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Wednesday 21 September 2022

FACT-CHECK: Is there Any Genocide Against The Igbos in 1967/70?

 FACT-CHECK: Is there Any Genocide Against The Igbos in 1967/70?

A United States-based Biafran-American singer Kal Afrorock says over five million Biafrans died in the nearly three-year Nigerian Civil war which ended in 1970. ROBERT EGBE reports that available evidence suggests that the singer exaggerated the Southeast war casualty by possibly up to three million deaths. Although no accurate record but Red cross estimated that a thousand Biafrans children were dying every day, Caritas put the figure to 10,000. per a day. 

On May 12, 2022, Nigerian-American singer Kal Afrorock published a picture post on his Facebook page

The post features his picture and that of a former Nigerian Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, with the caption “His name is Yakubu Gowon. He’s one of the main key figure (sic) responsible for the genoside (sic) of over 5 million Biafran People in 1967. – KAL AFROROCK BIAFRAN PEOPLE NEW CENTURY”

Kal Afrorock, who had 121,000 followers as of the time of the post, repeated the statement in an accompanying post beside the picture and added: “My wish is for him to still be alive to see the Freedom of #Biafra”.

As of May 21, 2022, the post had generated 1,003 reactions, 113 comments and 484 shares on Facebook.

Kal Afrorock tweeted the same claim on his Twitter handle @kalafrorock where he has 95.6K followers. As of May 21, 2022, the tweet had been retweeted 1,224 times, liked 1,131 times and generated 58 comments.

Who is Kal Afrorock?

According to his bio on his website, Chukwuka Nwaneri, known professionally as Kal Afrorock, is an Igbo Biafran American singer, songwriter, and record producer.

Born in Abia State, Aba, Biafra and raised in Washington D.C., Kal Afrorock claims he is “the first Igbo Rock, Alternative, Hip hop and R&B artist in America.”

The singer also says he has worked closely with Hollywood actor Will Smith and musical artist Omarr Rambert on producing music for K. Smith, Will Smith’s nephew.

Kal Afrorock also states that in 2007, he linked up with Grammy Award Winning American singer-songwriter Mya. He says he collaborated, produced and wrote several songs for Mya.

Who is Gowon?

As Head of State of Nigeria, General Yakubu Gowon presided over a controversial Nigerian Civil War and delivered the famous “no victor, no vanquished” speech at the war’s end in an effort to promote healing and reconciliation.

The Nigerian Civil War is listed as one of the deadliest in modern history, with some accusing Gowon of crimes against humanity and genocide.

However, Gowon maintains that he committed no wrongdoing during the war and that his leadership saved the country.

Nigerian Civil War

The Nigerian Civil War (6 July 1967 – 15 January 1970; also known as the Nigerian-Biafran War or the Biafran War) was misconstrued as civil war fought between the government of Nigeria and the Republic of Biafra region which had declared its independence from Nigeria in 1967 when Igbos were being killed in northern Nigeria. Nigeria was led by Gowon, while Biafra was led by Lt. Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu.

The conflict resulted from political, economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions which preceded Britain’s formal decolonization of Nigeria from 1960 to 1963.

Immediate causes of the war in 1966 included ethno-religious violence and anti-Igbo pogroms in Northern Nigeria, a military coup, a counter-coup and persecution of Igbo living in Northern Nigeria. Control over the lucrative oil production in the Niger Delta also played a vital strategic role.

A war that Nigeria planned to last for 3 months took Nigeria with the help of Britain and other world powers 3 years. 2 years after the Federal Government troops with the help of Britain surrounded Biafra, captured coastal oil facilities and the city of Port Harcourt. A blockade was imposed as a deliberate policy during the ensuing stalemate which led to mass starvation.

Genocide question

Legal scholar Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe and other academics argued that the Biafran war was of aggression that resulted genocide, for which no perpetrators have been held accountable.

Critics of this position acknowledge that starvation policies were pursued deliberately and that accountability has not been sought for the 1966 pogroms, but suggest that claims of genocide are incongruous with the fact that the Igbo were not exterminated after the war ended, alongside other arguments such as a lack of clarity surrounding Nigerian intentions and that Nigeria was fighting to retain control of Biafra and its people rather than to expel or exterminate them.

Biafra made a formal complaint of genocide against Igbos to the International Committee on the Investigation of Crimes of Genocide, which concluded that the actions undertaken by the Nigerian government against the Igbo amounted to a genocide.

With special reference to the Asaba Massacre, jurist Emma Okocha described the killings as “the first black-on-black genocide”.

How many people died during the war?

Historians accept as a fact that a huge number of people were killed in the Biafra, either by violence or starvation.

However, there does not seem to be evidence for Kal Afrorock’s claim of five million Biafran deaths by genocide during the civil war.

A former Head of Department, International Studies and Diplomacy, at Benson Idahosa University, Benin, Mr. Mike Okemi reasoned that Kal Afrorock exaggerated the deaths by up to about three million.

Okemi said: “That (five million) figure is ambiguous. It is not true. The widely accepted figure is between one million and two million. Note that when the war ended, as of that time statistics and data in Nigeria were not too accurate. I don’t think there is an exact figure. So the figure is an approximation. We are approximating, but the figure cannot be more than two million.

“One cannot be talking of three million, let alone five million. Especially if we ask the question, what was the population of the entire South East region at that time?”

Much of the data sourced from publications saved on internet archive Wayback Machine back Okemi’s argument.

For instance, The BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters, etc all did live reports during the war. These reports and several scholarly articles on the war found on the Wayback Machine (, addressed the issue of how many people died.

Red cross estimated that a thousand were dying every day, Caritas put the figure to 10,000. per day.

The evidence from these organisations as well as Nigerian government data suggest that fewer than two million people died in the then Southeast region.

One of such articles is “The Nigeria-Biafra War: Genocide and the Politics of Memory” by Igbo author, Chima Korieh and published in May 2012.

Korieh, then an associate professor of history at Marquette University, wrote: “The thirty-month-long war led to the death of over one million ethnic Igbos and other Easterners. Described as the first black-on-black genocide in postcolonial Africa, the war had a terrible impact on the Igbo people with its massive civilian death toll.”

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