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NIGERIA 30 May 2012 Republic of Biafra born 45 years ago

Lieutenant-Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu declared the Republic of Biafra an independent nation on 30 May 1967, triggering the Nigerian-B

May 30, 2012 - NULL

NIGERIA 30 May 2012 Republic of Biafra born 45 years ago

Lieutenant-Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu declared the Republic of Biafra an independent nation on 30 May 1967, triggering the Nigerian-Biafran War (6 Jul 1967-15 Jan 1970.) An estimated 1 million Nigerians died, many from famine, in a civil war that shocked the world for its ferocity. Photos of children with distended bellies made "Biafra" a byword for the horror of civil war. The question is whether Ojukwu's funeral on Feb 2 could revive the passions that set off the 1967 conflagration.

Ojukwu died from a stroke on 26

NIGERIA 30 May 2012 Republic of Biafra born 45 years ago

Lieutenant-Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu declared the Republic of Biafra an independent nation on 30 May 1967, triggering the Nigerian-Biafran War (6 Jul 1967-15 Jan 1970.) An estimated 1 million Nigerians died, many from famine, in a civil war that shocked the world for its ferocity. Photos of children with distended bellies made "Biafra" a byword for the horror of civil war. The question is whether Ojukwu's funeral on Feb 2 could revive the passions that set off the 1967 conflagration.

Ojukwu died from a stroke on 26 Nov 2011 at 78. African Review speculated in Jan 2012 that Ojukwu's long-delayed funeral is likely to become a major event in Nigeria as he won both adulation and notoriety for attempting to lead his Igbo people into the eventually aborted secession. Formerly the military governor of the Igbo-dominated south-eastern region, Ojukwu cited massacres that had taken place in northern Nigeria, as well as an alleged electoral fraud, when he proclaimed the secession.

In the 45th anniversary year of the Biafra declaration and the start of the civil war, Africa's most populous country is sizzling from deadly religious clashes, mainly in the northern cities. Nigeria is divided between the mainly Muslim north and mainly Christian south. The radical Islamist organization Boko Haram is fighting to impose Sharia law and Islamic education across the entire country, including in predominantly Christian areas. It is suspected of conducting deadly attacks on Christians, and the increased violence threatens to ignite a wider Muslim-Christian conflict in Nigeria. Africa Report notes notes widespread fears that Igbos could be targeted by the extremists who want to force Nigeria to adopt Sharia law.

The vast majority of its population is under 30 years old, so few Nigerians have direct memories of the war. But the causes of the Biafran conflict - ethnic and religious rivalry and mistrust - are still relevant. Interviewed by the BBC for the 30th anniversary of the war, Ojukwu stated that the Ibos have been largely excluded from power ever since and this could cause instability in the future. If Nigeria succeeds in steering clear of civil was it could be because rival efforts to gain the upper hand in power lack a leader as focused and determined as Ojukwu. (WRITTEN Jan 2012)

RELATED READING:
Biafra (Encyclopedia Britannica)
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/64289/Biafra

The Igbo secessionist leader remains an icon to his people (Africa Review 24 Jan 2012)
http://www.africareview.com/Special+Reports/The+Ojukwu+legend+lives/-/979182/1310808/-/u66qbyz/-/

Biafra: Thirty years on (BBC 13 Jan 2000)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/596712.stm

Rights group: Islamic rebels in Nigeria have killed 935 since 2009 (LA Times 24 Jan 2012)
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/01/north-nigerian-islamic-rebels-boko-haram-killed-935-since-2009-says-rights-group.html

Date written/update: 2012-05-30