Tuesday, 30 June 2015

84th birthday of Andrew Hill

(Born 30 June 1931, Chicago, US)
Seminally innovative pianist and composer, including the critically acclaimed Point of DepartureCompulsion!!!!! and Eternal Spirit, academic
(Andrew Hill Sextet, “Refuge” [personnel: Hill, piano; Kenny Dorham, trumpet; Eric Dolphy, alto saxophone; John Henderson, tenor saxophone; Richard Davis, bass; Tony Williams, drums; recorded: Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, US, 21 March 1964])

FWD: African civilisation at mid-palaeolithic age – circa 70000 years ago

Tajirul Haque, “Archaeologists unearth a 70000 year old African settlement”, http://www.newhistorian.com/archaeologists-unearth-70000-year-old-african-settlement/755/NewHistorian (accessed 26 June 2015).


Monday, 29 June 2015

Igbo genocide: 1 minute in 50 years survival affirmation

Sunday 29 May 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Igbo genocide and simultaneously 50 years of the survival of Igbo people.

Celebrating a people: the project

To mark this 2016 epic landmark year, Rethinking Africa has embarked on a project to capture the survival narrative of Igbo people in video form. In videos of a maximum duration of 1 minute each, we are inviting survivors of the Igbo genocide to share with the world what their survival means for them – in any and all aspects of their lives.  Our target is 500 videos with which to launch the website.

Survival background

On Sunday 29 May 1966 Hausa Fulani emirs, muslim clerics, intellectuals, students, politicians and other public persons launched the Igbo genocide – the foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa. The génocidaires directed carefully orchestrated attacks on Igbo population centres, businesses, churches and other interests across north Nigeria which steadily spread elsewhere in Nigeria, especially Lagos and the west regions. Between 29 May 1966 and 31 March 1967, phases-I and II of the genocide, 100,000 people were murdered. On 6 July 1967, the genocidists, who had since transformed to the corporate Nigeria state, having incorporated the leaderships of particularly Yoruba, Edo and Urhobo peoples of west Nigeria, expanded the territorial range of their attacks on Igboland itself, Biafra. During this phase-III of the genocide, which went on to 12 January 1970, 3 million Igbo were murdered. Nigeria subsequently launched phase-IV of the genocide on 13 January 1970 and this has since continued unabated. It is marked by a stretch of pogroms in which tens of thousands of Igbo have been murdered across north Nigeria (and elsewhere in the country), including those slaughtered by the Boko Haram islamist insurgent organisation during the past decade, as well as the programmed social and economic degradation/strangulation of the Igbo economy – Africa’s most dynamic prior to the May 1966 launch of the genocide.

50 years on from the commencement of phase-I of the genocide, the Igbo have survived, an extraordinary survival indeed as they have faced the most gruesome and devastating genocide in Africa not seen since the late 19th century genocide of constituent nations of the Congo Basin (central Africa) carried out by the Belgian monarchy/state. The Igbo are in the throes of restoring their sovereignty in their Biafran homeland. In the past 44 years, the Igbo have written an extraordinary essay on human survival and resilience, a beacon of the resilient spirit of human overcoming of the most desperate, unimaginably brutish forces. Like Maya Angelou’s survival poem, Still I Rise, “You may write [Igbo people] down in history/With your bitter, twisted lies./…But … like dust, [they’ll] rise.”

Producing the video

The video seeks to respond to questions such as:

1. “How have you/(your family) survived the Igbo genocide?”

2. “What does your/(your family’s) survival of the Igbo genocide mean to you?”

3. “How has your survival shaped your/(your family’s) life?”

 4. “What has enabled you/(your family) to survive the Igbo genocide?”

 5. …

Who is a survivor of the Igbo genocide?

Any Igbo person alive or whose parents or grandparents were alive when the genocide commenced on 29 May 1966.  Anyone who meets any of these criteria is eligible to participate in this project.

Videos can be produced in English or Igbo or any other language – translations into English will be provided on the website.

All the videos accepted will be uploaded onto a specially designed website for the occasion.  The website will be launched at a minute past midnight Igboland Time (2301 Hours GMT) on 29 May 2016. We will continue to update this website subsequently as we receive more videos.  We will ultimately house this project in a future museum of Igbo remembrance, appropriately based in Enuugwu, capital of Biafra.

How to send the videos

Please upload all videos to “We transfer” on https://www.wetransfer.com/

We transfer is easy to use. Just follow the simple instructions
        Go to wetransfer.com
·         Click on the + sign and add the file(s)
·         Type in my email address: herbertekweekwe@gmail.com
·         Type in your own email address
·         Write a short message if you want – including your name and location
·         Hit the send button

This is an exciting and hugely creative project to honour ourselves as a people and to demonstrate to the world that we remain an indefatigable and resilient people.

Please circulate this information to as many of your family, friends and acquaintances as possible. We are also appealing to people to capture the stories of older citizens in villages and towns who may not have access to video-making technologies. This is of the utmost importance.


Sunday, 28 June 2015

On the morrow: 13 January 1970

On the morrow of this pulverising season of slaughtering, this genocide, the only tangible capability that the murderers have acquired is one to commit even more murders –  nothing else … definitely, not the more challenging capacity to develop and transform their human potential and economy and, in turn, attract and merit the accolades and recognition from peers elsewhere. Alas, murders, murdering, murders constitute their easily decipherable DNA signature.
(Bobby Hutcherson Sextet, “Dialogue” [personnel: Hutcherson, vibraphone; Freddie Hubbard, trumpet; Sam Rivers, bass clarinet; Andrew Hill, piano; Richard Davis, bass; Joe Chambers, drums; recorded:  Van Gelder Studio, Englewood, Cliffs, NJ, US, 3 April 1965])
Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of Longest genocide – Since 29 May 1966 (forthcoming, 2015)


Saturday, 27 June 2015

The Igbo genocide, Britain and the United States

Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe*****

Conqueror’s concord

In Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the British (London: Viking, 2011), Jeremy Paxman allocates just 12 lines of his total 368-page study to British-occupied Nigeria in west Africa. But Paxman’s pithy commentary undoubtedly speaks volumes of the mindset of the occupation regime on the very eve of its presumed departure from Nigeria in October 1960. This is clearly a regime that is not prepared or willing to abandon the bounty harvest or lucre that is its Nigeria. Instead, it is exploring across a spectrum of strategies to subvert the very goal of the restoration-of-independence movement for the peoples which the Igbo, one of the constituent nations in Nigeria, had led since the 1930s.

Using state archival material, Paxman presents the crux of the panoramic conversation on the subject in Lagos (Nigeria’s then capital), in January 1960, between James Robertson, the outgoing occupation governor, and visiting British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan (Paxman, 2011: 272):

MACMILLAN: Are the people fit for self-government?

ROBERTSON: No, of course not.

According to Paxman, James Robertson reckons that it would take “another 20 or 25 years” for Nigeria to be “fit for self-government” (Paxman: 272; added emphasis). Instructively, this is the same Robertson who had, prior to his Lagos meeting with Macmillan, “concluded” the “terms” of the British “exit” from Nigeria in “negotiations” with the country’s restoration-of-independence movement – begun 15 years earlier and had been chaired successively by two previous occupation governors including sessions scheduled and held in England (Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, Biafra Revisited, 2006: 27-43, 121). This is the same Robertson who had just rigged the December 1959 countrywide elections in Nigeria (part of the restoration-of-independence “package”) in favour of the Hausa-Fulani north region, as Harold Smith, a member of the occupation regime in Lagos at the time, would recall years later (Harold Smith, “A squalid end to empire”, The Free Library, 1 November 2008; Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, “Elections in 
Africa – the voter, the court, the outcome”, 2013: 810-811). Furthermore, this is the same Robertson whose predecessor, in Lagos, had earlier rigged the countrywide census results – again, in favour of Britain’s Hausa-Fulani north regional clients (Smith, “A squalid end of empire”), aimed at ensuring that the latter, with a fabricated population majority in the country, has the “electoral clout” to safeguard for the (British)conqueror-state the vast arena of its strategic and economic assets in Nigeria in perpetuity (Ekwe-Ekwe, 2006: 18-114; Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, Readings from Reading: Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature, 2011: 1-6).  As this study will demonstrate, this north region constitutes the core of Britain’s local clients in Nigeria, vehemently opposed to African independence – and, therefore, the British exit! Consequently, it would play a key role in the perpetration of the Igbo genocide which it undertakes in concert with Britain. Pointedly, on the broader stretch of the politics of liberation of the Southern World, during this post-Second World War epoch, the north Nigeria region has the unenviable accolade across this hemisphere of being home to one of the few peoples who wanted the continuing occupation of their lands by one of the pan-European powers of global conquest since the 15th century CE (Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, “Léopold Senghor”, The Literary Encyclopedia, 30 June 2002).

So, given James Robertson’s apparent “unfavourable prognosis” on Nigeria illustrated in Empire, Prime Minister Macmillan asks his governor for advice on the way forward for the British continuing occupation of Nigeria (Paxman: 272): “What do you recommend me to do?”

ROBERTSON: I recommend you give it to them at once.

Really? Why? Doesn’t Robertson’s suggestion to his boss sound wholly contradictory to the tract that this conclave had trodden so far? Well, no, not really… Both prime minister and governor have no disagreement, whatsoever, on holding onto British “interests” in Nigeria in perpetuity; they do not believe that they are necessarily bound by the “terms” of the envisaged British “exit” from Nigeria “negotiated” since 1945 even though, ironically, these had largely preserved British “interests”, thanks to the veto-power that its Hausa-Fulani north region subalterns would exercise in the “new” dispensation (Ekwe-Ekwe, 2006: 40-43, 121); most crucially, both men do not subscribe to the inalienable rights of Africans to recover their conquered lands.

It is the case, though, that if the British officials were to renege on their “exit” from Nigeria at this 11th hour, they would have to contend with a serious crisis – at least in the short/medium term – right there on the ground in Nigeria: “The alternative [is] that most talented people [read: the Igbo and those others elsewhere in south Nigeria who demanded and supported the drive towards unfettered restoration-of-independence for the peoples during these past 30 years] would become rebels and the British would spend the next two decades fighting to stave off what [is] inevitable, while incurring the opprobrium of the world” (Paxman: 272).

As the Lagos deliberations end, nine months before the designated British departure date (1 October 1960), both prime minister and governor needn’t agonise, too much, over the future prospects of their country’s Nigeria stranglehold. After all, despite the “talented people”, Britain is aware that it holds the trump card to defend this stranglehold via its Hausa-Fulani clients. Twice in the previous 15 years (significantly, it should be noted, during those crucial years of British “negotiations” of its “exit” from Nigeria with the “talented people”), the clients organised and unleashed pogroms against Igbo people in the northcentral town of Jos (1945) and north city of Kano (1953). Hundreds of Igbo were murdered during these massacres and tens of thousands of pounds sterling worth of their property looted or destroyed (Ekwe-Ekwe, 2006: 8, 19-20). No perpetrators of these murders were ever apprehended or punished by the occupation regime.

Six and one-half years hence, from Sunday 29 May 1966, these same British clients would unleash the genocide against the Igbo people. During the course of 44 months, 3.1 million Igbo children, women and men are murdered in this foundational and most gruesome genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa. The Igbo and the world suddenly realise that those anti-Igbo pogroms, carried out during the years of the Anglo-“talented people”-in-Nigeria doubtful restoration-of-independence negotiations, were indeed “dress rehearsals” for the 29 May 1966-12 January 1970 Igbo genocide.

Britain plays an instrumental role in the perpetration of the genocide – politically, diplomatically and militarily, and its closest international ally, the United States, as we will soon elaborate, is fully aware of its mission. Now, a new Harold-the-prime minister, this time Harold Wilson, beginning in 1964, has no qualms about the “opprobrium of the world” considered by the other Harold during those January 1960 talks with governor Robertson. Wilson’s reasons are obvious: the architecture of control and execution of mass violence in Nigeria have altered, somehow, since January 1960, and the forces on the ground spearheading the Igbo genocide are the trusted Hausa-Fulani subalterns of old in addition to their since locally expanded allies in Yoruba, Edo and Urhobo west Nigeria – not Britain, directly; precisely, what Macmillan and Robertson had sought to avoid during that Lagos summit! Declassified British state papers indicate the monstrous disposition by the Wilson government, right from the outset, to saturate the Nigerian genocidist armoury on the ground with a wide range of British weapons to ensure that the murder of the Igbo is effected most comprehensively: 
In December 1967 … [British Foreign] Secretary George Thomson said that “ [the Nigerians] are most impressed with the Saladins and Ferrets” previously supplied by Britain. As a result Britain supplied six Saladin armoured personnel carriers (APCs), 30 Saracen APCs along with 2,000 machine guns for them, anti-tank guns and 9 million rounds of ammunition. Denis Healey, the Defence Secretary, wrote that he hoped these supplies will encourage the Nigerians “to look to the United Kingdom for their future purchases of defence equipment”. By the end of the year [1967] Britain had also approved the export of 1,050 bayonets, 700 grenades, 1,950 rifles with grenade launchers, 15,000 lbs of explosives and two helicopters … In the first half of the following year,1968, Britain approved the export of 15 million rounds of ammunition, 21,000 mortar bombs, 42,500 Howitzer rounds, 12 Oerlikon guns, 3 Bofors guns, 500 submachine guns, 12 Saladins with guns and spare parts, 30 Saracens and spare parts, 800 bayonets, 4,000 rifles and two other helicopters. At the same time Wilson was constantly reassuring Gowon of British support for a United Nigeria, saying in April 1968 that “I think we can fairly claim that we have not wavered in this support throughout …”. British arms supplies were stepped up again in November [1968]. Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart said the Nigerians could have 5 million more rounds of ammunition, 40,000 more mortar bombs and 2,000 rifles. “You may tell Gowon”, Stewart instructed High Commissioner Hunt in Lagos, “that we are certainly ready to consider a further application” to supply similar arms in the future as well. He concluded: “if there is anything else for ground warfare which you… think they need and which would help speed up the end of the fighting, please let us know and we will consider urgently whether we can supply it”. Other supplies agreed in November [1968], following meetings with the Nigerians included six Saladins and 20,000 rounds of ammunition for them, and stepped up monthly supplies of ammunition, amounting to a total of 15 million rounds additional to those already agreed. It was recognised by the Defence Minister that “the scale of the UK supply of small arms ammunition to Nigeria in recent months has been and will continue to be on a vast scale”. The recent deal meant that Britain was supplying 36 million rounds of ammunition in the last few months alone. Britain’s “willingness to supply very large quantities of ammunition”, Lord Shepherd [minister of state, foreign office] noted, “meant drawing on the British army’s own supplies”. By the end of 1968 Britain had sold Nigeria £9 million worth of arms, £6 million of which was spent on small arms … In March 1969 the government approved the export of 19 million rounds of ammunition, 10,000 grenades and 39,000 mortar bombs … Two senior British RAF officers secretly visited Nigeria in August 1969 to advise the Nigerians on “how they could better prosecute the air war” … [I]n December 1969 … Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart was calling for stepping up military assistance including the supply of more armoured cars. These supplies by Britain, he wrote, “have undoubtedly been the most effective weapons in the ground war and have spear-headed all the major [Nigerian] advances”. (Mark Curtis, “Nigeria’s war over Biafra, 1967-70”)
So, as the slaughter of the Igbo intensifies, particularly in the catastrophic months of 1968-1969, Harold Wilson is totally unfazed as he informs Clyde Ferguson, the United States state department special coordinator for relief to Biafra, that he, Harold Wilson, “would accept a half million dead Biafrans if that was what it took” Nigeria to destroy the Igbo resistance to the genocide (Roger Morris, Uncertain Greatness: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy, 1977: 122). Such is the grotesquely expressed diminution of African life made by a supposedly leading politician of the world of the 1960s – barely 20 years after the deplorable perpetration of the Jewish genocide in Europe. As the final tally of the murder of the Igbo demonstrates, Harold Wilson probably has the perverted satisfaction of having his Nigerian subalterns perform far in excess of the prime minister’s grim target, a subject coldly stated in Wilson’s own memoirs where he notes that the Nigerian military, equipped zealously by Britain as we have highlighted, expends more small arms ammunition in its campaign to achieve its annhilative mission in Igboland than the amount used by the British armed forces  “during the whole” of  the Second World War (Harold Wilson, Labour Government, 1964-1970: A Personal Record, 1971: 630, added emphasis). On this feature, Colonel Robert Scott, military advisor in the British diplomatic mission in Nigeria, during the period, acknowledges, equally gravely, that as Nigerian genocidist military forces unleash their attacks on Igbo cities, towns and villages, they are the “best defoliant agent known” (Daily Telegraph, London, 11 January 1970).

Political economy of conquest and occupation – and genocide

Whenever it occurred, Africa’s independence, or more historically correct, the re-establishment of African independence after centuries of the European conquest and occupation, was sure to be the turning point in the history of African peoples. It would be the beginning of an extensive re-construction process for a continent that had for the greater part of one-half of a millennium, starting from the 15th century CE, been the target of a devastating trail of invasions, murders, mass exportations and enslavement of its peoples (chiefly in the Americas and the Caribbean), occupations and subjugations by a constellation of European World states (Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, African Literature in Defence of History: An Essay on Chinua Achebe, 2001: 1-54). Ultimately, Britain emerges as the lead conqueror-state-beneficiary of the occupation of Africa, having particularly seized lands with major population centres and vast and multiple natural resource emplacements across the regions of the continent: South Africa, Namibia (proxy control, post-1918 – after the defeat of Germany in World War I), Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania (post-1918, after the defeat of Germany in World War I), the Sudan, south Cameroon (post-1918, after the defeat of Germany in World War I), Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia, and Nigeria (Ekwe-Ekwe, 2011: 4-6).

Apart from South Africa, Nigeria’s is Britain’s most “diversified” occupied economy in Africa. This is indeed the British “most-prized land” of west Africa whose fortunes it is prepared to hold onto with or without the restoration of African independence. It is indeed to hold onto these fortunes that Britain becomes fully involved in the perpetration of the Igbo genocide – to “punish” the Igbo for daring to spearhead the termination of the British occupation, begun in the 1930s, and further consolidate the envisaged overseeing role of its Hausa-Fulani north region allies in this evolving dispensation of the age. It is therefore important to highlight the empirical nature and range of this Nigerian “prized land” as these provide an invaluable context within which the catastrophe of the Igbo genocide is executed.

Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, the following commodities account for nearly 90 per cent of Nigeria’s “diversified” export products: rubber, cocoa, cotton, groundnuts, tin ore and columbite, beniseeds, palm-oil and palm-kernels (Bade Onimode, Imperialism and Underdevelopment in Nigeria: The Dialectic of Mass Poverty, 1982: 47-55). This “diversification” occurs as a result of the size of the country, stretching from the south on the Atlantic Ocean shorelines of southwestcentral Africa to the deciduous/savannah vegetation belt of the north hinterland bordering on the Sahel, which ensures that the conquest regime can maximally exploit the varying climatic zones across the territory in its choice of which agricultural products it wishes to grow. Expectedly, such choices are dictated fundamentally by the imperatives of the British economy and not Nigeria’s. In this regard, the immediate post-war British reconstruction programme is highly illustrative. The occupied Nigerian economy responds to this emergency, 3500 miles away, by embarking on the intensification of the production of both the country’s agricultural and mineralogical commodities listed above. In 1946, the value of Nigerian exports to Britain is £23.7 million (R Olufemi Ekundare, An Economic History of Nigeria: 1860-1960, 1973: 225). By 1955, it is £129.8 million and in 1960, the year of the supposed restoration of independence, it is £165.5 million (Ekundare: 225). There is a distinct growth in Nigeria’s gross domestic product during the period, an annual rate of 4.1 per cent in 1950/51-1957/58 (Onimode: 48). Indeed, not since 1916 had Nigeria enjoyed a favourable net-barter terms of trade with Britain as recorded between 1951-1958, and 1958-1960 (Onimode: 48). Consequently, the huge sum of £276.8 million, the preponderant chunk of the surpluses that accumulated from this unprecedented boom is transferred from Nigeria to Britain between 1947 and 1960 (Ekundare: 226). This is not to mention British surpluses enjoyed by the corresponding increases in the value of Nigerian imports from mainly Britain at the time: £19.8 million in 1946, £136.1 million in 1955, and £215.9 million in 1960 (Ekundare: 226).

Besides, Britain’s more advantageous trade relations with Nigeria is further consolidated in 1955 when Europe slumps into an economic recession. The prices that Europeans are prepared to pay for imports of agricultural and mineral products from abroad fall considerably resulting in an instant blow to the Nigerian economy. Even though its export trade that year increases by 7000 tons in volume, the value falls by £17 million (Okwudiba Nnoli, “A Short History of Nigerian Underdevelopment”, Okwudiba Nnoli, ed., Path to Nigerian Development, 1981: 124). The result is a further increase in Nigeria’s import bills. While a “buoyant” Nigerian economy with its dominant reliance on the British economy for imports is clearly an advantage for Britain, especially at a time of recession at home, the enormous strain on Nigeria’s own accounting is becoming severe. Not only does the country incur deficits in its balance of payments position, it also draws heavily from its external reserves (Nnoli: 124). Such is the situation that Nigeria allocates at least one-fifth of the total investment bill earmarked for the 1955/56-1961/62 development plan to be financed from abroad (Nnoli: 124). While the total investment by leading Western companies (predominately British) in Nigeria stands at about £11.7 million in 1954, the figure for 1959/1960 is £20.5 million (Nnoli: 124).

Twenty years later, on the eve of the Igbo genocide in 1966, the “diversification” character of the Nigerian economy virtually comes to an end. Even though Nigeria had since become “independent”, it is acutely significant that the prevailing export product, petroleum, which has now displaced the basket of commodities of economic “diversification” enumerated above, shares an equivalent quota of the country’s export trade (90 per cent) as the latter did in the 1940s/early 1950s. As should be expected, the production and marketing of petroleum, this commodity now central in the Nigerian economy, are dictated principally by the needs of the British economy. Whether as “monocultural” or “dualcultural”, formally occupied or technically “independent”, the essential logic and character of this Nigeria economy remains to serve the interests of Britain. Apart from South Africa, Nigeria is now the site of Britain’s highest economic and industrial investment in Africa with the total worth of £1.5 billion. The British success story is phenomenal. The British government controls a near-50 per cent shares in Shell-BP (the predominant oil prospecting company in Nigeria) and 60 per cent shares in Amalgamated Tin Mining, a major prospecting tin, cobalt and iron ore mining company (William Freund, “Theft and social protest among tin miners in northern Nigeria”, Donal Crummey, ed, Banditry, Rebellion and Social Protest in Africa, 1986: 49-63). In the non-mining sector of the economy, John Holt, owned by a British family, is one of the two largest in the country with branches located in the principal towns and cities. The United Africa Company (UAC), another British enterprise, accounts for about 40 per cent of Nigeria's entire import and export trade. The UAC is the major African subsidiary of Unilever, the British transnational corporation. It developed from the Royal Niger Company, which, in association with Taubman Goldie, the entrepreneur, and Frederick Lugard, the first British occupation governor, harnessed the British conquest of the number of states in this southwestcentral territorial stretch of West Africa between 1886 and 1941, and converted them into the amorphous political entity called Nigeria (Ikenna Nzimiro, “The political implications of multinational corporations in Nigeria”, Carl Widstrand, ed., Multi-National Firms in Africa, 1975: 210-243). The UAC, for its part, has wholesale and retailing enterprises run in most parts of Nigeria by its numerous subsidiaries, among which the following three are most prominent: Kingsway Chemist, G.B. Ollivant, and African Timber and Plywood (Nzimiro: 212-214). In addition, the UAC has part interest in other well-established companies in the country such as Gulf Oil of Nigeria, Nigerian Prestressed Concrete, Nigerian Breweries, Taylor Woodrow, and Nigelec.  Ikenna Nzimiro’s often-quoted aphorism, “UAC was Nigeria and Nigeria was UAC”, does not therefore exaggerate UAC’s effective control of Nigeria’s economy at the time (Nzimiro: 217). Finally, in the finance sector, Barclays Nigeria (subsidiary of the British Barclays Bank) and Standard Bank Nigeria (owned largely by the British Lloyds Bank and Westminster Bank) control 90 per cent of Nigeria’s effective banking system. Once again, these institutions have branches across the country. The 25,000 Britons resident in Nigeria are employed in this extensive network of businesses and related services in the economy.

Igbo, restoration-of-independence, pogrom, genocide
Believing our country is rightfully entitled to liberty and prosperous life … and determined to work in unity for the realisation of ultimate goal of self-government … (part of conference communique at the formal launch of Nigeria’s lead restoration-of-independence party, the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons [NCNC], Lagos, 26 August 1944: quoted. in James Coleman, Nigeria, 1958 :264)
Nine months before the end of the Second World War, as the above declaration shows, the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons, the lead restoration-of-independence political party in Nigeria whose principal leaders consisted of notable Igbo intellectuals most of whom were educated in the United States, had, in an historic move announcing its formation, forced to the open the important question of the restoration-of-the-independence of peoples in Nigeria from the British occupation. This is undoubtedly a momentous development in the peoples’ consciousness and aspirations, with its membership drawn across the country including cultural associations of constituent nations, trades’ and students’ unions, women’s organisations, and the youth.

On 22 June 1945, Nigerian workers declare a countrywide strike to back their demands for an increase in wages and improvement in the ever deteriorating conditions of the people made worse by the ongoing war. The strike virtually paralyses Nigeria’s economic life.  It goes on for 44 days in the Lagos capital district, but even longer elsewhere in the country – up to 52 days in some places in the regions. The NCNC and the restoration-of-independence press (particularly the vanguard West African Pilot and Daily Comet, both edited by Nnamdi Azikiwe, then secretary-general of the NCNC) support the strike, underlying the increasingly evident cooperation between the trade unions and the emerging political leadership in working towards the country’s liberation. The strike is the most far-reaching mobilisation of labour in occupied Nigeria and its political implications are not lost on the occupation regime.

It is evident that “Nigerians, when organised”, as James Coleman has noted on the impact and significance of the countrywide shutdown, “had great power, that they could defy the white bureaucracy, that they could virtually control strategic centres throughout the country, and that through force or the threat of force they could compel the government to grant concessions” (Coleman: 259). While the regime agrees to enter into negotiations with the workers after the strike is called off, it nonetheless seeks to destroy the huge “political dividend” of liberation consciousness that the shutdown has generated across the country. Earlier on, it had proscribed the circulation of the West African Pilot and the Daily Comet, and accused editor Nnamdi Azikiwe and the Igbo people for engineering the strike (Okwudiba Nnoli, Ethnic Politics in Nigeria, 1980:122, 234-235). Having exerted its influence on its Hausa-Fulani north region clients not to participate in the strike, the regime’s propaganda on alleged Igbo responsibility for the event becomes an instigator prop to Hausa-Fulani leaders’ organised massacres of Igbo immigrants in Jos and the surrounding tin mining towns and villages in October 1945. Hundreds of Igbo are murdered during the pogrom and tens of thousands of pounds sterling worth of their property looted or destroyed. No perpetrators of these murders are apprehended or punished by the regime. As a result, emboldened Hausa-Fulani leaders organise yet another pogrom of Igbo immigrants in the north, this time in Kano, in May 1953. In carefully orchestrated attacks that rage uninterruptedly for four days, mobs of Hausa-Fulani youth attack Igbo population centres across the city. Scores of Igbo people are murdered during the period. Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of Igbo business enterprises, homes, schools and recreational centres are looted or destroyed. These latest attacks coincide with the heightened debates among Nigerian politicians on the possible date for the formal termination of the British occupation and the restoration of independence. In contrast to the Igbo and other nations in the south who favour the year 1956, the north, with total British connivance, as expected, is vehemently opposed to any such dates. Essentially, the north unleashes the Igbo pogrom in Kano to scuttle these debates – which it succeeds in doing, with evident British relief and satisfaction. As in Jos, the occupation regime does not apprehend or prosecute anyone for these massacres and destruction. But even more ominous for the future of the Igbo in Nigeria, these Kano attacks are a portent of the widespread genocide of the Igbo by Nigeria, beginning in May1966, in which a total of 3.1 million Igbo are murdered during the course of subsequent 44 months.

In August 1966, the third month into the genocide, Britain is elated with its success in overcoming a potentially strategic rupture with its north region clients on the ground on the critical question of the territorial reach or extent of the ongoing murder mission. The north-led Nigeria military and civilian-assisted brigades which had by now murdered tens of thousands of Igbo across north and west Nigeria (during this first phase of the genocide) and forced two million Igbo survivors to take flight to their east region Biafra homeland (Ekwe-Ekwe, 2011: 75-76) were on the verge of formally declaring their Arewa Republic from Nigeria. Genocidist commander Yakubu Gowon had already informed the world in a 1 August 1966 radio broadcast that “there was no basis of Nigerian unity” (Obi Ebbe, Broken Back Axle, 2010:23). Subsequently, his troops began to fly their Arewa “independence” flag over their headquarters in Lagos as a prelude to evacuating/transferring their military contingent/other residual assets in west Nigeria to their north homeland. These north troops were nowhere in the east region or Biafra (300 miles away) at this time and they had no plans, evidently, to extend their killing fields there. From all indications, the genocidists appeared satisfied that they were now on the verge of completing the murder of all Igbo living in their controlled Nigeria territory and would have thus reckoned their mission accomplished…

But the British government thinks otherwise… The British government is adamant that the east region, now under de facto control by the Igbo “talented people”, should also be taken over by its north clients as this is the political geography (mapped out above) that ensures that Britain’s  overarching economic and strategic interests in southwestcentral Africa remain intact. In other words, the British government feels that a north region “departure” from Nigeria “robs” the conqueror power of its historical potent overseer African-based nurtured force to protect its stranglehold economy that is Nigeria, as this study has demonstrated. Britain requires this north region client on the ground to fight to safeguard its interest precisely because it wishes to avoid “incurring the opprobrium of the world” (Paxman: 272) by fighting freedom-quest Africans more openly and directly in the mid-1960s. Furthermore, Britain argues that such a “departure” couldn’t be beneficial to the long term interests of its genocidist clients either: “Secession would be an economic disaster [for the north]” (Michael Gould, The Biafran War, 2011:43); “Without the Igbo, there is no Nigeria. They [the Igbo] have the skilled manpower that held Nigeria together and they have the resources” (Ebbe: 23). Francis Cumming-Bruce, the British chief representative in Nigeria, is charged to communicate his government’s view on this subject to the Hausa-Fulani emirs, that notorious grouping of the north region power bloc responsible for launching the ongoing genocide (and the 1940s/1950s Igbo pogroms). As the following quoted reference attests, Cumming-Bruce’s intervention is robustly forthright and it is important to quote him directly at some length:
[I]t wasn’t on the face of it easy to get the (the North) to change, but I managed to do it overnight. I drafted letters to the British Prime Minister, to send to Gowon [genocidist commander] … and for my secretary of state (Michael Stewart) to send letters to each of the Emirs. I wrote an accompanying letter to each of them because I knew them personally. I drafted all these and they came back to me duly authorised to push at once. The whole thing was done overnight and it did the trick of stopping them (the North) dividing Nigeria up (Gould: 23; added emphasis).
So, by promptly agreeing to British demands to abandon their planned secession from Nigeria in August 1966, the north region genocidists effectively became available to extend their murder campaign to Igboland as a way of securing the country for Britain – i.e., without Britain apparently “incurring the opprobrium of the world” (Paxman: 272). Cumming-Bruce’s spirited intervention, contacting key operatives he “knew … personally” had indeed done “the trick”. Britain would forthwith back this expansive stretch of wholesale murder militarily, politically and diplomatically. Pointedly, Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart, one of the pivotal British officials involved in the Cumming-Bruce deliberations with the north emir-operatives, told the British parliament in one of its numerous debates on the campaign that his government was probably the only country in the world that could not cease its support for the Nigerian mission against the Igbo (Suzanne Cronje, The World and Nigeria, 1970: 38).

If ever there were any doubts about British intentions on this genocide, since its outbreak in May (1966), it was now clear that the architect of what scholars of the genocide describe as its “phase-III” (Ekwe-Ekwe, 2011: 86-91) or the invasion of Igboland or Biafra was essentially none other than Britain. Yet again, on the African scene, as history has shown so catastrophically since the early 1900s, the European conqueror-power on the continent can also double up as a genocide-power. In centrally initiating this follow-up phase of the Igbo genocide after August 1966 which would result in the slaughter of 3 million Igbo people, one-quarter of this nation’s population, Britain joins Belgium (1878-1908) and Germany (1904-1907) in perpetrating a state-organised genocide against a constituent nation in its occupied African country. In the case of Belgium, during the period, King Leopold II-led Belgian monarchy/state forces organised the genocide of African constituent nations in the Congo basin (central Africa) in which a total of 13 million Africans were murdered (Isidore Ndaywel è Nziem, Histoire générale du Congo: De l'héritage ancien à la République Démocratique, 1998: 344). Between 1904 and 1907, Germany carried out the genocide of the Herero, Nama and Berg Damara peoples as it sought to “consolidate” its conquest and occupation of contemporary Namibia. The Germans murdered 65,000 Herero or 80 per cent of the population, 10,000 Nama or 50 per cent of the population, and approximately 30 per cent of Berg Damara people at the time (Horst Drechsler, “Let Us Die Fighting”: The Struggle of the Herero and Nama against German Imperialism, 1884-1915, 1980). In April 1994, France, another leading European conqueror power in Africa would join this league of genocide-powers of Africa in the complicity of its military forces based in Rwanda in the genocide against the Tutsi people organised by the country’s central government, a close ally of the French government (Linda Melvern, Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide, 2006).

Britain is so determined to pursue phase-III of the Igbo genocide, in the wake of the Cumming-Bruce-north emirs accord, that it flagrantly intervenes to scotch a last minute west African regional peace mediatory initiative, led by neighbouring Ghana, to halt any further territorial expansion of the ongoing slaughter. In January 1967, Ghana’s head of state invited both the genocidist leadership in Lagos and the Biafran resistance leadership in Igboland to a 2-day closed-door emergency summit in Accra to discuss the tragedy. The outcome of the meeting is extraordinary, the likes of which have not been seen on the African political scene since. After two days of talks, 4-5 January 1967, the delegates achieved an exceptional degree of agreement in spite of the genocide of the previous seven months. They inaugurated a confederal, extensively decentralised constitutional framework solution as basis for the future direction of the country (Ekwe-Ekwe, 2011: 79-86). In effect, the regions, including, especially, the east region, acquired more enhanced powers vis-à-vis the centre in Lagos, foreclosing any “legal grounds” for that British plot, hammered out by ambassador Cumming-Bruce, to extend the Igbo killing fields to Igboland.  In addition, the delegates unanimously endorsed two areas of agreement that were particularly important to the pressing question of halting the genocide: (1) “renounce the use of force as a means of settling the present crisis in Nigeria” and (2) “agree that there should be no more importation of arms and ammunition until normalcy [is] restored” (Ekwe-Ekwe, 2011: 82). All the eight delegates in attendance to these talks, including genocidist commander Yakubu Gowon and Biafra’s Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, signed this historic outcome which was duly witnessed by Ghana’s President Joseph Ankrah.

Suddenly, for the first time since 29 May 1966, the agreement reached in the Ghana summit radically altered the contours of the political landscape of Nigeria. But Britain rejected the agreement outright and embarked on pressurising Gowon (and other segments of the north leadership), who for two days, during the Ghana conference, was out of reach from his British intelligence minders for the first time in almost a year, to renege on it. Britain was therefore pleased when Gowon and the north scuttled the agreement just a few days after. Gowon’s ultimate renegation of an accord that he signed, willingly, in Ghana, in the presence of all the other seven conferees, their five secretaries, and President Ankrah, their host, was a reminder, if ever such an evidence was sought, of who, eventually, called the shots at the crucial junctures of the course of the Igbo genocide: Britain.

Additionally, Britain must have felt most delighted at this stage of this increasingly deteriorating tragedy that its uncompromisingly steadfast position to safeguard its interests in Nigeria, even at the cost of the continuing genocide of the Igbo people, received a decisive boost from one of its closest allies – the United States. Elbert Matthews, the US ambassador in Nigeria, publicly supported the Cummings-Bruce initiative with the north emirs, indicating, quite bluntly, albeit prosaically, that the conflict was “essentially a Nigerian, African and (British) Commonwealth matter” (Confidential US State Department Files: Biafra-Nigeria, 1967-1969 – Political Affairs: v). Even though the US would hence claim a position of “neutrality” (Confidential US State Department Files: Biafra-Nigeria, 1967-1969 – Political Affairs: v) as this tragedy intensified, such a disposition ideally suited the British government. But what does US “neutrality” over an ongoing genocide, the first since the Jewish genocide of the 1930s-1940s in Europe and the first since the historic 1948 UN genocide Convention really mean? Some background analysis of the overarching US policy direction towards Africa, especially since the end of the Second World War, is important to answer this question.

The US: European-occupied Africa, “grand area” planners, genocide

In the early 1940s, as the war raged, two important institutions of the United States government, the Council on Foreign Relations and the War-Peace Study Group, embarked on an extensive study to examine the nature and possibilities of exponentially enhancing US interests in the emergent, post-war global political economy. The bodies conceived of “Grand Area” planning (Noam Chomsky, “The United States: From Greece to El Salvador”, in Chomsky, et al, Superpowers in Collision, 1982: 20-42) within which parts of the world deemed “strategically necessary for [US’s] world control” – i.e., “open to investment, the repatriation of profits, access to resources and so on – and dominated by the United States” (Chomsky: 21) were mapped out. Crucially, it should be noted, this “Grand Area” envisaged by the Americans included the entire Southern World in its geographical spread (Chomsky: 21) – in effect, incorporating all countries and peoples that made up the European “empires”. Furthermore, the public rhetoric under which US state officials and publicists pursued the implementation of the “new order” was the “right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live”  (quoted in AN Porter and AA Stockwell, British Imperial Policy and Decolonisation, 1938-1964, Vol I: 1938-51, 1987: 103), a formulation contained in the “Atlantic Charter” and which had caused too much dissension in Britain soon after the August 1941 Franklin Roosevelt-Winston Churchill summit because it expressed without any ambiguity: “all people had a right to self-determination”. Churchill was distinctly outraged by the historic implications of the “Atlantic Charter” for British fortunes across the world. In a speech in London in November 1942, Churchill was adamant: “I have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire” (“From our archive: Mr Churchill on our one aim”, The Guardian, London, 11 November 2009). In similar vein, Charles de Gaulle, even though leader of the “Free French Forces” who had been on exile in England since Germany overran France in 1940, rejected African “self-determination” or restoration-of-independence in the post-war era during a 1944 conference of global French occupation-governors in Brazzaville, Congo. De Gaulle was emphatic: “[African] Self-government must be rejected – even in the more distant future” (Christopher Hill, “Lies about crimes”, The Guardian, London, 29 May 1989).

As it indeed turned out, Britain and France and the other European conqueror-states of Africa needn’t get too perturbed about the effect of the US “Grand Area” planning on their occupied African countries. By 1950, thanks largely to the rapidly developing sociopolitical revolutionary upheavals in Asia (China, Indo-China, Korea, India) and Europe (the evolving Cold War with the Soviet Union and its allies), the US had begun to rethink and readjust the critical features and parameters of the operationalisation of the “Grand Area” concept. Whilst the US was no doubt the most powerful country that had emerged in the West World at the end of the war, it was soon clear that Washington required the cooperation of these European extant conqueror-states in Africa and elsewhere (Middle East, Asia, the Caribbean especially) to effectively run the “new world order” which was becoming more “complicated” in its evolution. After all Britain, France and the rest represented the prime “survivors” of the leadership of the “old imperialist world order” whose “experience” of “global management” in the past was still likely to be of immense benefit to the United States. Furthermore, Britain, France and the rest had acknowledged, unquestionably, the US’s political, military and economic supremacy during the recently concluded war against Germany and its allies.

The latter consideration may have contributed enormously to the US modification of the original conception of the “Grand Area” in the way that this affected the overall character of the “core-states” that made up the leadership of the “new order”. Instead of embarking on the task singularly, Washington now decided to “broaden” the leadership by assigning important roles to Britain and France, for instance, to play in international relations especially in several supranational organisations which had been formed after the war such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the IMF and the International Court of Justice, not to mention the more exclusive military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It should also be pointed out that, in constructing a pan-hegemonic concert of states where its supreme leader was accorded full “recognition” by all the “core states”, the United States of America succeeded in instilling a vital measure of “stability” among the West’s conqueror or imperialist states for the first time since the European World conquest of the world began in the 15th century. It was the absence of this “stability”, exacerbated by the “non-recognition” of a clear-cut leader that fuelled the acute intra-imperialist rivalries of the past which ended with two major wars erupting between 1914 and 1939.

Besides the outbreak of the Cold War between the West and the Soviet-led East bloc which would become as frosty as ever in the years ahead, the most important political development of the immediate post-World War II era was of course the struggle for the restoration-of-independence in the South as we highlighted above. The radical nationalism of the movement in Asia (anti-French resistance in Indo-China, Chinese Revolution) had opened up a range of possibilities for the realisation of a genuine restoration of independence from European World-control. They emphatically advocated the total control of their societies’ resources (human and non-human), the democratisation of the institutions of decision-making and the transformation of the peoples’ living standards. But these were precisely the sort of goals of the South restoration-of-independence movement which ran contrary to the critical tenets of the United States’s “Grand Area” conceptualisation of the “new world order”. Britain and France, among others of the conqueror powers in the South, could not have agreed more with the Americans. Quite clearly, the United States and the principal states of the European pre-World War II “world order” found much sooner than they would have hoped for after the war that they had no fundamental disagreement over the “containment” nor indeed the blocking of genuine restoration-of-independence initiatives in the South World. On the contrary, it was in their mutual interest as evident in the cooperation and/or solidarity that these powers shared in confronting radical national liberation movements in the South in the subsequent 40 years: China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Tamil Eelam, Kenya, Algeria, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Mozambique, Eritrea, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Grenada, Nicaragua, Igboland/Biafra, etc., etc. For the United States, therefore, the restoration of independence in the European-occupied South World after the end of the war in 1945 was at best a version of the Latin American experience where an entire continent had, in spite of 150-200 years of independence, been “converted” into an American strategic and economic fiefdom, or what some officials in the US government or elsewhere would prefer, more contemptuously, to describe as their “backyard”.

Watching anxiously in the early 1950s as the demand for the African restoration-of-independence got intensified, Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal and Spain did not fail to learn from this US example. And the US would oblige accordingly: the US would subsequently support the French in its wars in Indo-China, Algeria and elsewhere in Africa and the South World, as well as never ever condemning France for invading most of the countries of the so-called francophonie Africa 52 times between 1960 and 2015, in addition to the complicity of the French military, based in Rwanda, in the 1996 Rwanda genocide; the US would support the Belgian military in its involvement in the overthrow and murder of Patrice Lumumba, the democratically elected popular prime minister in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the imposition of the notorious dictatorship of  Mobutu Sese Seko on the Congo for well over 30 years beginning in 1965; the US would support Portugal in its wars in Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique against the African restoration-of-independence movements during the timeframe of 1950s-1970s; the US would support the European-minority regimes in Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa battling against African restoration-of-independence movements during 1960s-1990s; the US would support Britain in its war against the Gĩkũyũ-led Mau Mau restoration-of-independence movement in Kenya, 1950s-1960s; the US would tacitly support Britain, in league with its Hausa-Fulani north region clients in Nigeria, in perpetrating the Igbo genocide, the foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa, 29 May 1966-12 January 1970, during which 3.1 million or Igbo or one-quarter of this nation’s population were murdered.

The US, Igbo genocide, contemporary Africa

That August 1966 US support for Britain’s plans to expand the territorial reach of the Igbo genocide to Igboland, itself, was an invaluable endorsement for the British – coming from their closest ally since the end of World War II. Britain now had such a formidable diplomatic and political backing to wage a murder campaign to “punish” the Igbo which it had sought to engage in the previous 20 years but didn’t for reasons we have already reviewed here. One obvious consequence of the US endorsement was the viciousness if not savagery of the campaign. Key spokespersons of the genocidist regime in Lagos publicly stated the genocidal goals of the campaign with scarce inhibition throughout its entire stretch and subsequently. British officials, including Harold Wilson, the prime minister himself, were no more reticent in expressing what their mission goal was. Undoubtedly, the Nigeria genocide state became some haematophagous monster let loose on the Igbo and Igboland, slaughtering away to the hilt … And just in case anyone doubts the endgame of this mission, three shrilling, chilling proclamations, scripted with unmistakeable Stheno-precepts of obliterating intent from one of the Gorgons stalking the land, punctuate the scene as the following shows:

1. The ghoulish anthem of the genocide, broadcast uninterruptedly on state-owned Kaduna radio (shortwave transmission) and television and with editorial comments on the theme, regularly published in both state-owned New Nigerian (daily) newspaper and (Hausa) weekly Gaskiya Ta fi Kwabo during the period, has these lyrics in Hausa:

Mu je mu kashe nyamiri
Mu kashe maza su da yan maza su
Mu chi mata su da yan mata su
Mu kwashe kaya su 
(English translation: Let’s go kill the damned Igbo/Kill off their men and boys/Rape their wives and daughters/Cart off their property)

2. Benjamin Adekunle, one of the most despicable of the genocidist commanders in south Igboland, makes the following statement to the media, including foreign representatives, in an August 1968 press conference: “I want to prevent even one I[g]bo having even one piece to eat before their capitulation. We shoot at everything that moves, and when our forces march into the centre of I[g]bo territory, we shoot at everything, even at things that don’t move” (The Economist [London], 24 August 1968).

3a. Harold Wilson, prime minister of Britain, the key “centre”-world power that crucially supports the Igbo genocide militarily, diplomatically and politically right from conceptualisation to actualisation, informs Clyde Ferguson (United States state department special coordinator for relief to Biafra) that he, Harold Wilson, “would accept half a million dead Biafrans if that was what it took” the Nigeria genocidists to destroy the Igbo resistance to the genocide (Morris, 1977: 122). Wilson’s statement couldn’t haven more audaciously expressed, particularly coming from the prime minister of Britain to an official of his closest ally, the United States. This is indeed extraordinary… For the record, Wilson’s “a half a million dead Biafrans” represented 4.2 per cent of the Igbo population then; by the time that that phase of the genocide came to an end, 6-9 months after Wilson’s wish-declaration, 25 per cent of this nation’s population or 3.1 million Igbo people had been murdered by the genocidists. Harold Wilson’s “would accept a half a million dead Biafrans”-wish is not a declaration made by some dictator, some leader of a loony party, a fascist party or anything of that ilk; on the contrary, this is a declaration made by an elected politician, a politician in an advanced West democracy – the leader of the British Labour party, a party that prides itself for having attracted leading thinkers to its ranks in the post-World War II era. “[W]ould accept a half million dead Biafrans if that was what it took”-wish is made by the prime minister of Britain; not the prime minister of some “peripheral”, inconsequential country but the prime minister of a “centre” state and power that was part of the victorious alliance that defeated a fascist global amalgam in a global war that ended barely 23 years earlier. This is a prime minister of a “centre” state and power, the sixth to occupy this exalted position since the end of the war, that was one of the key countries that worked on the panel that drafted the historic 1948 United Nations “Convention on the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide”, in the wake of the 1930s-1940s deplorable perpetration of the Jewish genocide in Europe. 6 million Jews were murdered then by Nazi Germany. It is to ensure that no human beings are ever subjected to what the Jews went through in central Europe and elsewhere that this genocide convention is rated as one of the key international documents of the new age. Britain is a signatory to the convention. Surely, Harold Wilson’s “would accept a half million dead Biafrans if that was what it took”-wish cannot fit into the hallowed pages of the 1948 United Nations “Convention on the prevention of the Crime of Genocide”. Absolutely not! On the contrary, Wilson’s is a mid-1960s declaration to wage a genocide on a people, the Igbo people, 3150 miles away in southwestcentral Africa, just 20 years after the Jewish genocide in Europe. In the end, rather than Wilson’s 500,000 “dead Biafrans”-wish, there were 3.1 million murdered Biafrans... The world must now know: How many others in Wilson’s cabinet identified with this genocidal position and policy on the Igbo? What was the nature of the debates on this subject? Were there voices of opposition within cabinet? Who were these voices and how did they try to alter both position and policy? An official in the foreign office in London at the time does acknowledge, without ambiguity, the genocidal plank of this administration’s policy especially on the issue of the dispatch of urgent relief to the encircled, blockaded and bombarded Igbo: “[my government’s position was designed to] show conspicuous zeal in relief while in fact letting the little buggers starve out” (Morris, 1977: 122; see also Michael Leapman, “While the Biafrans starved, the FO moaned about hacks”, The Independent on Sunday, London, 3 January 1999). How widespread did people in the broader Labour party know of Harold Wilson’s genocidal policy on the Igbo? How much of Wilson’s Igbo genocide drive did the official British Conservative party opposition aware of?

3b. In May 1969, Olusegun Obasanjo, who had recently taken over the command of the Benjamin Adekunle-death squad, orders his air force to shoot down any Red Cross planes flying in urgently-needed relief supplies to the millions of surviving but encircled, blockaded and bombarded Igbo. Within a week of his infamous order, 5 June 1969, Obasanjo recalls, nostalgically, in his memoirs, aptly titled My Command (1981), genocidist air force pilot Gbadomosi King “redeem[s] his promise”, as Obasanjo puts it (Obasanjo, 1981: 79). Gbadomosi King shoots down a clearly marked, incoming relief-bearing International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) DC-7 aircraft near Eket, south Biafra, with the loss of its 3-person crew.  Obasanjo’s perverse satisfaction over the aftermath of this crime is fiendish, grotesquely revolting. He writes: “The effect of [this] singular achievement of the Air Force especially on 3 Marine Commando Division [name of the death squad Obasanjo, who subsequently becomes head of  Nigeria regime for 11 years, commands] was profound. It raised morale of all service personnel, especially of the Air Force detachment concerned and the troops they supported in [my] 3 Marine Commando Division” (Obasanjo: 79). The consequence of this act of terror across the world is, of course, the expression of revulsion. What does Obasanjo do in response? This is hugely revelatory. Olusegun Obasanjo appeals to Harold Wilson, the British prime minister, as Obasanjo, himself, scripts in his My Command (165), to “sort out” the raging international outcry generated by the destruction of the ICRC aircraft.

For the Nigerian génocidaires, the fact that, at the end, they have Britain’s back is critical in the pursuit of their gruesome campaign. As for Britain, the unrelentingly brazen impunity equally displayed by its officials, including Prime Minister Wilson, is anchored on the confidence that they have the United States’s government back. It is worth noting that the texture of the vituperative declarations made by either side of the genocidist coalition is pointedly a variation on the central theme of this campaign: to murder Igbo people.

What “neutrality”? What “internal affair”? Whose “internal affair”?

There was an extensive coverage of the Igbo genocide in the international media throughout its duration. In several now declassified US government official papers at the time, expansive references are made to this coverage as well as to reports of variegated initiatives by private, non-governmental and civil society who were monitoring the ever deteriorating features of the genocide especially after members’ visits to Biafra or following files dispatched by their representatives on the ground in Igboland. So, an examination of the range of United States government’s declassified documents on the genocide, often filed under the captions of “Biafra War”, “Biafra-Nigeria War” “Biafra/Nigeria War” or “Nigerian Civil War”, underscores the emphasis the US places on the troika concepts of “neutrality”, “Nigeria affair” and “British responsibility” which it states characterise its official position on this catastrophe. It often overplays the feature of “British responsibility” but this is barely addressed critically. Britain is portrayed as some lame-duck observer and not an activist participant in the genocide. Indeed in a National Security Council Intergovernmental Group “Background Discussion Paper on Nigeria/Biafra” for 19 February 1969, the first sentence on British role, three years into the slaughtering, is astonishingly described as follows: “The British back the FMG [Nigeria] with non-sophisticated arms sales” (NSC Interdepartmental Group, “Background Discussion Paper on Nigeria/Biafra”: 5). How the dreadful array of weapons supplied by Britain to Nigerian genocidists, acknowledged clearly by British state papers at the time (as shown earlier on in this study), could be classified by anyone as “non-sophisticated” is extraordinary.

Having given its British ally the carte blanche to expand the territorial range of the genocide in August 1966, the US, not Britain, ironically, is intent on falsifying the very records of the British action on the ground during the 44 months campaign. Contradictorily, perhaps, the papers consistently refer to the ever-increasing death toll in Biafra – especially death by starvation, a policy openly advocated by genocidist regime spokespersons and by Prime Minister Wilson in that 1969 conversation with Clyde Ferguson, the United States state department special coordinator for relief to Biafra, that he, Harold Wilson, “would accept a half million dead Biafrans if that was what it took” Nigeria to destroy the Igbo resistance to the genocide (Roger Morris, Uncertain Greatness: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy, 1977: 122). (We should point out that author Roger Morris was at the time a staffer at the National Security Council in Washington.) A state department file states that “between 500,000 and 2 million” had died within 30 months, “most … died from starvation and disease brought on by the [Nigerian] encirclement” of Igboland (US Department of State, Confidential State Department Files: Biafra-Nigeria, 1967-1969 – Political Affairs: vi). References are made to the widespread responses from the American public on the pictures of the ongoing tragedy on their television screens. On 25 July 1968, citizen Betty Carter from Washington, DC, writes Secretary of State Dean Rusk the following letter:
Yesterday evening while eating dinner and watching the news I was unable to finish eating upon seeing the faces of starving children, babies, men, and women in Biafra. I felt nauseated because of having so much when these people were in obvious pain and in dire need of food. I cannot bear to see anyone in need when I have something to share. Though it is not possible for me to go to Biafra at this time, I felt the least I could do was write to you and express my concern for these people and ask that the U.S. and other concerned governments and the United Nations press for a cease fire. I am sending a check to the World Church Service today to help the starving Biafrans. (US Department of State, Confidential State Department Files: Biafra-Nigeria, 1967-1969 – Political Affairs: vi)
Also on 25 July 1968:
U.S. Army Specialist John G. Moss wrote from Vietnam, enclosing a check for $10 “to help these desperate people”. Petitions, resolutions, and appeals with dozens (and often hundreds) of signatures came from groups such as the Oregon State Legislature, the Ithaca, New York, Junior Chamber of Commerce, the Washington and Northern Idaho Council of Churches, the Catholic War Veterans of Ohio, the editorial staff of Doubleday publishers in New York, and residents of Ottawa, Kansas, Dayton, Ohio, and Hanover and Lebanon, New Hampshire, and White River Junction, Vermont. (US Department of State, Confidential State Department Files: Biafra-Nigeria, 1967-1969 – Political Affairs: vi)
Pressure was now beginning to mount on the outgoing President Johnson administration, especially by mid-1968, to respond to this catastrophe boldly rather than the very unconvincing declarations of “neutrality”, “Nigerian internal affair” and “British responsibility”. Johnson was struck by the outpouring of American public revulsion to the events in Biafra but felt unwilling to engage with an additional “crisis” at a time he was deeply mired in the war in Vietnam. Personally “troubled” by the television pictures on the genocide but without much empathy, Johnson reportedly asked the state department to “get those n***** babies off my TV set” (Terrence Lyons, “Keeping Africa off the Agenda”, in Warren Cohen and Nancy Bernkopf Tucker, Lyndon Johnson Confronts the World: American Foreign Policy, 1963-1968, 1994: 275).  The administration nonetheless indicated that it was stepping up “humanitarian relief for the Biafran people” (US Department of State, Confidential State Department Files: Biafra-Nigeria, 1967-1969 – Political Affairs: vi) even whilst acknowledging practical difficulties on the ground in distributing relief supplies that would need approval of both Nigeria and the Biafran resistance government (NSC Interdepartmental Group, “Background Discussion Paper on Nigeria/Biafra”, 10 February 1969: 7).
It should be pointed out, though, that the US reference to “[Nigerian] encirclement” of Igboland (US Department of State, Confidential State Department Files: Biafra-Nigeria, 1967-1969 – Political Affairs: vi) was part of the calculated genocidal policy by Nigeria that had been implemented beginning on 31 March 1967, while still on phase-II of the slaughtering (a 28 January 1969 Memorandum for the President by Henry Kissinger, presidential advisor on national security, had noted that “30-40,000 I[g]bo [had been] savagely slaughtered at this time” [US Department of State Archives, Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, Vol E-5, Documents on Africa, Memorandum: Henry Kissinger to the President, 28 January 1969]) four months before the 6 July 1967 genocidists invaded Biafra, launching phase-III of the genocide.

On that day, 31 March 1967, the genocidist high command had indeed imposed a land, aerial and sea blockade of Igboland, Africa’s highest population density landmass outside the Nile Delta, as prelude to the invasion of Biafra. To ensure that the 12 million Igbo people were in fact bottled-up in their homeland, the genocidists excised Biafra’s southeast peninsular of Bakassi, contiguous to Cameroon, and “awarded” this territory to the regime in Yaoundé, headed by Ahmadou Ahidjo. The conditions on the ground were now in place for chief genocidist “theorist” Obafemi Awolowo, a lawyer, a “senior advocate” of the Nigeria bar, also vice-chair of the genocide-prosecuting junta (prime minister) and head of the finance ministry, to formulate his “starvation”-weapon strategy on Igbo people. This began to have its devastating direct effect and concomitant impact as from mid-1968, precisely the timeframe the US state department files being reviewed attest to. Unlike the experience of tens of thousands of Yoruba people who thronged across the west Nigeria-(Dahomey)/Benin Republic frontiers, seeking refuge in (Dahomey)/Benin and elsewhere in west Africa during the intra-Yoruba conflicts of 1963-1965, Awolowo “reckoned” or “calculated” that the Igbo must be denied similar access to a destination of refuge (outside their homeland) through the only other contiguous land border they have besides Nigeria, namely Cameroon. This restricted space for Igbo domicility to negotiate, in the wake of the planned, soon to be launched invasion of  Igboland (phase-III) would guarantee the optimum range or outcome of the Igbo slaughter so envisaged in the Awolowoist genocidist projection…

Here lies the apparent difficulties the US government and non-governmental relief agencies and those of the International Committee of the Red Cross and other interested relief organisations across the world encountered, repeatedly, to send humanitarian relief to Biafra during the 44 months campaign. To starve out the Igbo was an intrinsic feature in the Nigerian genocidal plan and Nigeria couldn’t, therefore, be cooperating with anyone who wanted to send relief to the Igbo whilst this policy was fully operational. Pointedly, this was part of the devastating import of British Prime Minister Wilson’s position in his conversation with US Biafra relief coordinator Ferguson (already referred to) and that other vulgar summation on the theme rendered by the official in the British foreign office, already referenced here in the study: “[my government’s position was designed to] show conspicuous zeal in relief while in fact letting the little buggers starve out” (Morris: 122). Surely, the United States was fully aware of this Anglo-Nigerian strategy.

The US, in state paper after state paper, emphasises that all it could do in response to the slaughter was provide “humanitarian assistance” to the Biafrans (US Department of State Archives, Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, Vol 32, African Relations, Outgoing Telegram 016759, US Embassy Lagos, 3 February 1969) but that was increasingly a failure (US Department of State Archives, Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, Vol 32, African Relations, Telegram 333: US Ambassador in Lagos to US Secretary of State; US Department of State Archives, Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, Vol 32, African Relations, Talking Paper for [presidential] European Trip, TP10, February-March 1969) because that would have meant challenging, confronting (a la April 1948-May 1949 Berlin relief airlift intervention) a deliberate Anglo-Nigerian strategy which predicated on its declared position of “neutrality”.

Not surprisingly, both Johnson and the subsequent Nixon administration had numerous critics in congress and the rest of the country who wanted a more robust US response. In January 1969, a cross-party resolution involving 59 co-sponsors called on newly-elected President Nixon to “increase significantly the amount of surplus food stocks, relief monies, non-combat aircraft, and such other vehicles of transportation as may be necessary for relief purposes” (NSC Interdepartmental Group, “Background Discussion Paper on Nigeria/Biafra”: 1). Whilst discussing the resolution, a group of Democratic party senators, including Edward Kennedy (Democratic party, Massachusetts), insisted that the resolution had a “narrow focus on relief”. Kennedy argued that “since the conflict already involves the Great Powers, the US has a moral duty, as a world leader, to bring about a resolution” (NSC Interdepartmental Group, “Background Discussion Paper on Nigeria/Biafra”: 1).


Even though he continues to pursue the dubitable US “neutral” position of his predecessor on the Igbo genocide, Richard Nixon appears to wrestle with the moral imperative at stake, raised by Senator Kennedy, over a “world leader” who stands idly by as millions of people are murdered by a close US ally and the latter’s client state representatives in west Africa, 21 years since the end of the horrors of the Jewish genocide and 18 years after the historic UN Convention on Genocide. Nixon’s 12 April 1971 recorded audio tape conversation with Henry Kissinger, his advisor on national security, is indeed highly revelatory (Gary Bass, “Looking away from genocide”, The New Yorker, 19 November 2013). In their conversation, Nixon, who had in 1968, as he campaigned for the presidential election, aptly described the slaughtering in Biafra as “genocide”, compares the 1971 genocide in Bangladesh to that of Biafra and the Jews. Nixon then wonders whether it was “immoral” that the US did not support Biafra and alluded to the Biafrans’ African heritage and their catholic faith as, perhaps, factors that accounted for this US inaction (Gary Bass, “Looking away from genocide”, The New Yorker, 19 November 2013).

Surely, what these snippets from this Nixon-Kissinger tapes tell the world is that, right in the heart of the US presidency, the second president of the republic who oversees the US policy during the Igbo genocide, 29 May 1966-12 January 1970, does not believe a word of his own nor the previous government’s officially stated position on this catastrophe.

Serially catastrophic

Official United States never condemned the Igbo genocide unambiguously despite the comprehensive information at its disposal right from the outset.  To describe the US position as “neutral” was in fact part of the tragedy. One couldn’t be “neutral” in face of evil. Besides, the US was fully aware that Britain, its closest ally, was spearheading this genocide in Africa just 21 years after the end of the Jewish genocide in Europe. To also categorise the conflict as a “British responsibility” (Confidential US State Department Files: Biafra-Nigeria, 1967-1969 – Political Affairs: v and Lyons, 1994: 274), given the US’s full knowledge of British involvement in the ongoing crime, amounts to Washington’s tacit support for the genocide. Finally, for the US to also describe the tragedy as a “Nigerian internal affair” underscores how little the world appears to have learned from the enduring lessons of the Jewish genocide: genocide cannot be an internal affair.

The United States could have stopped the Igbo genocide; the United States should have stopped the Igbo genocide instead of protecting the interests of the Nigeria state, the very perpetrator of the crime, but, more importantly, instead of protecting the socioeconomic and strategic interests of conqueror-state Britain as this study has demonstrated. In the wake of the Jewish genocide of the 1930s-1940s during which 6 million Jews were murdered by Nazi Germany, Africa was, with hindsight, most cruelly unlucky to have been the “testing ground” for the presumed global community’s resolve to fight genocide subsequently, particularly after the 1948 historic United Nations declaration on this crime against humanity. Only a few would have failed to note that the US’s  position that this crime was “internal” was staggeringly disingenuous as genocide, as was demonstrated devastatingly 20-30 years earlier on in Europe, would of course occur within some territoriality (“internal”) where the perpetrator exercises a permanent or limited or partial or temporary sociopolitical control (cf. Nazi Germany and its programme to destroy its Jewish population within Germany itself; Nazi Germany and its programme to destroy Jewish populations within those countries in Europe under its occupation from 1939 and 1945). Between 1966 and 2015, the world would witness genocide carried out against the Igbo, the Tutsi/some Hutu, Darfuri and nations/peoples in Nuba Mountains/South Kordofan and in the east Congo River Basin in “internal” spaces that go by the names Nigeria, Rwanda, the Sudan, and Zaïre/Democratic Republic of the Congo respectively. The contours of the territory where genocide is executed do not therefore make the perpetrators less culpable nor the crime permissible as the United Nations’s crucial 1948 genocide declaration states most clearly.

The very central role played by Britain in support of the Igbo genocide no doubt reinforced the scandalous failure of the United States to exercise robust global leadership to prevent this catastrophe. Britain, a fully-fledged member of the United Nations – indeed a founding member of the organisation who enjoys a permanent seat on its security council and participated in drafting the anti-genocide declaration – supported the Igbo genocide militarily, politically, diplomatically. Without this entrenched British role, there probably would not have been the Igbo genocide. It is extraordinary that, under its watch as one of the superpowers of the post-World War II epoch, the United States, contrary to its often expressed lofty ideals, could have seemed to tolerate the perpetration of this genocide.

To understand the international politics of the Igbo genocide and the international politics of the “post”-Igbo genocide is to have an invaluable insight into the salient features and constitutive indices of politics across Africa in the past 50 years. The African-based perpetrators of the Igbo genocide, who have subsequently seized and pillaged the rich Igboland economy which could easily have expansively transformed not just these lands of southwestcentral region of Africa but all of Africa with transferable positive impact on other regions of the African World, appear to have got off free from any forms of sanctions from Africa and the world, thanks to a concerted British and by implication US diplomatic and political protection for what are unquestionably crimes against humanity. The consequences for the rest of Africa have been serially catastrophic. Several regimes elsewhere on the continent are “convinced” of the conclusions that they have drawn from the escapades of their Nigerian counterpart: “We can murder our peoples at will. There will be no sanctions from Africa – and the world”. As a result, the killing fields of this age of pestilence in Africa have stretched almost inexorably beyond Igboland with the murders of 12 million additional Africans, since January 1970, by regimes in further genocide in Rwanda, Darfur/Nuba Mountains/South Kordofan (the Sudan) and Zaïre/Democratic Republic of Congo, and in other conflicts in Liberia, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, Mali, Chad, Libya, Guinea-Bissau, Burundi…

(John Coltrane QuartetTransition [personnel: Coltrane, tenor saxophone, McCoy Tyner, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; Elvin Jones, drums {first movement “Transition” and third movement, “Suite: part I – Prayer and Meditation: Day; part II – Peace and After; part III – Prayer and Meditation: Evening; part IV– Affirmation; part V – Prayer and Meditation: 4 AM}, Roy Haynes, drums {second movement, “Dear Lord” only}; recorded Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, US, 26 May and 10 June 1965])

*****Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of Longest genocide – Since 29 May 1966 (forthcoming, 2015)

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