society today. Some of its manifestation is seen in the discrimination against the Igbo in finding employment and occupying federal offices; lack of public infrastructures development in the Eastern flank of Nigeria; identity crisis and the dissociation of some Igbo sub-group from the larger Igbo population after the war, for example changing the names of towns in Ikwerre land in Rivers state, and Igboid speaking peoples west of the Niger river; and finally in the post civil war distortion of the “Ndi-Igbo” identity as secessionist stigmatization, despite the changing dynamics of state and post civil war geographical reconfigurations in Nigeria.

The paper examines this Igbo quest in overcoming discrimination and ethnocentrisms 40 years after the war. Despite their devastation into becoming one of the poorest ethnic groups in Nigeria in the early 1970s. Their economic resolve to progress against all odds led them to gradually redevelop Igboland and southern Nigeria economically in the last thirty years. Thus, they again have prospered with the setting up of new factories in Eastern and Western Nigeria, through private businesses. Especially, the networks of informal trade that still constitute the bulk of Nigerian economy, without sulking about their executive marginalization in power.


The Use of Spirutal and Magical Powers in Africa Wars.

Femi Ayeola

Department of History,
University of Ibadan, Nigeria

This paper examines the use of magical powers in African warfare. As the paper argues, the use of magical power, witchcraft and voodoos in warfare conforms to Africans pre-colonial religious milieu, which not only manifested in their day-to-day life experiences but also agrees with their religious beliefs. As manifested in the 19th century Yoruba wars, the Buganda Buyoro wars in Uganda and the Chaka De Zulu wars in South Africa; magical powers form one of the numerous military hardware that cannot be understood unless in accordance with Africa's socio-economic and religio-cultural worldviews.

With examples drawn largely from the 19th century Yoruba war as well as current development in Nigeria, where herbal medicines, spiritual healings, etc dominated radio, televisions' airtime; the paper situate the use of magical and spiritual powers within the religio-cultural expression of Yoruba people and argues further that such practices as the raping of children as young as 3years old as antidotes to contacting or curing HIV/AIDS as witnessed in Southern Africa, West Africa and other areas in Africa conforms with the peoples beliefs in magic and witchcraft.

Using data obtained through oral interview, written and archival documents, the paper advocates for a more nuanced people-focused campaigns capable of addressing deep-sitting religio-cultural sentiments as represented by the use of magical powers


The Contexts of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in Civil Wars:

A Critical appraisal of the Biafra-Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970)

Olajide O. Akanji

Department of Political Science,

University of Ibadan, Nigeria,

1967-1970 marked a dark period in the annals of the political history of Nigeria. It was a period of civil war between the federal government of Nigeria and the break-away Republic of Biafra. At the onset of hostilities there was high expectation of an early victory on the Nigerian side. However, as the war became protracted; dragging on for thirty months, all kinds of military tactics and strategies were employed by the federal troops to ensure victory at all cost. What were some of the military tactics and strategies employed by the federal troops? What were the implications of these strategies for the human rights of the combatants and the civilian Igbo population (the non-combatants)? Can the civil war be situated within the ambient of humanitarian and human rights law? If so, to what extent, if any at all, did the prosecution of the war by the Nigerian troop conform to international law? What was the human cost of the war? These are the main questions in which this paper engages. Drawing on the content analysis of extant literature and international instruments, the paper argues that the civil war, though a non-international armed conflict, can adequately be situated and examined in the context of the law of war and the general principles of human rights. The paper argues that a systematic pattern of cruelty, in violation of established human rights and humanitarian law, was perpetrated by the Nigerian troops. Of particular interest were the grave implications, on the civilian Igbo population, of the “scorched earth” military strategy of the Nigerian forces. Contrary to international law, the necessary distinction between non-combatants and combatants was totally ignored. The paper concludes that, given the extent of the violation of human rights and humanitarian law, the civil war was a form of genocide.


^ Nigeria Civil War (1967 – 1970): Ethnic Conflict and Conflict Resolution

Baldwin Chika Anyasodo

Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education

Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria.

This paper looks at the Biafra-Nigeria Civil war with a focus on issues of ethnicity and foreign interest in the war. It discusses the emergencies that arose during the period of conflict, which resulted into interesting discoveries and fabrications of military weapons, tactics, skills and other areas of human needs which helped Biafrans to sustain the struggle. It argues that the war could have been avoided if not for extraneous influences. Despite the pressures and risks, Biafrans were determined to survive. Entrepreneurship developed in Biafra. It examines the presence of foreign mercenaries and their roles in the conflict. The role of foreign organizations like the international Red Cross, St. John’s Ambulance of Great Britain, the Catholic Caritas international are examined to show how these international relief agencies assisted Biafrans to avert total annihilation. This paper looked at the outcomes of the war including inter-ethnic marriages and their long-term implications of the Igbo in post-conflict Nigeria.


The Ordeal of a Biafran Refugee

Ada Uzoamaka Azodo

Departments of Minority Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies

Indiana University Northwest, Gary, Indiana

The beginning of a book on the Nigerian-Biafra war [1966-1970], this paper chronicles the story of an internally displaced Biafran refugee’s experiences. Episode One: “Return from Nnewi to Amawbia or I Discover My Filial Ties” deals with the aftermath of the declaration of total war. Schools are shutdown and I forgo my newly-found freedom teaching high school with a Higher School Certificate, to rejoin the family recently displaced from Enugu fallen after Nsukka. Episode Two: “Flight from Amawbia or Increase in Violence” sees threat to and flight from the homestead with the fall of Ugwuoba, sending millions from the Awka-Onitsha axis into exile. News and rumors were rife, especially about white mercenaries leading enemy battalion in their determined march to ‘dip the Koran’ in the River Niger at Onitsha. Episode Three: “Refugee at Unubi or Descent into Hell” sees us at Unubi, the home village of some business associates of my uncle-in-law, Mr. Anene Echi, husband of my father’s only sister, Mabel. You felt free at last living in the teachers’ quarters of the lone village elementary school, but broken as the knowledge of your refugee status sets in with its attendant physical, material, philosophical and moral traumas. This story is a simple, honest, non-manipulative and non-allegorical account of a slice in the life of the ordinary Biafran refugee during the hostilities. It is a testimony, a heroic narrative about small people in giant fights involving big powers, governments, mercenaries, relief organizations, journalists, and the list continues. A personal story, it nonetheless constitutes a block in the construction of a collective memory about a particular vicissitude of history that will affect generations to come. The rebuilding of a viable Nigeria will certainly need to consider millions of personal experiences like mine in the war in which a total of some two million people perished on both sides.


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