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Wednesday 17 November 2021

Is a new conflict looming between Nigeria and Biafra Nation?

 Is a new conflict looming between Nigeria and Biafra Nation?


  "Repression is the only tool known to the Nigerian government"

  Is a new conflict looming between Nigeria and Biafra Nation?


Human rights groups warn of an escalation of the conflict in southeastern Nigeria.  Groups that campaign for regional independence gain momentum there. The government responds with excessive force.  "Repression is the only tool known to the Nigerian government." At least 115 civilians have died in the southeast in the past four months, according to Amnesty International.  The human rights organization speaks of "a whole series of human rights and international law violations".  The Nigerian army is said to have been guilty of massacres, torture and mass arrests since January this year. Videos that can be seen on social media are accordingly.  The atrocities, while not always confirmed, are spread all the more, especially among Nigerians in the diaspora.  In Nigeria itself, Twitter has been blocked since June.

  Decades of dissatisfaction

Separatists in the south-east of the country, also known as Biafra, have been dissatisfied with the Nigerian government for decades.  An estimated one million people died during the Nigeria-Biafran War between 1967 and 1970. The main ethnic group in Biafra, the Igbo, consider the war to be genocide by the Nigerian government.  According to her, it was a deliberate attempt to ethnically cleanse the country.  These largely undigested feelings play out again today.

  An estimated one million people died during the Nigeria-Biafran War between 1967 and 1970.

The Igbo feel discriminated against.  "If you want to study as an Igbo, for example, you have to have much better grades for admission than a Yoruba or a Hausa," says Chris Uzuegbu, who spoke to MO for the interview.  came to Brussels from Duisburg *.  "As an Igbo, you encounter this type of discrimination everywhere: in education, in the judiciary, in political representation and so on."

Uzuegbu represents the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the leading advocate for a new independent state in West Africa: Biafra. In December 2020, the IPOB established an armed branch, the Eastern Security Network (ESN).  Since then, tensions with the Nigerian government have increased and threaten to escalate into a full-blooded war.

In response to the establishment of the ESN, the Nigerian army marched into the city of Orlu earlier this year.  There were several civilian casualties.  With ongoing state terrorism, the Nigerian government is driving Southeast residents straight into the hands of separatists.

  In June, IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu was arrested in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.  According to most of the Nigerian media, Kanu, also a British citizen, is in solitary confinement and is being tortured.  Kanu is charged under the Terrorism Act.  The trial should take place in January.

 Made up land

  It is another crisis for the Nigerian government under President Muhammadu Buhari.  Jihadists from Boko Haram are present in northern Nigeria.  And elsewhere in the country other groups advocate independence, sometimes for ethnic reasons, but sometimes for economic reasons.  In addition, parts of the country are being torn apart by conflicts between nomadic shepherds and farmers.

  "Nigeria should never have existed."

  According to IPOB representative Uzuegbu, the root of the problem lies in the colonial days when Nigeria fell under British rule.  Since then, the problems have worsened exponentially.  “Nigeria is an invented country, drawn along colonial lines.  It should never have existed, "says Uzuegbu.

Regionalism in Nigeria: "If we don't get Biafra, everyone will die"

“The Nigerian state is nothing more than a means of self-enrichment.  What we want is self-management so that we can make our own decisions.  IPOB is ready for dialogue and actually wants to organize a referendum, but the Nigerians consistently refuse to enter into a dialogue with us. "

  "Analogous to Boko-Haram"


Instead of repression, President Muhammadu Buhari seems to be thinking.  Between 1983 and 1985 he was once a military dictator in his country.  The tried and tested method of suppressing social discontent in Nigeria is to arrest the instigator and sow sufficient terror among the supporters.  A recipe that has remained unchanged for many years, but now seems to have reached its limits.

This is what the story of Boko Haram teaches, for example.  At the turn of the century, this was still a small local group studying a mystical form of Islam.  They were radicals who did not believe in the theory of evolution, but who in themselves did not harm anyone.

Until 2009, an incident involving army units over wearing motorcycle helmets exploded.  A gun battle ensued in which several Boko Haram members were killed.  The leader, Mohamed Yusuf, was arrested and publicly executed at Maiduguri Police Station later that day. 

In the meantime, Boko Haram has become the deadliest terrorist group in the world, whose name terrifies many West Africans.  Nigerian repression seems to have given birth to a monster.

  IPOB and Boko Haram may be miles apart when it comes to gates, but Uzuegbu also sees a parallel.  "The only answer the government knows is repression," it sounds.  “Just as Boko Haram got stronger after the repression, so will we.  In any case, we will continue to fight for independence. "

  Sharpened knives versus dialogue

  With the founding of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the knives also seem to be sharpened on the IPOB side.  The Nigerian government regards the ESN as a paramilitary organization.

  "If the government cannot create a safe environment for its citizens, you must ensure that security yourself."

  But for Uzuegbu the cards are different.  He does not deny the existence of the ESN, but calls it a necessary evil.  “The state is not fulfilling its duty to create a safe environment for its citizens.  If the government does not do this, it is up to you to provide this security yourself.  That's exactly what ESN does. "

 The Nigerian government has accused the ESN of having killed police officers and soldiers and burned down police stations and prisons.

  A dialogue with the central government seems out of the question.  And while most state governors are dissatisfied with Buhari's leadership, it has rarely been openly criticized.  "If you make it to governor, you owe the president," says Uzuegbu.  All of this means that the governors of the Biafra states, often Igbo themselves, do not speak out on the desirability of an independent Biafra.

  Meanwhile, growing demands for Biafran's independence threaten to trigger ever more brutal repression.  It remains to be seen what effects this will have on the Nigerian state, which is fragile at the seams.

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