1970 Biafra Capitulates Ending Civil War


Nigerian Army

Civil war in Nigeria lasted for three years. Most countries in Africa supported the central government since all feared a similar breakup in their own countries. The British, Italians and the Soviet Union supplied the central government with arms, while the French supplied limited quantities of arms to the Biafrans. The Biafrans held their own in the war, until the end of 1969, when the superior fire power of the central government overwhelmed them. On January 13th, Biafran forces surrendered..

The roots of the Biafran conflict can be traced back to the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates of Nigeria by the British in 1914. This union merged diverse ethnic groups with distinct cultural, political, and economic backgrounds. After gaining independence in 1960, Nigeria grappled with the task of creating a national identity while respecting its deep-seated ethnic divisions. These ethnic tensions, coupled with regional disparities and the discovery of oil in the Niger Delta, further exacerbated matters.

The immediate spark for the war was the persecution of Igbos living in the northern region of Nigeria. Following a bloody coup in 1966 which was perceived as being Igbo-dominated, retaliatory measures were meted out against the Igbo population in the north, leading to a massive exodus of Igbos back to their eastern homeland.

On 30 May 1967, Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu, the military governor of the Eastern Region, declared independence, announcing the formation of the Republic of Biafra. This move was met with swift condemnation and military action from the Nigerian central government.

The war saw a series of tactical moves and countermoves, with both sides gaining and losing territory. However, a blockade imposed by the Nigerian government soon took its toll on Biafra, leading to severe food shortages and a humanitarian crisis. Images of starving Biafran children drew international attention and condemnation, leading to significant international humanitarian aid, albeit without any significant intervention in the conflict itself.

Most African nations, fearing the potential implications of ethnic secessionist movements in their own territories, supported Nigeria's central government. This support was not merely rhetorical. Many of these nations provided resources and, in some cases, troops to support Nigeria's war effort.

On the global stage, the Biafran war drew a complex web of alliances and interests. While the British, Italians, and the Soviet Union supplied the Nigerian government with arms, the French, sensing an opportunity to weaken British influence in the region, provided some arms to the Biafrans. However, these arms were limited and were not enough to turn the tide in favor of the Biafrans.

By late 1969, the situation had become dire for Biafra. Cut off from major sources of revenue and with dwindling international support, Biafran forces found it increasingly challenging to resist the superior firepower and resources of the Nigerian military.

On 13 January 1970, Biafran forces officially surrendered to the Nigerian government. Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu fled into exile, and the Republic of Biafra was reintegrated into Nigeria.

The post-war period was marked by a concerted effort by the Nigerian government to promote national reconciliation. The government adopted a policy of "No victor, no vanquished" and initiated several programs aimed at rebuilding the war-torn regions and rehabilitating displaced persons