Bight of Biafra

True History Bight of Biafra, also Bight of Bonny, bay in western Africa, in the eastern part of the Gulf of Guinea, 600 km (400 mi) long. The Bight of Biafra extends from the mouth of the Niger River in Nigeria to Cape Lopez, Gabon, and is fed by the Niger, Cross, and Sanaga rivers. Islands in the bay include Bioko (formerly Fernando Póo), São Tomé, and Príncipe. Principal ports include Malabo, Equatorial Guinea; Port Harcourt and Calabar, Nigeria; Douala, Cameroon; and Libreville, Gabon. From the 16th century to the 19th century, the Bight of Biafra was a slave trading center. However, after the British outlawed the practice in 1807, palm oil trade became a chief economic activity. In the 1950s petroleum was discovered in the Bight of Biafra and has become an important economic resource for the region.
Secession of Eastern Region.
Major General Yakubu Gowon, the federation's chief of state, decreed on May 28 the division of the federation, which had consisted of 4 regions and a federal territory, into 12 states, 3 of them from the Eastern Region, each to be autonomous and responsible for law and order. Two days later the Eastern Region, led by its Oxford-educated military governor, Major General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, seceded from the Federation of Nigeria, declaring itself the Republic of Biafra (named after the Bight of Biafra, an inlet on the Gulf of Guinea). The secession followed long-simmering hostility among Nigeria's hundreds of tribes, many of them separated by religion, culture, and language. 

The largest tribes are the 31 million Hausas of the Northern Region and the 12.8 million Ibos of the East. Most Ibos are Christians; they are well educated by African standards, politically forward-looking, skillful, and energetic. Many Hausas are Muslim, conservative, and several generations behind the Ibos educationally. (Gowon, a Hausa, is a Christian; his father was a Methodist minister.) The long and savage history of Hausa-Ibo violence reached a climax in January 1966 when Ibo army officers staged a bloody coup against the Northern-dominated federal government, and an Ibo general (Johnson T. U. Aguiyi-Ironsi) took over as interim ruler of the country. Six months later the Northerners struck back by murdering the Ibo chief of state and launching a pogrom against the 1.5 million Ibos living in the Northern and Western regions. Some 20,000 to 30,000 Ibos were massacred; hundreds of thousands fled back to their crowded Eastern Region. The embittered Ibos wanted security and more autonomy for the Eastern Region than Federal Governor Gowon was willing to grant. 

The East's Ojukwu gave Gowon until Mar. 31, 1967, to put into effect agreements reached at a conference held in Aburi Ghana in January for a loose confederation of states for Nigeria, promised aid for Ibo refugees, and other concessions. When the deadline passed without action, Ojukwu hit back by requiring taxes (about $40 million in 1967) from foreign oil companies in the Eastern Region to be paid to the Eastern treasury rather than, as before, to the federal treasury. This act Gowon denounced as 'illegal and unconstitutional.' Ojukwu responded by seceding on May 30, and Gowon ordered federal troops to bring the rebellious 'Biafrans' back into the federation.
Civil War
While the federal navy blockaded Eastern Region ports to prevent the shipment of oil, the federal army invaded the Eastern Region. By July it had taken the university town of Nsukka in the east and the market town of Ogaja in the west on a 100-mile war front. The relatively small forces on both sides were augmented by volunteers. The federal offensive halted as Biafran guerrillas struck back in confused clashes between wandering groups of ill-trained armies. Fighting the federal troops to a standstill, the Biafrans, joined by mutinous federal soldiers under Ibo officers, took the offensive and captured Benin, capital of the neighboring Midwestern Region, on August 9, thus spreading the civil war to the second of Nigeria's four regions. Shortage of matériel bogged down both armies, while radio propaganda from both sides claimed victories. The Biafran-appointed Ibo military governor of the Midwestern Region declared its independence. Shortly thereafter, on September 20, federal troops reoccupied the Midwestern Region and with their coming the formerly tolerant Midwesterners took a heavy revenge on the half-million Ibos (20 percent of the Midwestern Region's population) living in their midst. Ibo corpses lined town streets and country roads.

Relief efforts
The federal government's insistence on supervising all foreign relief operations in war-devastated areas, partly because of the pro-Biafra bias of some relief agencies, allegedly made for more red tape and a slowdown in meeting relief needs. On April 11 report from relief workers stated that 50,000 persons had died of starvation since the end of the civil war. The Nigerian Red Cross relief operations distributed an estimated 3,000 tons of food a week to 3 million people, mostly children, at the peak of the emergency in March. Relief operations were gradually reduced in scale and were taken over on June 30 by the National Rehabilitation Commission, which coordinated the efforts of voluntary relief agencies. These agencies promised to keep 14 teams operating until the end of September.
Foreign Arms.
The United States prohibited arms shipment to Nigeria. Great Britain supplied light arms to the federal army but banned plane shipments. Federal forces were reinforced by the arrival of a reported six Czech L-26 jet planes and six obsolete MIG fighters, six MIG trainers, military supplies, and mechanics from the Soviet Union. The Biafrans obtained two obsolete B-26 bombers and a few helicopters. It was estimated in October that the civil war had cost both sides $140 million for arms so far. The federal government asserted that Portugal was aiding the Biafran cause.
Biafra's Capital Taken.
In a radio broadcast on October 1, the seventh anniversary of Nigeria's independence, Gowon appealed to Easterners to abandon their secessionist leaders and promised Ibos their rightful place in the federation after the civil war ended. Shortly afterward federal troops slashed deep into Ibo territory and rained shells on the Biafran capital of Enugu. By the end of October the civil war had reached a decisive stage with the toppling and emptying of Enugu and the encirclement of Biafra on three sides. Ojukwu offered his resignation, but Biafra's House of Chiefs and Consultative Assembly gave him an overwhelming vote of confidence and promoted him to full general, thus seeming to halt hopes of a negotiated peace. An offer to negotiate a cease-fire had come earlier from the leaders of the Organization of African Unity meeting in Kinshasa, capital of the Congo, in September. The arrival of their six-member peace delegation was postponed several times.
Biafra 1970 Civil war ends.
Organized resistance in Nigeria's 30-month, bitterly fought civil war ended January 12 with a declaration of surrender over Biafran radio by Major General Philip Effiong. He succeeded secessionist leader General Odumegwu Ojukwu, who fled January 11 to asylum in the Ivory Coast. Unconditional surrender was accepted on January 15 by federal Nigerian leader Major General Yakubu Gowon, who declared general amnesty 'for all those misled into attempting to disintegrate the country.' He added: 'We have been reunited with our brothers.' The end became imminent on January 10 with the collapse of Owerri, Biafra's third provincial capital, and on January 12 Uli airstrip, Biafra's last link with the outside world, was captured. The civil war took an estimated 3 million lives, including many Biafran children and women, and cost over US$840 million according to the federal government.
Unsuccessful Peace Talks.
Peace talks began with unsuccessful secret sessions in London during January and February. More promising preliminary talks in early May led to an agreement that peace negotiations should begin in Kampala, Uganda, later that month. These talks, however, made little progress and were cut off by Biafra on May 31. At the August 5-September 9 talks in Addis Ababa, under the auspices of the Organization of African Unity, the warring representatives again deadlocked. Federal Nigeria has insisted that Biafra give up independence as a condition for peace; Biafra has replied that only autonomy can save the Ibos from massacre. On August 12, Pope Paul VI appealed for an end to the civil war. At a September meeting in Algeria, the OAU passed a resolution calling on Biafra to cease its fight for independence and to cooperate with Nigeria in seeking peace. Most of the 40 OAU member nations themselves contain tribal minorities with easily awakened antagonisms toward their central governments. It is feared that Biafra's success might prompt other rebellions and lead to a balkanization of Africa. Nigeria's ambassadors have played upon this fear in the capitals of African nations.
At least one Biafran friend altered her stand. Dame Margery Perham, an Oxford University specialist on Africa who in August declared Biafrans as 'overwhelmingly the injured party ... who dare not surrender,' changed her mind on a subsequent visit to Nigeria. In September she broadcast a plea to Biafrans to surrender as the only way to save millions from death and starvation.
Reconciliation and reconstruction
An international team of observers reported on January 16 that neither widespread starvation nor mistreatment of Biafrans had been found in the areas visited between Port Harcourt and Owerri. Secretary General U Thant of the UN, in Lagos on January 18, also reported no evidence of violence or mistreatment of the civilian population. In Lagos on February 19, U.S. secretary of state William P. Rogers praised Nigerians for their 'vital work of reconciliation and reconstruction.' Such early favorable accounts were marred by later reports of severe troop misbehavior, continued scarcity of food, and slow disposal of relief supplies. In February, 35 Catholic priests were jailed and fined for breaking immigration laws, and 64 missionaries, including ten nuns, all active in Biafran relief work, were deported. On August 15 decree stated that any public servant who supported the rebellion would be dismissed or forced to retire. The federal Ministry of Information clarified the decree on August 17 by stating that its purpose was not to penalize all officials but only those who were proved to have exhibited 'undue enthusiasm' in furthering the rebellion. Gowon announced on April 20 that former Biafra would be reinstated as the East-Central State on an equal basis with the other 11 states in federal Nigeria. The state would be led by Ukpabi Anthony Asika, an Ibo who had been appointed administrator of the East-Central State in 1967 and who had remained loyal to Nigeria during the civil war. 
The government made a flat exchange payment, worth $56, to each of the 200,000 persons who had deposited Biafran currency in the Central Bank. Railway restoration was begun in areas devastated by war, some night flights were resumed, the eastern ports of Port Harcourt and Calabar were opened to foreign ships, telephone lines were restored between Lagos and Enugu, government incentives were offered to villages to organize rural development projects, and a number of schools were reopened. Today we the Biafrans under platform of Indigenous People of Biafra marked 30th of May 2016 to commemorate our 50 years of survival. We have been killed, murdered, maginalized, oppeessed and raped still we are forging ahead to restore our loving country stolen from us by Britain. Glory and praise be to Chiukwu Okike Ahbiama! Isee!

By Prince Richmond C. Amadi
Editor Udeagha Obasi
For UmuChiukwu Writers
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