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The Nigeria-Biafra War: Genocide and the Politics of Memory By Chima Korieh ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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The Nigeria-Biafra War:

country. There was no human being with a soul, blood and life who saw but was not revolted at what happened.

N. U. Akpan

Biafra should stand in the world’s conscience as a monument to the possibility of successfully resisting “final solutions.”

—Michael J. C. Echeruo

On December 15, 1968, the American Jewish Congress issued a memorandum titled The Tragedy of Biafra. Phil Baum, director of the congress’s commission on international affairs, called attention the humanitarian tragedy in Biafra: “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 its independence as the Republic of Biafra.”1 Up till then, the war had drawn little public attention in the United States despite the fact that it was “already responsible for more deaths than have occurred in Vietnam and [was] causing the death of thousands of people each day through starvation.”2 By that time, the brutal war between federal Nigeria and the secessionist Republic of Biafra had lasted for nearly one year. Before its end, the thirty-month-long war would lead to the deaths of over one million ethnic Igbo and other easterners. The first black on black genocide in postcolonial Africa, the war took a terrible toll on the Igbo people, causing massive numbers of civilian deaths.3 The war also led to the widespread destruction of infrastructure, including roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, and towns. Homes were set ablaze as the federal troops marched through villages. Crops and livestock suffered similar fates throughout most of southeastern Nigeria. Yet this chapter’s epigraphs reveal the contrasting views that have dominated the history of the Nigerian civil war and the way the war is remembered by those on each side of the conflict.

The corpus of literature on the Nigeria-Biafra War is extensive. It was the most reported conflict in contemporary Africa until the more recent genocide in Rwanda. Literature written from within Nigeria is dominated