Biafra was a state of Nigeria that attempted to secede in 1967. The war that followed led to the deaths of between one and three million people, from violence and deliberate starvation. I was reminded of this genocide by an article in the Guardian by the famous African writer and Nigerian, Chinua Achebe, who charges that the history of the conflict, as with most such events, is being and continues to be suppressed.
Did the federal government of Nigeria engage in the genocide of its Igbo citizens – who set up the republic of Biafra in 1967 – through punitive policies, the most notorious being “starvation as a legitimate weapon of war”? Is the information blockade around the war a case of calculated historical suppression? Why has the war not been discussed, or taught to the young, more than 40 years after its end? Are we perpetually doomed to repeat the errors of the past because we are too stubborn to learn from them?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines genocide as “the deliberate and systematic extermination of an ethnic or national group …”. The UN general assembly defined it in 1946 as “… a denial of the right of existence of entire human groups”. Throughout the conflict the Biafrans consistently charged that the Nigerians had a design to exterminate the Igbo people from the face of the earth. This calculation, the Biafrans insisted, was predicated on a holy jihad proclaimed by mainly Islamic extremists in the Nigerian army and supported by the policies of economic blockade that prevented shipments of humanitarian aid, food and supplies to the needy in Biafra.
More about the Biafran genocide: