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Thursday, 6 February 2020

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

I Wonder Why Genocidal Scholars Omit Biafra Genocide In Their Articles (Part 2)
Jonathan Ikerionwu pictured with Bill and Audrey Cowley, who helped save his life in 1966.The Disturbances/EthicsDaily.com

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

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