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

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

BY EMMANUEL IDUMA

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

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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)

BY DAMIAN DURUIHEOMA

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…

I Lost My Father, Seminarian And Properties Worth Millions – EZEMA

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ORIENT DAILY INTERVIEW

Image via Orient Daily News


Paulinus Omeje Ezema was a 15-year-old boy in Ede Oballa community, Nsukka local government area of Enugu state when the Nigerian civil war broke out. The Ezema family fled their house when Nigerian troops captured Nsukka, leaving behind everything they acquired through the years. By the time the war was over, they lost everything, including their father. In this interview with Uchenna Ezeadigwe, the three-time deputy chairman of Nsukka East Development Centre and former councillor of Eduku Ward in Ede Oballa, Nsukka local government area, shares his incredible survival stories during the 30-month civil war, among other issues.


Can you recall exactly when, where you were and how you found out that there had been an outbreak of war between the federal government and Biafra?
I was a teenager but not too young to remember what actually led to the civil war. The war was actually a fallout of the killing of the Igbo in northern Nigeria. I co…

I Lost My 5-Year-Old-Sister To Kwashiorkor During Civil War – Nnatu

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ORIENT DAILY EDITORIAL/INTERVIEW


Kanayo Nnatu was a seven-year-old boy in Primary 1 in Ifite-Awka when the Nigerian civil war broke out in July 1967. Six months after the Nigerian military launched an audacious campaign against erstwhile Eastern Region which had declared itself as Republic of Biafra on May 30, 1967, the federal troops entered and conquered Awka, later to be the Anambra state capital. The young Nnatu fled with his family into the forest where they were to live throughout the rest of the 30 months during which the war lasted. In this interview with O’star Eze, the 59-year-old provides an intriguing account of his survival in that war which claimed over 3 million lives.
How old were you the Nigerian civil war started?
I was seven years old and in Primary 1 when the civil war started. In those days, you were not allowed into primary school until you were able to touch either ear with your hand from the opposite side of your body. I was seven years old before I was able to a…

BIAFRA: Charles De Gaule Press Conference

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President Charles De Gaulle of France. Image: Reporters Associe/Gamma-Rapho


Comments made by the President of France in Paris on September 9, 1968, at a press conference answering a reporter's question on Africa's most blood soaked event, The Pogrom: What is his view of the situation in Biafra?
What does he think should happen there?
What action does he refuse to take with regard to Biafra? Why? President De Gaulle's exchange with a reporter: Question: The drama taking place in Biafra seems to grow more tragic every day. You have alluded several times to the Biafran problem. Mr. President, could you give us your point of view on this problem ? De Gaulle: I am not sure that the system of federation, which sometimes, in certain parts and from a certain angle replaces that of colonization, is always a very good and very practical system, particularly in Africa. But not only in Africa, for in fact it consists in arbitrarily joining together peoples who are sometimes very differen…

BIAFRA: Diplomacy And Dialogue

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(L-R): Rev. Fr. Joe McHugh, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Archbishop Francis Arinze. Location: Onitsa. Image: TG4/IE/Declan Lynch. Circa 1967

BIAFRA: The Ambrose Ehirim-S. Elizabeth Bird Interview

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Prof. S. Elizabeth Bird

S. Elizabeth Bird is University of South Florida's Professor Emerita in Anthropology. She has authored many books and published numerous articles. She has been a visiting Fellow at the Annenberg School for Communications, University of Pennsylvania, and served on several editorial boards. She was awarded an American Council for Learned Societies Collaborative Fellowship with Fraser Ottanelli, to fund research on the Asaba Massacre of the Nigeria-Biafra War, in which over one hundred witnesses and survivors were interviewed. The book, "The Asaba Massacre: Trauma, Memory and the Nigerian Civil War," won the 2018 Book Award from the Oral History Society. She most recently co-wrote "Surviving Biafra: A Niger Wife's Story" with Rosina Umelo. In this interview, she gives account of her work and research project on The Pogrom, and other related events emphasizing that the Nigerian-Biafran Story "should be told primarily by Nigerians.&qu…

BIAFRA: Cyprien Ekwensi Reunites With Fellow Journalists

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(ORLU, BIAFRA) -- Nigerian journalists happy to reunite with novelist Cyprien Ekwensi amid foreign journalists and observers upon armstice, and end to the Biafra-Nigeria War, January 1970. Image: A Abbas