Why Biafra Matters to a Decolonized Africa
Across the African continent, foreign powers came from both the East and West, drawing artificial boundaries and using their control to plunder and ravage traditional communities. Nowhere else in the Eastern Hemisphere did humanity witness such a concerted effort to destroy once thriving communities. From slavery (backed by both the Europeans and Arabs) to economic and political control, Africans were colonized in mind and body.
The current conflict in Biafra is a microcosm of a new sort of colonial struggle. The slow creeping takeover of Southern Nigeria by Islam is no longer slow. Nigeria and other countries like it, where an admixture of various peoples were smashed together by the colonial powers have become even more susceptible to an Islam supercharged in a mission to gain control of Nigeria’s Southern region, which is where much of its industry and oil are.
An example of this are the raids by Northern Fulani herdsman have grown more punitive and destructive. This past week on February 28th Fulani herdsman killed at least 300 people in Agatu. One survivor said, “As we speak, Odigbeho-Agatu has been razed. The massacre there today (Monday) had no equal because Odigbeho is one of the most important and well-populated villages in Agatu. Our people were caught napping because we relaxed when we heard what we considered the cheering news that the federal government has intervened. Unfortunately, the Fulanis knew we had relaxed and took advantage of us to unleash a terrible massacre on us. As we speak, corpses litter everywhere in the village. I have been trying to reach many of my family members without success. We feel terribly let down by the government that announced a joint security team. We have not seen the security men- be they policemen or military, as I speak.”
Essentially the central government offers the Biafra region protection, but never enough against the raiders. Both the central government and the Fulani are Muslim. Along with the growing violence the Free Biafra movement has been hit hard recently. Their leader Nnamdi Kanu is on trial for treason. Biafrans have been outraged as they fear and feel a return to the turmoil that marked the Biafran Civil War, where 3 million were killed or starved to death between the years of 1967-1970.
The military and police have taken to killing unarmed protesters as the situation becomes increasingly bloody.
What makes Biafra all the more crucial for the future of Sub-Sahara Africa is that it is made up of an overwhelming number of Igbo. The Igbo believe they are descended from Israel and self identify as Israelites. With this in mind It is not surprising that in the Biafran Civil War, Israel actually gave supplies and support to the region. The Nigerian dilemma essentially pits Islam, Christians, and the Igbo who have long struggled to reclaim their heritage from colonization against one another.
Biafra has become a battleground to learn whether Africa can prevent a continuance of colonial influence under the guise of a religious conflict or if it can rise and understand that much of the ideologies confronting one another were imported from those nations who forced both slavery and colonization on Africa. That goes for both Christian Europe and Islamic Middle East. The irony is that the Igbo, as they begin to decolonize their religion and culture, have exemplified far more indigenous behavior than their fellow Nigerians. This is what makes Biafra important. It is a region experiencing a return to its ancient Hebrew roots and should be supported in its desire and drive to do so.
There have always been those leaders who have argued for a Pan Africanism, as if Africa was ever pan or of one mold. It never has been. Such assumptions are reactions to the trauma of being subjugated by foreign powers. What is important to understand though, is that Africanism is more about a return to accepting the fact that the artificial constructs of a post colonial Africa has essentially committed Africans to constant struggle within their current boundaries.
A free Biafra would be a recognition that the boundaries are meaningless and should be exchanged for a return to what was before. This would go a long way to reconstructing Igboland to what it was before Europeans and Arabs uprooted it along with wreaking havoc across the rest of Africa. Biafra should serve as a test case for other areas of Africa.