Today marks the 57th anniversary of the emergence of the Republic of Biafra in the comity of nations. On the solemn day of May 30, 1967, the Consultative Assembly from the then Eastern Nigeria unanimously affirmed the right to self-determination of their indigenous population, identifying themselves as Biafran.

The flag of the Republic of Biafra, consisting of a horizontal tricolor of red, black, and green, charged with a golden rising sun over a golden bar, was raised to be suppressed no more. This flag also inspired the national anthem, “Land of the Rising Sun.” The motto of the republic is “Peace, Unity, and Freedom.”

The right to self-determination in international law is the legal right for peoples to ascertain their sovereignty by a legitimate process. At that time, the Right of Self-Determination was anchored in the United Nations Charter, which states in Article 1 (2) that one of the purposes of the UN is “to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.” Biafra and Quebec were the first two entities in the world to put into effect this act of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Biafra was the first African state to grant state pardon to captured Italian citizens, Eni petroleum oil technicians, working in the disputed Biafra territory of Kwale on June 7, 1968. In a recent act of friendship, Vatican Head of State Pope Francis prayed and blessed the people of Biafra.

The 1977 Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions were a response to genocide by starvation against Biafrans. International revulsion at the use of starvation as a method of mayhem against innocent Biafran children by the Nigerian government and its cohorts was instrumental in including clauses prohibiting starvation as a method of warfare in these protocols. In recent years, questions about genocide in Biafra have also become topics of academic debates. The Journal of Genocide Research published a special issue titled “The Nigeria-Biafra War 1967-1970: Postcolonial Conflict and the Question of Genocide” (XVI, 2-3, 2014). The true images of genocidal crimes against Biafran children—emaciated, malnourished, and suffering from kwashiorkor—symbolize how and why the world nations failed humanity.

Let’s clarify a point. The recall of genocide and the continual atrocities being meted out against the people of Biafra is not a call to gain sympathy but a call for redress and justice, which we must seek no matter what it takes. Human sympathy is a duty to all persons of goodwill; liberty and justice are rights. The Republic of Biafra is now in a state of quiescence, but its appeal as the first African political entity based on civil rights and administrative creativity remains strong, making its anniversary a popular phenomenon.

Biafra’s political landmark in the comity of nations, despite colonial and post-colonial opposition, demonstrated to Africa and the whole world that there is no human right more sacrosanct than the right to self-determination when the survival of a people is threatened by a colonial-created political union. It is a duty that this day must be remembered and celebrated by Biafran families. The reason why the Republic of Biafra must be celebrated annually remains the same: the survival of the Biafran people. This goal has been legitimately sought by its generations from various perspectives and is currently interpreted by the younger generation through civil acts of fundamental freedom and liberty.

The late General Odumegwu Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, the first Head of State of the Republic of Biafra, pinpointed the massacre and genocide of innocent Biafran people as the core reason why Biafrans needed to have and defend a homeland for survival. In an address to the Organization of African Unity on August 5, 1968, he accused the Nigerian military government of waging a genocidal war against Biafra and argued that it was appalling that this palpable genocide was being openly financed and directed by major non-African powers whose interest in the conflict was the economic and political advantage of their own countries.

Biafrans feel the energy and potential in their own rights as citizens, civil rightists, or activists to remember and celebrate this day. It is a moment for sharing experiences, reflections, and appraisals, which, if correctly understood and exercised in view of Nigeria’s national predicaments, can benefit our common good. The recollection of memories by Biafrans at home and abroad from all walks of life has been essential in reviving Biafra’s heritage and legacy, which were being negated and canceled by the Nigerian authorities. Equally important are the experiences handed down by our heroes, heroines, and veterans.

Biafra’s anniversary is also an important moment for unveiling Biafran values to younger generations, friends, well-wishers, and detractors. These values relate to nationhood created under the dictates of human liberty. Biafra’s legitimate defense for self-determination has been one of the best documented in the history of conflicts in Africa. Unfortunately, it has also been the most denied and hidden, even under threat by the Nigerian government and its cohorts. Substantial facts and evidence from declassified documents and archives are now revealing what transpired, despite the silence and offensiveness engaged by the masterminds and protagonists. Much is still expected and needs to be done to always remember and not forget the heinous acts against the peace-loving people of Biafra.

Prosper Odinga
Spokesperson, BDFCG
Phone: +19173465419


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