I Wonder Why Genocidal Scholars Omit Biafra Genocide In Their Articles
(Part 1)

Omitting Biafra Genocide

Written by Obulose Chidiebere N.
6th February 2020

Genocide is a term used to describe violence against members of a nation, ethnic, racial or religious group with the intent to destroy the entire group. The word came into general usage only after World War II when the full extent of the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime against European Jews during that conflict, became known.

Notwithstanding the evidence of which incidents were meticulously planned which led to the implementation of the political project that exterminated the Igbo ethnic group in Northern Nigeria before the war and in other parts of Nigeria during the war, the genocide has been mischaracterized as a civil war. In which it can be called “an invisible genocide,” the Igbo genocide was masked by the attempts of both federal Nigeria and major Western nations especially 'Britain', to down play the evidence of the genocide perpetrated against the Igbo ethnic group as well as it's deeper roots in the pre-civil war period.

Despite ample information about the violations committed by the Nigerian security forces, the Nigerian military has continuously perpetrated evil against Biafra since 1945 till date. Authorities of the world had consistently failed to take meaningful action to stop them and to bring the perpetrators to justice. Sometimes, it would look as if the world through her Nigeria-British counterparts, are fuelling and instigating the Nigerian government because of their interest in Biafra oil.

Conditions in Biafra during the war created no illusion that there was a well-organized and systematic attempt to starve the Igbo to extinction. In September 1968, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported that eight thousand to ten thousand (8000–10,000) people were starving to death each day as a result of the Biafran war of independence (New York Post). The New York Times also reported that a relief worker for the World Council of Churches stated that twenty five (25) persons would die each day if the war continued for another month (New York Times). The above reports were not an exaggeration of what befell the Igbo and others in the Biafra enclave as the situation continued to deteriorate.

Other reports painted a picture of unimaginable human suffering on a scale not previously experienced in Africa. Uzoigwe has painted a picture of appalling human suffering and degradation based on eye-witness accounts and official reports. His claim of genocidal intent against the Igbos by Northerners was supported by the accounts presented by Western journalists and the Eastern Nigerian Government. They were convinced that the Igbos faced genocide in the North between May and October of 1966.

What exactly are the intentions of the Nigerian government during the war if not to make sure Biafrans were terminated from the face of the earth? The United Nations uses the following definition to classify acts of genocide, viz: Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about it's physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Rudolph Rummel was professor Emeritus of political science at the University of Hawaii and wrote many seminal works on war and violence. He was the first to distinguish between different forms of state violence and invented the term gemocide. His definitions are listed below:

GENOCIDE: Among other things, the killing of people by a government because of their indelible group membership (race, ethnicity, religion, language).

POLITICIDE: the murder of any person or people by a government because of their politics or for political purposes.

MASS MURDER: The indiscriminate killing of persons or people by a government.

DEMOCIDE: The murder of any person or people by a government, including genocide, politicide, and mass murder.

Evidence of the first definition:

(“The demand for drastic action against the Igbos was accepted by the responsible Northern Nigerian Ministers and the 'Pre-Ahmadu Bello', Sardauna of Sokoto and Premier of the Northern Region responded in these words: “It is my most earnest desire that every post in the region, however small it is, be filled by Northerners (Applause).” The Minister of Establishment and Training, Mustafa Ismaila Dujuna affirmed: Mr. Chairman Sir, since 1955, this government had laid down a policy. First NORTHERNERS, second EXPATRIATES and third, NON-NORTHERNERS. Mr. Chairman Sir, I have noted very carefully all the speeches made by all the members in the honorable House and I am ready to put up to my Government their views and I hope my Government will give them consideration… I think these two things are the major things I have to answer now. One is on scholarship and the other is on how to do away with the Ibos (Investigators Report, 10–11)).

The mass slaughter of the Igbos in the Mid-Western region towns remain the most visible evidence of what Emma Okocha called the “first black on black genocide” in all of Africa. Mass extermination of the Igbos took place in the towns of Benin and Asaba. In Asaba, federal troops ordered the killing of every male, including young boys. Witnesses noted that all the males of Biafran origin were told to gather in the marketplace to welcome the advancing federal troops. What resulted was that “all these people were razed to the ground by machine-gun fire” (The International Committee). It is estimated that seven hundred (700) people were killed on that day of “ceremonial welcome” (Okoch).

Indeed, according to different Investigator Reports, it was horrible. Some have this to say: “hostilities between Federal Nigeria and the Republic of Biafra that began in July 1967 served as a continuation of an intention to exterminate the Igbo people. The War was indeed a Nigerian variant of what the Nazi called the “final solution” of the Jewish problem” (The International Committee on the Investigation of Crimes of Genocide, 1968).

Since the late 1945s till date, millions of Igbo people have been massacred in different parts of Nigeria, especially in the Northern Region. The genocide against the Igbos, planned, and executed with the support of public officials and British Diplomats in many cases, reached it's climax in 1966. Even since the end of the Biafra-Nigeria war, the Igbo people remain objects of targeted slaughter in different parts of the country on daily basis and yet no one has been brought to book.  Their crimes, "would shame all the devils in hell", said Connolly.

Written by Obulose Chidiebere N.
Edited by Elemeghideonye Nnamdi Stephen

For Family Writers Press International

 

I Wonder Why Genocidal Scholars Omit Biafra Genocide In Their Articles
(Part 2)

Omitting Biafra Genocide 2
Jonathan Ikerionwu pictured with Bill and Audrey Cowley, who helped save his life in 1966.The Disturbances/EthicsDaily.com

Written by Obulose Chidiebere N.
6th February 2020

The perception of political compliance was built into Irving Louis Horowitz’s prominent description and clarity of genocide, in one of the field’s founding texts, he said that: ‘Genocide is herein defined as a structural and systematic destruction of innocent people by a state bureaucratic apparatus’.
Although many genocide scholars avoid and eschew  his point of view about the Biafra Holocaust’s ‘phenomenological uniqueness’, Steven T. Katz’s argument that ‘the concept of genocide applies only where there is an actualized intention, however successfully carried out, to physically destroy an entire group’ accurately reflected the field’s assumptions.

This can be seen in Benjamin Adekunle’s statement: "I want to see no Red Cross, no Caritas, no World Council of Churches, no Pope, no missionary and no UN delegation. I want to prevent even one Igbo from having even one piece to eat before their capitulation. We shoot at everything that moves and when our forces move into Igbo territory, we even shoot things that do not move... ",

The testimonies of Biafran returnees from Northern Nigerian towns and cities paint a picture of a systematic and calculated program of genocide planned by Northern Emirs, district deads, former politicians, top civil servants, university students, British nationales, and law enforcement officers. Enoch Ejikeme, an Igbo businessman who had lived in Katsina since 1951, recalled what happened during the pogrom of May–June 1966. He told the Atrocities Tribunal:

It was about 2 am -4 am in the early morning of 29/5/66 when a large number of Hausas started gathering in the Emir’s palace. Around 6 am, all burst out from the palace carrying sticks, matchetes, daggers, axes, etcetera and all other dangerous weapons, spread themselves all over the town, looting and burning houses and shops.

Some personnel of the Nigerian Army and Police took active parts, while others made no attempts to bring the situation under control. This attack was directed against the people of Southern Nigeria origin with the exclusion of the Yorubas. …While the attack continued, the Emir of Katsina, Usman Nagogo; the former Northern Minister of Education Isa Kaita; Musa Tafida Yar `Adua, former Federal Minister of Lagos Affairs and Magajin Gari, Emirs’s son, were parading the town up and down cheering them up (Korieh, 2012: 14).

Julius Abisi, a Prison Warden who lived in Kaduna from 1958 to 1966, testified about the massive attack on Easterners in the city of Kaduna following a meeting of top Hausa civil servants at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium on Saturday May 29 1966. He recalled: “from the meeting, they spread to the town attacking every Easterner they met; looting, committing arson and  killing of law-abiding Easterners featured prominently.” Reminiscent of what happened in Nazi Germany, Abisi told the Tribunal: “After the general attack, they started going from house to house hunting Easterners to kill… They boasted that after their operation, "NOTHING LIKE EAST WILL REMAIN ON THE MAP OF NIGERIA…” (Korieh, 2012: 15).

This case has persisted to the present day. Writing in collected works on the Nigeria–Biafra war in 2013, Paul Bartrop, acting as gatekeeper to the house of genocide studies, insisted that ‘until it can be demonstrated that their [the FMG’s] goal was the total destruction of the Igbo as a people, and not forcing the surrender of Biafra and it's re-incorporation into the Nigerian Federal Republic, caution must be exercised in concluding that genocide occurred’. In fact, neither for Raphael Lemkin, who coined the genocide concept, nor in international law, is it necessary to show intended total destruction to demonstrate genocide.

The UNCG speaks of the intention to destroy ‘in whole or in part’. Not for nothing did Samantha Power observed that ‘the link between Hitler’s Final Solution and Lemkin’s hybrid term would cause endless confusion for policy makers and ordinary people who assumed that genocide occurred only where the perpetrator of atrocity could be shown, like Hitler, to possess an intent to exterminate every last member of an ethnic, national, or religious group’.
This paradigm ensured the exclusion of the Nigeria–Biafra war from genocide studies. Thus, the first anthology on genocide, published by Jack N. Porter in 1982, contained a section on the Hutu-Tutsi in Burundi, the Ache of Paraguay, the Buddhists of Tibet, East Timor, Cambodia and East Pakistan, but not the Igbos of Nigeria.

In a much-cited article in 1988, Ted Gurr and Barbara Harff did not count the 1966 massacre of Igbos in the North as genocide because according to them, there was no deliberate, sustained policy of extermination dictated and organized by ruling groups but then, also excluded the subsequent state-induced famine.

Helen Fein was prepared to refer very briefly to the ‘Ibos in Nigeria (preceding the Biafran secession in 1966)’ in her well-known analysis, Genocide: a sociological perspective (1990), although, she too omitted the deliberate famine.
The Biafran case was not covered in Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonassohn’s influential anthology, ''The history and sociology of genocide" (1990), but they included a bibliographical reference despite their stated misgivings. Neither did Jonassohn’s survey of ‘man-made famines’ mention the million or more Biafran victims. The paucity of research was evident when Israel W. Charny’s pioneering Encyclopedia of genocide (1999), contained a perfunctory paragraph-long entry on the Igbos based wholly on Kuper’s own brief summary.

Written by Obulose Chidiebere N.
Edited by Okechukwu Ise
For Family Writers Press International

 

 

 

I Wonder Why Genocidal Scholars Omit Biafra Genocide In Their Articles
(Part 3)

Omitting Biafra Genocide 3
Biafran refugees flee federal Nigerian troops on a road near Ogbaku, Nigeria in this 1968 photo. Between one and three million people are estimated to have died. (AP Photo/Kurt Strumpf)

Written by Obulose Chidiebere N.
6th February 2020

The situation had not changed appreciably by the 2000s. Harff, again excluded the 1966 massacres from her survey of genocide and political mass murder since 1955 because the government was not complicit in killings carried out by private groups and again she omitted the subsequent war and famine. No mention was made of the Nigeria–Biafra war in the canonical century of genocide anthology in 2004, nor in the fourth edition of 2013, although the third edition (2009) contained a chapter with few paragraphs on the war in relation to undefeated perpetrator regimes. Ben Kiernan’s mammoth, prize-winning world history of genocide, makes no mention of Biafra despite purporting to cover ‘genocide and extermination from Sparta to Darfur’. Neither does it appear in new books on ‘forgotten’ and ‘hidden’ genocides, if at all, it is briefly mentioned in passing, as in Benjamin Valentino’s monograph on mass killing and genocide in the twentieth century and Philip Spencer’s Genocide since 1945. Usually, genocide scholars do not even list Biafra among the cases excluded from their definition of genocide.

The exclusion of the Biafran case from genocide studies has been virtually as complete as it has been unnoticed. Until the Bosnian and Rwandan cases of 1994, the canonical genocides were the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide. The first comparative genocide studies conference, held in Israel in 1982, was limited to these cases. This selection can perhaps be explained by the biographies of the founding generation of genocide scholars, who were in the main Holocaust survivors or their children, Israelis and Armenians. Yet, as Melson’s journey indicates, the Holocaust was not the initial focus. It was too traumatic to write about the Holocaust early in his life, he wrote later. The interest in post-colonial Africa functioned as a displacement.

As did so many of my generation growing up in the late 1950s and 1960s, I had hoped that Africa, the so called Third World, would avoid the recent horrors of Europe. The Biafran case spurred him less to explore contemporary Africa and similar contemporary cases. However, than to go back in time, I knew I had to return to the Holocaust to try to make sense of it both at the level of personal emotion and in some broader comparative intellectual perspective.120 Europe’s traumatic past, then, led to a commitment to post-colonial reconstruction and then back to the Holocaust when these hopes for the new post-colonial nation states were dashed. After spending 1977 in Jerusalem, overlooking the occupied Judean desert and Dead Sea from the Hebrew University’s elevated campus, he decided to work on the Holocaust and became a charter member of the Jewish studies programme at his home institution, Purdue University in Indiana, USA making a case to compare to the Holocaust, Melson settled on Armenia rather than Biafra—or Cambodia—because it most resembled [the Holocaust]. 122 Fein, too, had initially written about colonial violence after a period of anti-Vietnam war activism before rediscovering her Jewish identity while living in India in the early 1970s and resolving to work on the Holocaust, anti-Semitism genocide and refugees.

In a very concrete sense, the canonization of the Holocaust and Armenian genocide came at the conceptual expense of Biafra and other so-called partial colonial and post-colonial genocides. From the massacre of the Igbos at Kano, Nigeria in 1953 after an uprising of indigenes against Easterners to the pogroms of 1966, a systematic attempt was made to exterminate Easterners, including women and children.

It was estimated that between 36,000 and 42,000 Easterners where killed in the pogroms. Over a million Igbos died as a result of these pogroms and the war itself. Indeed, if it is difficult to establish motives and intent to commit genocide against the Igbos in earlier massacres, it is less so with the hostilities of 1966 and the official war broke out 1967. The deliberate policy of starving the civilian population of Biafra, the bombing of civilian targets, the gruesome and barbaric methods of killing Biafran civilians were clearly planned and executed with the intent of annihilating them. Evidence of substantial motivation and incitement to commit the crime of genocide laced the speeches by Northern intellectuals, bureaucrats and politicians.

There was genocide against the Igbo people. Just as Frederick Forsyth said: "What is truly shameful is that this was not done by savages but aided and assisted at every stage by Oxbridge-educated British mandarins. Why? Did they love the corruption-driven, dictator-prone Nigeria? No. From start to finish, it was to cover up that the UK’s assessment of the Nigerian situation was an enormous judgemental screw-up. And, worse with neutrality and diplomacy from London, it could all have been avoided.
Biafra is little discussed in the UK these days – a conflict overshadowed geopolitically by the Vietnam War, which raged at the same time. Yet, the sheer nastiness of the British establishment during those three years, remains a source of deep shame that we should never forget".

In all, I would say big thanks to Chima J. Korieh for his write-ups about Biafra genocide which I found useful and needed to increase the tempo.

Written by Obulose Chidiebere N.
Edited by Domendu Emilia
For Family Writers Press International

 

 

 

 

 

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