What Ever Happened to Biafra?

From May 30, 1967 to January 15, 1970, the Republic of Biafra was a secessionist state in southeastern Nigeria. It was formed as a reaction to extreme ethnic, cultural and economic tensions. The short-lived country sat on land full of rich oil reserves, and the Nigerian government was willing to go to war to control the oil.

Ethnic Tensions

Nigeria gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1960. Like many other newly formed African states, its borders were drawn with little regard for previously held borders.

The arbitrary boundaries grouped together the Hausa and Fulani of the north, the Yoruba of southwest, and the Ibo of the southeast. The Ibo had a strong sense of identity and felt that their position as an ethnic group in Nigeria was disadvantaged. A series of clashes between the Muslim northerners and the Ibo broke out in 1967.The Ibo military leader declared that the Ibo people were now independent and formed the new secessionist state, the Republic of Biafra.

The Nigerian-Biafran War

The Nigerian-Biafran War broke out immediately. Biafran forces were ill prepared to fight. The Nigerian forces attacked them by land, air and sea. They set up an economic blockade against Biafra. The new country’s agricultural industry was destroyed and there was mass starvation in Biafra.

A Chief Surrenders

On January 12, 1970, the chief of the Biafran army surrendered to the federal government of Nigeria.

In a message to the Nigerian government, he said, “We are firm, we are loyal Nigerian citizens and accept the authority of the Federal Military Government. We accept the existing administrative and political structure of the federation of Nigeria. The Republic of Biafra hereby ceases to exist.” The Nigerian government stated that they never meant any harm against the Ibo people. Their goal had been to restore the secessionist state back to Nigeria. Many people found these claims insincere.

In total, about 3 million Ibo people died, many from starvation. Millions of Ibo became displaced and homeless. The sabotage of farmland during the war proved to be continually devastating. The Ibo people alleged that they had been the victims of genocide. A team of observers never found evidence of systematic killing or destruction of property.

Source: What Ever Happened to Biafra?
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