Nnamdi Kanu, the memory of Biafra

Home »world» Nnamdi Kanu, the memory of Biafra December 26, 2021

Joaquín Aldeguerm

The leader of the Igbos calls for the independence of this territory of Nigeria where, half a century ago, an extremely brutal war broke out that shook the world

The country where Nnamdi Kanu was born no longer exists. Biafra had only one fragile entity between the years 1967 and 1970 and, nevertheless, this brief history left more than two million deaths, mostly children who perished victims of malnutrition in the middle of a conflict. devastating. This political leader has taken up this project to endow the Igbo ethnic group with a homeland and now he faces a trial that could lead to a long sentence. But this judicial process can also fuel Southeast Nigeria’s desire for independence.

The one 50 years ago was not just another war. Despite its ephemeral nature, the memory of this failed initiative in the Niger River Delta region has remained in the collective imagination of the West. The conflict revealed the image of children with swollen bellies, a questionable characteristic of the poorest Africa, and had such an impact in the world that it gave birth to a humanitarian organization like Médecins Sans Frontières.

Over time, mankind recovered from that horror that rivaled the drama of Vietnam on television. But not those affected by this brief conflict, who endured a long naval blockade, aerial bombardment and post-war repression. The tribal community that was trying to separate, the Igbos, felt persecuted by the central government and after the defeat suffered property confiscation and predatory policies by the occupying military forces. Three million people have been forced to leave their homes.

The environment in which Nnamdi Kanu had to grow up was marked by this hatred, the plundering of the rich oil fields, the destruction of the environment and coercion, circumstances which endure until today, half a century more late. Before graduating from university, Kanu went to England. There he transmitted his ideology of protest through Radio Biafra, a station which over the years has assumed the legacy of separatist guerrillas.

The fame of this speaker grew so much that he was invited to the Igbo World Congress, which was held in 2015 in the North American metropolis of Los Angeles. This group, which has more than 30 million members, mostly farmers and Christians, feels discriminated against by other groups of Muslim faith, such as the Fulani and Hausa shepherds, usual holders of civil and military power in African power. . His address to this conclave was direct. The journalist had already created the Organization of Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), a self-defined democratic movement that appealed for civil disobedience to secure a referendum that would decide the fate of the region. But when he got to the stand he called for guns and bullets.

The Nigerian government reacted swiftly and on October 18, 2015, he was arrested by the Lagos city secret police. The news served to make visible a conflict that has remained hidden from the world, much more concerned about the jihadist insurgency. Southeastern states responded with widespread protests. His release on bail attempted to calm the spirits on the mainland.

But the spiral of violence has not stopped in this area around the Niger River Delta. Two years later, the army raided the leader’s home in an assault in which 28 IPOB militants perished. Kanu has disappeared. In December 2020, the man who declared himself a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King announced the formation of the Eastern Security Network, a paramilitary organization aimed at protecting Igbo peasants from the incursions of Fulani cattle herders. In January of this year, there had already been clashes between the security forces and this militia. The IPOB was banned.

The fugitive appeared in a video outside the Western Wall while professing the Jewish religion and on June 21 he was finally arrested in Kenya and extradited. His capture led to prosecutions for “terrorism, treason, participation in a banned separatist movement, incitement to public violence through radio broadcasts and defamation of the Nigerian authorities”.

Coupling flag

The trial, postponed to next January, makes the prisoner a hook for a frustrated population. The former territory of Biafra, with 14 million inhabitants, suffers from all possible scourges, from maritime piracy to intertribal fighting and uncontrollable crime. The war against Boko Haram has masked the resurgence of separatist tendencies and central government counterinsurgency efforts. Amnesty International assures that there are indications of mass extrajudicial executions.

The key lies in Nnamdi Kanu and his ability to wake up the masses. His conviction would spark an unprecedented wave of violence in a state riddled with seams, mired in a major economic crisis and with very high rates of public corruption. It is the favorable framework for the new Igbo messiah to encourage his supporters to break away from Nigeria, a country he has called a “zoo”. He also considered the “baboons” of the ethnic groups that dominated him. The Delta, again, could explode.

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