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Biafrans Capitulate To Nigeria: US Increases Grant For Relief

School children gather at the courtyard reminiscing the effects of the tragic. Image: A. Abbas/Magnum Photos (1971)


JANUARY 13, 1970

—Biafra, with its last de fenses crumbling and its supplies of food and ammunition exhausted, capitulated yesterday to the Nigerian Government.

Brig. Philip Effiong, the Bi afran Chief of Staff, who took over the leadership Saturday night when Gen. Odumegwu Ojukwu fled the besieged remnant of the secessionist region, announced on the Biafran radio this afternoon that the attempt at secession had failed.

[Unconfirmed reports from Lusaka, Zambia, said Monday night that General Ojukwu was expected to arrive with in the next day. It was un derstood that Zambia had of fered him asylum. Page 15.]

Brigadier Effiong ordered Biafran forces to disengage from battle in an orderly fashion and said that he was sending representatives to Nigerian field commanders to negotiate an armistice.

Gowon Accepts Offer


The Amazing Biafran Airlift — Heroics In The Sky And On The Ground

Loading of Joint Church Aid relief supplies on island of Sao Tomé. Photo: Peter Williams


In the late 1960s, a rebellion in West Africa resulted in brutal warfare, the world’s first televised famine, an incredible humanitarian intervention, and the birth of several aid organizations — including Concern Worldwide.
On July 6th 1967, an uprising began in Eastern Nigeria with the aim of gaining independence for the state of Biafra and its mostly Igbo population. The military government moved swiftly to crush the rebellion, and what followed was a two-and-a- half year war that would result in at least two million civilian deaths. The toll would have undoubtedly been higher were it not for the efforts of an ad hoc coalition of international humanitarian organizations and the establishment of what became known as the Biafran airlift.

The secession attempt met with an unmerciful response, displacing millions of people who became further isolated by the government’s…

Nigerian Writers Compare Genocide Of Igbos To The Holocaust

Biafran refugees flee federal Nigerian troops on a road near Ogbaku, Image: Kurt Scumpf/AP


During the massacre of Igbos in Nigeria between 1966 and 1970, one to three million people died. In the decades since, writers have worked to make sense of the immense human tragedy.

These literary representations of the massacres use the Holocaust as an important point of reference.

The war in Nigeria, with its associated mass atrocities, is arguably one of the first major moments in postcolonial Africa when accusations of genocide were made. Following military coups in Nigeria in 1966, the military and ethnic extremists systematically targeted and killed Igbos across the then Northern and Western regions of Nigeria.

Massacres of Igbos and other Easterners across the country led to thousands of deaths and the displacement of millions.

The massacres led the Eastern Region of Nigeria to declare its secession from Nigeria. The region was renamed the republic of Biafra. Nigeria …

THE POGROM: Reminiscence And Events That Bear Witness


"There are no exact numbers on the scale of the human tragedy gathering in Biafra. But all our sources do agree that more than a million people are likely to be in danger of starvation... There would be no question about evacuating the 5500 U.S. citizens or sacrificing the $300 million private investment on the Federal side if these stood in the way of relief. The heart of our dilemma, however, is that our instinctive moral concern and involvement with this tragedy cannot be separated from the political tangle..."

--------- Henry A. Kissinger, Memorandum For President Richard Nixon, The White House, Tuesday, January 28, 1969

World's first super model, British-born Jean Shrimpton joins a group of anti-Igbo Pogrom protesters campaigning to end the killing of women and children on the steps of the Shaftsberry Memorial in Picadilly Circus, Westminster, London. Image: Hulton Archive/Getty

Nurse Elva Peterson feeding starving Igbo children f…

BIAFRA: Church World Service At The Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing

Image: United States Senate

In his statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, MacCracken explains the position of the CWS as it relates to the conflict and humanitarian crisis occurring in Biafra and Nigeria at large. He notes that the CWS is solely concerned with the humanitarian issues in Biafra and believes they must be separated from the larger political conflict. MacCracken also quotes at length a statement from the Fourth Assembly of the World Council of Churches meeting in Sweden (July 15, 1968). In terms of domestic work, MacCracken praises members of the American Jewish Committee for bringing together Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish organizations to coordinate humanitarian assistance in Biafra. He concludes by summarizing the concerns of the CWS and what they believe must be done going forward.


 Washington, D.C.  October 4,…

Thinking Of Biafra In Inner-City Dublin

Dublin, Ireland resident sell used clothes with proceeds to benefit the Children of Biafra. Date: July 25, 1968. Image: Dermot O'Shea/Irish Times


In the late 1960s Irish people were much moved by the suffering caused by war in the breakaway Nigerian state of Biafra. So when a famine appeal was launched, there was an extraordinary outpouring of generosity.

“Workers all over the country,” this news story from the summer of 1968 reported, “are offering their overtime earnings and their first week’s salary increases.”

It added that the Joint Biafra Famine Appeal, launched by the Catholic and Anglican Bishops of Owerri, had increased in just one week from £28,820 to £46,758.

The people in the picture were running a daily jumble sale at the corner of Luke Street and Townsend Street in Dublin which, on its first day of operation, had raised eight pounds, fifteen shillings and fourpence.

The organiser, Mrs Theresa Byrne of Luke Street, told The Irish Times: “We felt so sorry f…

BIAFRA: The Irish Involvement

John Horgan (centre) interviewed Odumegwu Ojukwu, then president of the secessionist state of Biafra, for ‘The Irish Times’ in 1967. Image: Irish Times

Famine and independence struggle led to Irish support for Biafran secession in 1967
...The threat of famine, combined with an independence struggle, had an almost irresistible political and emotional impact on Irish public opinion

The stage was set, effectively, not only for conflict over the national control of resources, but for a proxy war involving two former colonial powers.

The second factor was religion – not any of the African religions of the region, but Christianity, and specifically, in the case of Biafra, Catholicism. Since the early 20th century, Irish Catholic missionaries in particular had made eastern Nigeria (coterminous with the newly created Biafra) a core pays de mission.

In 1967, many of these missionaries – seeing historical parallels between Biafra and the Irish independence struggle – adopted the Biafra…

‘Gone Like A Meteor’: Epitaph For The Lost Youth Of The Biafran War

Young men training for the Biafran War. Image: Rolls Press Popper foto/Getty, August 1968


In 1967, Nigeria had been an independent country for just seven years. The declaration of secession that year by an Igbo majority in the southeastern region of Nigeria, and the war that followed when the federal government decided to keep the country as one, was already the culmination of a bloody sequence of events. By May 1967, two coup d’états had taken place, and the Igbos of northern Nigeria had been killed in the tens of thousands.

The Biafran War, otherwise known as the Nigerian Civil War, lasted from July 6, 1967, until January 15, 1970. The men who led each side—Yakubu Gowon on the federal side and Chukwuemeka Ojukwu of Biafra—were in their mid-thirties. Boys, some barely teenagers, volunteered to fight for the breakaway Republic of Biafra. Many of the civilian casualties were children: in September 1968, the International Committee of the Red Cross estimated that almost …

We Ate Every Food As Our Last Supper Because Of Constant Air Raids – Ukaeje

A young Biafran soldier inspects a rifle during training at camp in Owerri. After their initial training, the soldiers go to join the front line forces in Biafra's struggle against Nigerian federal troops. Image: Bettmann Collection. (July 1968)


Mr. Ifeanyi Ukaeje was on the verge of writing his senior school certificate examinations at Okongwu Memorial Grammar School, Nnewi when the civil war broke out. As the schools shut, Ukaeje enlisted in the Biafran Air Force where he worked as a protector of the Uli Airport. Although luck was on his side as he and the whole family survived the bloody 30-month civil war, he, like millions of survivors, went through horrible experience. The septuagenarian, who is also a veteran journalist, shares the story of his survival and other issues about the war with Damian Duruiheoma.

Can you recall exactly where you were and how you found out that there had been an outbreak of war between the federal government and Biafra?

In July 19…