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Biafran war (1967–70)

Subject History

Place Western Africa » Nigeria

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


An attempt by the Eastern Region of Nigeria to become an independent state. The origins of the war go back to the division of Nigeria at independence (1960) into three regions: the Muslim Northern Region of Fulani and Hausa, the Western Region where the Yoruba were dominant and the Eastern Region where Igbos were in the ascendant. The predominantly Muslim Northern Region had a larger population than the other two combined and so was likely to dominate the federation permanently. This was unacceptable to the southerners, particularly to the civil servants and army officers in the east. In January 1966 young, mainly Igbo, officers staged a coup in which the federal Prime Minister Sir Abuba-kar Tafawa balewa , who was a northerner, was murdered, as were the Prime Ministers of the Northern and Western Regions. A military government was set up under General Ironsi, who had not taken part in the coup but was an Igbo. Northerners now feared domination by the Igbos, so in July northerners in the army killed Ironsi and other Igbo officers. Military discipline was restored by General Gown, a Christian northerner, but he could not prevent attacks on Igbo merchants and civil servants in the Northern Region. Many were killed and a number fled to the safety of the Eastern Region. On 30 May 1967 the military governor of the Eastern Region, Colonel Ojukwu, declared the secession of the east as ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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