Forgotten conflict

When in discussion exactly a year ago today with a group from a variety of age groups, I pointed out that this day (May 30) was a significant date in history for an African politician called Ojukwu, and I asked if anyone knew who he was. Nobody was able to answer my question. If I had asked the same question in the late 1960s, the chances are that most people would have known, because between 1967 and 1970 General Ojukwu led the secessionist Republic of Biafra, taking up the post on May 30, 1967.

The struggle between Biafra and Nigeria, from which it had broken away, was one that shocked and scandalised many from my generation at the time. Whatever the rights and wrongs may have been of the political differences in Nigeria that sparked the breakaway and the subsequent civil war, the hardship that resulted for the people of Biafra was terrible. The Nigerians were supported by the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union (in a rare joint effort). The conflict ended with the defeat of Biafra and exile for Ojukwu in 1970 (though he later returned, indeed standing for President of Nigeria in recent elections).

Nigeria still has major problems, and while the Biafra conflict may have ended 40 years ago, we should still know about it and learn its lessons, particularly as regards the role played by European powers. Maybe it is time for people to brush up on this very tragic part of recent African history.

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5 Comments on “Forgotten conflict”

  1. Victor Says:

    Biafra was a tragedy

    And Rwanda was worse– 900,000 slaughtered in days with Chinese supplied axes and a totally incompetent UN force, particularly the French forces who were on the ground with automatic weapons and armored cars– they did nothing

  2. John Says:

    Yes, Biafra was terrible. An essentially peace-loving and intellectual community all but wiped out by “the majority”. I feel there are parallels with the Jews, who have suffered terribly in the past. But at least they have a homeland to escape to now should the going get tough.

  3. Aidan Says:

    If you are interested in that time period then you might enjoy the brilliant novel “Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie which is set in Nigeria at the time of the Biafran independence conflict (the title refers to the Biafran flag).

  4. Kevin O'Brien Says:

    In contrast to the UK and USSR support for Nigeria, Biafra was supported by France.


  5. If you want to read about what it was like to be in Biafra in the early days of the civil war, see my page http://africantales.wordpress.com and my book The Up-Country Man. An account of the first one hundred days inside secessionist Biafra


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