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Nigerian Civil War With Biafra: The Untold Story

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The Nigerian Civil War, popularly known as the Nigeria-Biafra War which lasted from 6th July 1967 – 15th January 1970 almost destroyed the unity of Nigeria.

The Civil War was fought to reintegrate and reunify the country. It was a result of the Nigerian government’s efforts to counter the struggle by Igbo people of the Eastern Region to break away from Nigeria under the new name – The Republic of Biafra led by a military officer and politician, late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.

It is believed that the war became inevitable because the Igbo people felt they could no longer co-exist with the Northern-dominated Federal Government of Nigeria.

The Nigerian Civil War which broke out on 6 July 1967 and lasted until January 15, 1970, was the culmination of an uneasy peace and instability that had plagued the Nation from independence in 1960.

It was a result of a long period of alleged political, economic, ethnic, cultural and religious deprivations, which had its genesis in the geography, history, culture and demography of Nigeria.

Biafran States

The Republic of Biafra was mainly made up of the former Eastern region of Nigeria and was inhabited principally by the Igbo ethnic group. Biafra has been commonly divided into four main “tribes” which include: the Igbos, the Ibibio-Efiks, the Ijaws and the Ogojas.

The modern-day states that make up Biafra from the eastern region and Midwest are Abia, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, Delta, Rivers and Cross River, Igbanke in Edo state and southern part of Benue state. Edo.

Biafran Flag

The flag of the Republic of Biafra was created by the Biafran Government and raised on May 30, 1967. It consists of red, black, and green horizontal colours. At the middle of it, a golden sun rises over a golden bar; the sun has eleven rays, representing the eleven provinces of Biafra.

The Red Pan-African color on the Biafra flag represents the blood that unites all people of Black African ancestry and shed for liberation.

The Black colour represents the black people whose existence as a nation, though not a nation-state, is affirmed by the existence of the flag.

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The Green represents the abundant natural wealth of the region.

Biafran Currency

The Republic of Biafra had a different currency from that of Nigeria – the Biafran pound which went public on 28 January 1968.

The Biafran government created the Bank of Biafra, accomplished under “Decree No. 3 of 1967”. The bank was administered by a governor and four directors; the first governor, who signed on bank notes, was Sylvester Ugoh.

The currency of Biafra had been the Nigerian pound until the Bank of Biafra started printing out its own notes, the Biafran pound. It is estimated that a total of £115–140 million Biafran pounds were in circulation by the end of the war.

The Genesis

The immediate cause of the civil war may be identified as the coup and the counter coup of 1966 which altered the political equation and destroyed the fragile trust existing among the major ethnic groups.

Before the full-blown war, there was a military coup in 1966 (carried out by Maj. Nzeogwu which led to the death of Tafawa Belewa, among others), a counter-coup (led by Gowon, which led to the brutal murder of Aguiyi Ironsi, Fajuyi, among others) and a persecution of the Igbo people living in Northern Nigeria, forcing them to return home. Even on their way home, many of them were killed in disturbing circumstances.

There have been divided opinions on the 1966 coup as some argue that corruption among the civilian ruling class pushed the military to organize the coup, while others opine that the control of oil production in the Niger Delta was also a major factor.

In May 1967, the Federal Military Government divided the country into twelve states from the original four regions, but the former Eastern Region under Lt. Col. Ojukwu saw the act of the creation of states by decree “without consultation” as the last straw, and declared the Region an independent state of “Biafra”.

Consequently, the Federal Military Government saw this act of secession as illegal. Several meetings were held to resolve the issue peacefully without success. To avoid disintegration of the country, the central government was left with no choice but to forcefully bring back the region to the main fold.

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As soon as the war began, the Federal Military Government of Nigeria led by General Yakubu Gowon surrounded the Biafra territory and captured the oil –rich coastal areas.

The blockade imposed during the war led to severe famine such that within the two and half years (30 months) the war lasted, there were over 100,000 overall military casualties, while nearly two million civilians died from starvation, which was a deliberate policy adopted by Nigeria to bring the people on the Biafra side to their knees.

Western powers were also involved in the war, with Britain and the then Soviet Union backing Nigeria, while France and a few other countries supported Biafra.

The Biafra Civil War And Its End

At the orders of the Federal Military Government, the Nigerian federal troops marched in two divisions into Biafra on the 6th of July, 1976. Division 1, led by Col. Shuwa operated through the north of Biafra, while the second Division advanced on Nsukka which later fell on July 14.

On the 9th of July, the Biafrans led by Lt. Col. Banjo retaliated by marching into the mid-western region of Nigeria across the Niger River, passing through Benin City and later stopped at Ore on August 21.

The Biafran troops captured the mid-west easily because there was little repulsion from soldiers guarding the region. This infuriated Gowon and he asked Col. Muhammad Murtala to form another division (Division 2) to drive the Biafrans out of mid-west and attack Biafra as well.

The mid-west region was recaptured by the Nigerian army on the 20th of September.

Enugu was made the capital of Biafra, and later when Enugu was captured in October 1967, Aba, Umuahia and Owerri served successively as the provisional capitals.

Within a year, the Federal Military Government captured the city of Port Harcourt and many other coastal oil facilities. The Federal Miltary Government blocked all the routes for transporting food into the Republic of Biafra which led to severe starvation.

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The FMG saw this as a war strategy and a way to keep Nigeria united, while many people around the world saw this as nothing but a genocide. The food flown in by foreign mercenary pilots was very little and couldn’t solve the starvation Biafra was facing. Over 2 million Biafrans died of starvation.

By the end of the year 1969, it was obvious that the war will soon come to an end. The FMG launched its final operation known as “Operation Tail-Wind” on January 7, 1970.

The operation was carried out by the 3rd Marine Commando Division and supported by the 1st and 2nd Infantry Division. Owerri was captured on the 9th of January, while Uli fell on the 11th of that same January.

Aware of the hopelessness of the situation, the self- acclaimed Biafra head of state, Lt. Col. Ojukwu fled the Republic immediately with his family on the 10 of January 1970.

The commander of the Biafran army, who was left with the administration of the Republic later surrendered to the Federal Government on the 14 of January, 1970, thus bringing the civil war and bloodshed to an end. The war officially ended on the 15 of January, 1970.

The sudden end of the war in 1970 was a big relief to both sides and the entire world was elated when General Yakubu Gowon said there was no victor, no vanquished. His government also introduced the popular three ‘Rs’, which stood for Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction.

At the end of the civil war, the Federal Military Government ordered that all Biafran currencies must be deposited into a bank account immediately or they would become worthless.

After everyone complied with the directive, they again ordered that every former Biafran account holder will receive only the sum of 20 pounds regardless of how much they had in their account.

This most Biafrans believed was an unjustified act of the civil war as heads of households were forced to rebuild their financial holdings as well as support a typically large African family with only 20 pounds.

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Africa

Ten rebels killed in offensive in east DR Congo — Army

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Democratic Republic of Congo soldiers. Photo: AFP

The Congolese army forces on Sunday killed 10 rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the troubled east of the country, a spokesman said.

The offensive kicked off last Thursday in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, with army and police officers assigned to replace civilian authorities under a 30-day “state of siege”.

In a clash in Halungupa, in the Rwenzori area, “our troops got the better of the ADF enemy. We in fact saw 10 dead bodies of ADF elements,” Antony Mualushayi, an army spokesman in the North Kivu city of Beni, told AFP.

The death toll is provisional, he added.

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“We are determined to finish with the ADF once and for all,” he said. “This siege should give the people of the Beni region the chance to live in a place where peace rules.”

A spokesman for a monitor called the Kivu Security Tracker (KST) said however that it had counted “only five bodies so far.”

Meanwhile, a delegation of Ugandan officers arrived in Beni on Sunday, according to an AFP reporter, while the army and government authorities declined to comment on the visit.

The ADF, a group of Ugandan Islamist fighters, has been based in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo since 1995.

Branded a “terrorist” organization affiliated with the Islamic State group by the United States, the ADF has been accused of murdering more than 1,000 civilians since November 2019 in Beni alone.

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It is by far the most dangerous of scores of armed groups that operate in the east of DR Congo.

Mineral-rich North and South-Kivu which lie along the DRC’s eastern borders with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, descended into violence during the country’s two wars between 1996 and 2003, and have never regained stability.

Ituri, further to the north, has also been rocked by violence since late 2017 after 15 years of relative calm.

Under the DRC’s constitution, the president can declare a state of either siege or emergency “if severe circumstances immediately threaten the independence or integrity of the national territory, or if they interrupt the regular functioning of institutions”.

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South Sudan president dissolves parliament in line with peace deal

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South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has dissolved parliament, a long-awaited step to pave the way for the appointment of lawmakers from formerly warring parties in the country.

The move was in line with a peace deal signed to end a civil war that began in 2013.

The president dissolved parliament on Saturday and the new body will be formed in “a matter of time, not too long”, his spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told Reuters.

According to the deal that ended the civil war, parliament must be expanded from 400 members to 550 and must include members from all parties to the peace accord.

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South Sudan won independence from Sudan in 2011 after decades of civil war. Violence erupted in late 2013 after Kiir, from the Dinka ethnic group, sacked vice president Riek Machar, a Nuer.

The two men have signed many deals to end a war estimated to have killed more than 400,000 people. They repeatedly pushed back deadlines to form a government of national unity, but in 2020 finally did so.

Despite the peace deal, violence is still raging in parts of the country, according to United Nations reports.

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Chad rebels ‘fleeing’, says defence minister

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Rebels who launched an offensive in northern Chad, sparking clashes that claimed the life of veteran president Idriss Deby Itno, are in flight, the country’s new defence minister said on Thursday.

“The security forces are thoroughly sweeping the operational area. Most of the prisoners are in the hands of the gendarmerie (police) and are being well-treated. The enemy is fleeing,” Defence Minister Brahim Daoud Yaya told a news conference.

“We are never going to dialogue with terrorists.”

He was speaking after the first meeting of a transitional government appointed by a 14-member military junta, the Transitional Military Council (TMC), that took office after Deby’s death on April 19.

Opposition supporters, meanwhile, called for fresh anti-junta protests on Saturday.

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Demonstrations on April 29 that were violently repressed by the authorities claimed six lives, according to the authorities, and nine according to a local grass-roots organisation, while more than 600 people were arrested.

The Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), a large armed group with a rear base in Libya, mounted an offensive on April 11 as the country was to hold presidential elections.

Deby, a former general who had been in power for 30 years, led the fighting against the insurgents.

According to the authorities, he died from combat injuries in the Kanem desert region, about 300 kilometres (200 miles) north of the capital N’Djamena, close to the border with Niger.

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“Libya is the terrorists’ stronghold,” the minister said.

He added, however: “I cannot accuse Libya of supporting the terrorists, as there is no state in Libya.”

Deby’s death occurred on the same day that he was declared victor in the presidential results and that the army claimed to have killed 300 FACT rebels, according to official announcements.

Another 246 rebels have been captured and handed over to the judicial authorities, according to the authorities.

Fighting has been continuing in the area of Nokou, in the administrative region of North Kanem.

Last week, a Chadian military helicopter crashed there after what the army said was a breakdown, while FACT said it had downed the aircraft.

A junta took power immediately after Deby’s shock death, headed by his 37-year-old son Mahamat, a four-star general, and parliament was suspended.

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The military rulers have vowed to hold “free and democratic” elections following an 18-month transition period.

On Sunday, the junta unveiled a 40-member transitional government, the key posts of which have gone to members of the former president’s MPS party.

According to a report on Thursday’s first ministerial meeting, a copy of which was seen by AFP, Deby “instructed the government to urgently strengthen communal living, which has been seriously tested, to consolidate peace, ensure security and guarantee security.”

He also called for the holding of an “inclusive national dialogue.”

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