SWITZERLAND, MAY 30 – Many Nigerians have revisited the horrors and pains of the Nigerian Civil War between Biafra(South-Eastern Nigeria) and the rest of Nigeria as pro-Biafra activists mark 52 years since the short-lived republic was created.
Biafra, officially the Republic of Biafra, was a secessionist state in West Africa which existed from 30 May 1967 to January 1970; it was made up of the states in the Eastern Region of Nigeria.
Following the creation of Biafra under the leadership of military commander, Odumegwu Ojukwu, a war ensued between Nigerian forces under General Yakubu Gowon and the Biafrans as Nigeria attempted to retake its territory. The 30-months war is probably the darkest chapter of Nigeria’s history due to the pain and horror of the conflict. An estimated 2 million people died, most of them Biafrans and civilians. A blockade of Biafra led to extensive starvation with millions of children perishing. In the end, Biafra, dominated by the Igbo ethnic group, was forced to surrender.
Many people believe that the two violent coups of 1966 sparked the war. The first coup in January 1966 was seen by many in the north as an Ibo coup. The Igbo therefore, became a targeted ethnic group across Nigeria. The second coup in July 1966 brought General Yakubu Gowon to power; but it soon became a bloodbath in the North as Hausa-Fulanis committed genocide against the Igbo.
The killing of Igbos- in the months leading to the declaration of Biafra- had become a random sports in most parts of northern Nigeria with many killed in churches, schools, on the road while travelling and in the markets.
The military governor of Eastern Nigeria, General Odumegwu Ojukwu was forced to declare secession in order to protect his people. However, Nigeria considers the South East and the Niger Delta as part of its territory and therefore, invaded Biafra to take them back.
The international humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières originated in response to the suffering in Biafra. During the crisis, French medical volunteers, in addition to Biafran health workers and hospitals, were subjected to attacks by the Nigerian army and witnessed civilians being murdered and starved by the blockading forces.