The Republic of Biafra

Flag of Biafra
The Republic of Biafra Flag

A question and a reminder. Is the past really past?  Does the Biafra conflict continue to echo in today’s political debates in Nigeria?  The answer is “yes.” Read this grouping of three letters to the editor of USAfrica Online which ask if Nigerians need to continue to apologize to the Igbo for the treatment they received during secession.

What Were the Issues in This Civil War?

The first information people usually receive about an international flare-up comes from the participants themselves who seek to frame the issues in the way they see them while undercutting the claims of their opponents.  The material here introduces Biafra in precisely this way.  The following statements were issued in the midst of the conflict and represent different points of view from the actors themselves.  It is important to remember that these statements were also crafted to win support or sympathy from outside the country.

Biafran Goals  The best statement of Biafran goals comes from the nation’s own Declaration of Independence.

Nigerian Goals  When the secession movement ended, the leader of the victorious Nigerian government stated his views of the issues in a radio speech in January, 1970.

Global Concerns.  The global interest in Biafra was related to the pictures of human misery within Biafra.  Secession was supported by some people because of ideals of national self determination and because of human rights (in the sense that people shouldn’t be treated this way). On the other hand there were extensive fears that if any people who want it can secede into their own independent state, then won’t we see a collapse of world order followed by the rise of chaos accompanying the scramble to create numerous independent, micro-states?

Causation. Chinua Achebe served as a voice for Biafra outside of Nigeria. This paper, first presented in 1968 in Uganda, addresses the larger issues which he felt were behind the civil war in Nigeria.

Compare the principles and stories told by all of the different documents you have looked at, either individually or as a group, for Biafra. What things can you say you feel certain did occur because everyone seems to agree in their statements? What things are mentioned by only some or even one of the participants? Are their any issues that seem left out? How do these findings match up statements about the causes of the secession movement?

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