Biafra Genocidal Denial:
The unabated and institutionalized massive killing of Biafrans in Nigeria from early 1945 till date, runs entirely different compared to any in human history. Quite unlike the Jews, Cambodian, Kurdish, Tamil, Ukrainian, Sri Lankan, Armenian and Darfur genocides, the Biafran genocide has been carefully neglected, mistreated and avoided by the world powers, scholars, activists, historians, organizations and community leaders. The blatant unwillingness to have an organized study and documentation of the Biafran experience in Nigeria, stems essentially from the attempt to sabotage and destabilize a focus on what really transpired. Recall that more than five million innocent Biafrans including children, women, men and the elderly, were gruesomely murdered in horrendous genocide orchestrated, executed and supervised by the Nigerian State. This was criminally and completely assisted by Britain, Russia and other nations. Chima J. Korieh in his journal on “Biafra And The Discourse On The Igbo Genocide”, gave first hand comprehensive accounts of investigations during the Biafra/Nigeria war. The Times report of 23rd August 1968, described the magnitude of the suffering in Biafra, thus: “In scope of suffering, in depth of bitterness, in the seeming hopelessness of any solution short of wholesale slaughter, there is no parallel to the tragedy that has been gathering force in the past fourteen (14) months in Nigeria.
One of the opposing forces, wielding a full array of modern weapons from Britain, Russia and much of Europe, is the federal government of Nigeria. It is determined to crush a rebellion that it feels will destroy it’s republic. On the other side, armed chiefly with determination, stands the secessionist State of Biafra, the home of Nigeria’s Igbo tribe. The Igbos are convinced that they are fighting not only for independence but for their survival as a people” (Times 1968). The horrific killing of Biafrans prompted the American Jewish Congress to declare on the 15th of December 1968, in a memo titled: “The Tragedy Of Biafra”, that “for more than a year, a little noticed but nonetheless savage and tragic war has been going on between the federal government of Nigeria and the former Eastern region of that country which in May 1967, proclaimed it’s independence as a Republic of Biafra” (American Jewish Congress 1968:1). The memorandum concluded: “Obviously, concurrent with political efforts both by our own government and by international agencies to stop the war, more immediate efforts to provide emergency relief both private and governmental, must continue. Every means must be used to avoid imminent starvation. History suggests that every age has it’s own time of moral trial. It is perhaps not too much to believe that Biafra fulfills that role for this generation” (American Jewish Congress, 1968:45).
Some of the investigations carried out, suggested also that the case of Biafrans be included in the list of genocides. Investigator’s report concluded that with: “these speeches which are recorded in the parliamentary pamphlets of the Northern government and also the formation of the Sarduana Brigade in the region of incitement (Northern part of the federation), I find it difficult to believe that the acts of atrocities directed against the people of Biafra origin, were not premeditated, centrally directed and did not contain motives such as the extermination of these people or the denial of their right of existence or the intention to physically destroy them” (Investigator’s Report, 96).
International Observers Team reported of such allegations:
- The shooting of members or field officers of the International Red Cross, which incidents were alleged to have occurred after the issue of the code of conduct.
- The treatment of Biafran prisoners of war in a manner inconsistent with the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war. The report contains some evidences of the non-observation of this Convention and here again, it is alleged that this has occurred after the issue of code of conduct.
- Intensification of the bombing of the centres of civilian population, resulting in the killing of masses of Biafrans which occurred from around December 1968, and as far as I am aware, it is still continuing.
Andrew Brevin and David MacDonald, two members of the Canadian Parliament on their return from Biafra, reported that: “genocide is in fact taking place”. One of them stated that: “anybody who says there is no evidence of genocide is either in the payroll of Britain or being a deliberate fool” (American Committee on Africa, Relief Memo 4, 1st November, 1968). And Lloyd Garrison wrote: “the record shows that in the federal advances, thousands of Igbo male civilians were sought out and slaughtered” (New York Times Magazine, 31st October, 1968, page 92).
Critical analysis of the experiences of those who witnessed the war, speeches by Northern and federal officials amongst others, reveal that the intent of these actors against the Igbos was genocidal. The International Committee on the Investigation of Crimes of Genocide, notes that there was an “evidence that leading functionaries of Northern Nigerian Native Administration, an agency which the British themselves described as ‘an integral part of the machinery of government’, were deeply involved in the planning of the massacres of 1953 (Investigators Report, 8-9). Two days before the massacres began on Thursday 14th May 1953, Mallam Inua Wada, then Secretary of the Northern People’s Congress and later, Federal Minister of Works, convened a meeting of the Native Administration Sectional Heads at the Works Department in Kano during which he made “a very ill-advised and provocative speech” (Investigators Report, 9). Inua Wada was reported to have said that the North had: “…. organized about one thousand (1,000) men ready in the city to meet force with force…. The Northern People’s Congress has declared a strike in all Native Administration Offices for Saturday 16th May 1953. We shall post sufficient number of men at the entrance of every office and business place….We are prepared to face anything that comes out of this business (Investigators Report, 9).
It is quite clear therefore, that “it was not what Biafrans did or did not do that has attracted this spate of relentless persecution, oppression and unwarranted killings but just simply because they are created Biafrans. This is their only crime.
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