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■ February 07, 2017
On the weekend of President Trump’s inauguration, hundreds took to the street to march. They blocked traffic, sang songs and danced. In the crowd, scores of them wore yarmulkes and tallitot as they waved Israeli flags.
This was not a scene from Washington, or from Trump strongholds in the Deep South or Appalachia.
It was in the West African nation of Nigeria, where a separatist group known as the Indigenous People of Biafra is heralding Trump as a boon to its nationalist project. They see themselves as descendants of a “Lost Tribe of Israel,” and see Trump as a “pro-Israel” president who will also support their movement to create an independent country of Biafra in the South of the country, among the Igbo people.
Trump stands for everything we aspire for as a people,”
Mazi Onyebuchi, an IPOB activist based in England, wrote in a Facebook message to the Forward. Those aspirations? Self-determination and “restoration of ancient Jewish heritage.”
“They believe that the Igbo are Jews,” said Remy Ilona, a Nigerian graduate student at Florida International University, and the author of “The Igbos And Israel: An Inter-cultural Study of the Oldest and Largest Jewish Diaspora.”
“As the Igbo believe they are Jews,” Ilona said, “that would mean they would support their brothers. And Israel is the state of the Jewish people.”
The IPOB advocate for the creation of an independent state in southeastern Nigeria for the Igbo, one of the country’s largest ethnic groups which also holds a longstanding and widely held identification with the biblical Israelites.
The Igbo fought a bloody war for independence in the late 19060s in which more than 1 million civilians were killed.
Some Igbo call the conflict an attempted genocide by the Nigerian state, which they compare to the Holocaust. That has only deepened their emotional bond with the Jewish people, and the State of Israel.
Biafran nationalists say their movement has been gaining steam recently and clashes have erupted with security forces in recent months. A leading figure of the movement, Nnamdi Kanu, was arrested by Nigerian secret police last year and is still being held.
Published by Umuchiukwu Writers