By saying “Biafra”, you might think to the pathetic humanitarian advertising from the 70s, in which swollen-bellied-babies served as unaware receptors for moved-hearted-donators, mismanaged by the international cooperation. The aftermath of the three years of war between the Nigerian government and the self-proclaimed Republic of Biafra, from 1967 to 1970, reached three million deaths and, in the decades to come, it caused repression and discrimination towards people of the Igbo ethnic group. As a consequence of this, a mass exodus occurred from the Niger Delta area and the South-East to Lagos and, above all, to the West. A large diaspora has settled in Canada, in the US and in Europe. An increasingly organized diaspora which, thanks to new technologies, can constantly monitor what is happening today with the Biafra independence’s activists.
45 years after the civil war, the situation might explode again. As we have already told in a previous article, on October 14th 2015, Nnamdi Kanu, a British citizen and leader of IPOB (Indigenous people of Biafra), was arrested at Lagos airport. He was charged with “incitement to terrorism”. Despite two trials took place – in which the courts have stated for his release – Kanu is still captive.
His detention caused thousands of people to demonstrate in the streets of many cities of the Niger Delta and of the Southeast of the country. In a number of situations, the protests have incredibly been placated with blood. “An orgy of massacres”, so it was called by Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe. First of all the manifestation of Onitsha, the commercial Capital of the Region, on December 2nd and 17th 2015, in which the military has killed at least nine activists (yet some sources speak of 25 victims). And then the outstanding massacre of Aba, on February 9th. A media activist has shot a long and detailed video about it. It shows how the demonstrators had gathered in the courtyard of a school – with Bibles and flags – to praying for the release of Kanu. Suddenly the participants in the sit-in were surrounded by the military, by the police and by plainclothes officers. They were hit with tear gas. In this exact moment the video becomes confused, but you can still see weapons and it’s clearly hearable the gunfire and the screams of the civilians. The final part of the video was filmed in the streets of the city and in a hospital, among corpses and crying people.
The final tally of the victims is said to be 22 deaths. This number is disputed by the police, which justifies itself by claiming that the demonstration was disturbing lessons in the school. Many of the victims are said to have been died during the transportation to the hospital.
Some of the pictures shot during the demonstration. WARNING: the images might hurt your sensitivity.
A soldier is said to have told a witness of the slaughter that Buhari himself had given the order to repress with blood anyone who mentioned Biafra. Indeed, among activists and ordinary people from the South-East, it’s common opinion that the President is more concerned with maintaining the territorial union in the South-East rather than with fighting Boko Haram in the North. Not to mention that in Biafra area it’s common opinion that Hausa and Fulani ethnic groups branches of the Nigerian army, which are Muslims, are particularly involved in the repression. It might look like a counter-action to the war that other branches of the army are carrying on in the North against the Islamic State affiliated jihadist.
“Since President Buhari’s election – states IPOB in a note – the abuse of human rights turned to be a characteristic of the Nigerian political system itself. From one side you have Boko Haram’s atrocities against the population, from the other one you have indiscriminate arrests, tortures, extrajudicial detentions and killings; extortions and violence that military, police and secret services are committing are now a daily phenomenon.”
According to a report from Amnesty International, the problem of torture’s regular use from the army is growing serious and more serious. Tortures are said to have turned such a fundamental part of police’s activity in a way that many police’s stations are said to have a “torture attendant”. Among the practices to gain information there would be the extraction of fingernails or teeth, electric shocks and sexual violence.
Meanwhile two militant groups from the Niger Delta area (LMC and NDPDF) have declared that they are read to fight with the Federal Government if Nnamdi Kanu was not released. The aim of these announced attacks would be the States of Abia and Anambra, and the Federal Capital Abuja, as well. The “main places where the Federal Government had spread the blood of our brothers and sisters”. The attacks, as explained by the leaders of the two groups, would be directed to governmental objectives and not toward civilians.