The situation in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, one of the largest and in terms of population the largest state in Africa, is becoming increasingly difficult.
Terrorists operate in the country (Boko Haram, Daesh / IS * banned in Russia, etc.). And they are “elusive” not because of a strong social base or outstanding military ability, but because of external funding and patronage from supranational / global structures like the International Criminal Court, which links the government’s fight against terror with the “respect for the rights” of terrorists.
Recently, another problem has emerged – the threat of a direct disintegration of Nigeria. The disintegration, which is prepared purposefully and methodically.
The separatism of the Igbo people is raising its head ever more decisively. (Igbo), the idea of creating an independent state of Biafra, supported from abroad, is being promoted more and more actively. A number of organizations have been created in the country that directly raise the issue of creating an “independent Biafra”, that is, the disintegration of Nigeria. A few weeks ago, N. Kano, the leader of the largest separatist Organization for Updating the Question of Biafra’s Independence, returned to the country. He was immediately arrested, which, perhaps, was his plan, because the arrest provoked massive protests by Igbo representatives.
In July 2020, the Igbo people were admitted to a specific international NGO called the Organization of Unrepresented Peoples, which at one time included Chechnya-Ichkeria, Crimean Tatars, Tibetans, and others.
Territory of Biafra on the map of West Africa
This threat can be called new only conditionally. The Republic of Biafra already existed in Nigeria. Seven years after Nigeria gained independence in 1960, a civil war broke out in the country, provoked by an attempt to secede territories, which were dominated by Igbo, and the creation of an independent Biafra.
The war was not only civil, it acquired an international character. The separatists fought with the federation army for almost three years, because they were supported, first of all, by the United States and France.
It is interesting to note that not only the West and the USSR collided in Biafra. There was a clash between the oil companies of the United States and Britain. If Britain provided assistance to the federal authorities, hoping to maintain its power over the territory of all of Nigeria, the United States was ready to “be content” only with the oil of Biafra (4/5 of all Nigerian oil is concentrated there). It should also be noted the support of the Biafran separatists by China (which supplied them with weapons for several million dollars) and Israel.
During the war, according to various sources, from 45 to 100 thousand servicemen were killed. From 2 to 4.5 million people became refugees and displaced persons. A huge number of people died from fighting and hunger. Today, the question of the genocide of the Igbo people is being raised more and more often. Such issues, when raised within the country, are always aimed at splitting the state.
The role of the USSR in ending the war should be especially noted. When the federal government of Nigeria realized that it was not facing local separatists, but with a special operation from the West, it turned to the Soviet Union for help. However, the authorities of the newly-made Biafra sought support in the USSR, including swearing loyalty to the principles of socialism and even Leninism. Note that the USSR did not have any special grounds for supporting the authorities of Nigeria: the then leadership of the country represented the feudal reactionary part of the Muslim north and at one time was against the establishment of relations between the USSR. Diplomatic relations with Moscow were established largely through the efforts of representatives of the Eastern Province, that is, Igbo!
Recently declassified archives have shown that the choice of the Soviet government to provide assistance to the government of Nigeria was not so simple and far from obvious. The decisive factor was the question of preserving the country’s territorial integrity, on the one hand, and the unwillingness to provide assistance to Biafra as an “American project”, on the other.
The Soviet government sent several hundred military specialists to Nigeria, and supplies of military equipment were made. The then commander of the Nigerian army, and later the country’s president, General O. Obasanjo, wrote in his memoirs that it was the military assistance of the Soviet Union that was the decisive factor in the victory of the federal forces over the separatists.
However, for almost three years the “Republic of Biafra” claimed to exist and even received some recognition in this capacity, including from a number of African countries, both pro-Western (Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon) and socialist-oriented countries (Zambia, Tanzania).
The war ended in January 1970 with the storming of the main cities of Biafra. For a long time, the country could not recover from the death of a huge number of people and massive destruction. Almost all presidents of Nigeria (up to 2007) were participants in this war. And not just participants, but commanders of federal troops. Biafra was not remembered aloud, but she was remembered!
Gradually, the wounds began to heal. The territory of the former Biafra was divided among the nine states of the federation … Nigeria slowly but surely began to come out on the forefront of economic positions in Africa. Today, the only country on the African continent in the G-20 is South Africa, but its position was called into question after Nigeria surpassed South Africa in terms of GDP in 2017 and still holds this primacy.
The country’s rapid development provoked opposition from the West. It is in this context that the revival of Operation Biafra should be viewed.
Particular attention should be paid to the ideological and cultural support of the special operation. The West began to heavily fund and promote the culture of the Igbo people, especially those who are supporters of the independence of Biafra. New books and films were published glorifying Biafra and depicting the horrors of the civil war. They receive prestigious awards in the USA and Europe. The promotion of the Biafra project in the ideological sphere is striking. Moreover, the Biafran propaganda, as before, is trying to enlist support in Russia; Recently, a book “Half of the Yellow Sun” (the rising sun is the emblem of the Republic of Biafra), mediocre in its literary and artistic qualities, was published in Russian in an elegant edition. The book won a prestigious British award Orange Book Prize, newspaper New York Times named the book among the 100 most significant books of the year, BBC included it among the 10 best books published in the XXI century …
The Biafra project should be seen in the context of recent developments in South Africa and Ethiopia. The largest economies of the continent, showing the highest rates of development, plunge into the abyss of internal strife. This is especially dangerous for multinational states. The most difficult situation is now in Ethiopia, where a real war is going on. And Nigeria is already teetering on the brink of disintegration. A direct military threat in the form of Boko Haram / IS * did not work, but ideological sabotage to reanimate Biafra could be more effective.
Cover photo: REUTERS / Afolabi Sotunde
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