Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Theresa May and Biafra

(Theresa May: ... historic opportunity to end 50 years of the Igbo genocide)
Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

BRITISH Prime Minister Theresa May recently made a major declaration on the future of her country’s policy on foreign military intervention that mustn’t be crowded out in the current news cycle on the “furore” over entry limits/bans on travels to the United States. May had told a US Republican party assembly in Philadelphia (29 January 2017) that Britain would henceforth abandon foreign invasions which she categorised as “failed policies of the past”. May couldn’t be more insistent: “the days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over” (The Independent, London, 29 January 2017).

May’s declaration is indeed extraordinary – not, though, for her stated reasons of “failed policies of the past” (possible references to British-allied invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, quasi-intervention in Syria, complicit support for the April 2011 French invasion of Côte d’Ivoire and the latter’s invasions of a cluster of other so-called francophonie states of Africa particularly in the past two decades), important as these may be, but from a snap examination of a more expanded excursion into history.

Gargantuan wealth

It should be stressed that Britain added the prefix “great” to its name configuration to demonstrate its seemingly daunting triumph at expansive global conquest and occupation. Britain, the first truly effective West global power, employed the gargantuan wealth it acquired during the course of its late 17th century/early 18th century pre-eminent role in the enslavement and mass exportation of millions of African peoples from Africa to the Americas to consolidate its conquest of the Americas (especially the north/the Caribbean basin), embark on its conquest of India and other regions of Asia, embark on the subsequent pan-European (Britain, France, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, Germany and Italy) conquest and occupation of a (subsequently) weakened Africa, and lastly, but surely not least in importance, finance its 19th century industrial revolution which is the turning point in the development of West capitalism.

Britain’s success on this score cannot be exaggerated. This was a country which, prior to the mid-17th century, was still a “cultural and scientific backwater”, to quote the graphic description made by Christopher Hill, the eminent British historian who is an authority on this period of British history (Christopher Hill, “Lies about crimes”, The Guardian, London, 29 May 1989).  By the beginning of the 18th century, Britain had established virtual world monopoly in the seizure and transportation of millions of Africans from their homelands to the Americas after displacing the hitherto lead-roles therein by the Iberian states of Portugal and Spain. Britain used the enormous resources that accrued to it as a result to finance its burgeoning scientific and technological enterprises. Soon, as Hill further noted, Britain became the “centre of world science” (“Lies about crimes”).


Yet in that egregious overdrive by those in successive generations of British writers and scholars who proclaimed outright denial or sought to provide the requisite “intellectual” rationalisation for this crime against African peoples, Britain, in effect, emerged from this exercise with the unenviable position as the creator, cardinal codifier, and central publicist of European World racism as an ideology (see Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, African Literature in Defence of History: An essay on Chinua Achebe, 2001, especially pp. 1-54).


Tony Blair’s “ethical foreign policy”


In December 2006, in apparent response to this sordid history of Britain to the peoples of Africa, Tony Blair, then British prime minister, observed in an article for the New Nation (the London-based weekly newspaper that appeals to a wide African peoples’ readership), that he felt “deep sorrow” for Britain’s central role in the European World’s enslavement of African peoples. This pronouncement was surely not good enough as Britain is the leading beneficiary of this crime. Blair should have apologised unreservedly to African peoples across the world for Britain’s role in a catastrophe that remains humanity’s most gruesome, most expansive, and most enduring. Blair should also have announced a comprehensive package of reparations paid to all surviving Africans in Africa, Europe, the Americas and elsewhere in the world for the crime.


Despite Blair’s feeble response to this scourge of history or precisely because of it, this prime minister pursued a policy on Africa, throughout his 11 years in office (1997-2007), that were largely variations on those definitive themes of 400 years of Britain’s appalling history towards the peoples of Africa. Blair advanced an aggressive programme of British arms sales to Africa which, by 2004, yielded phenomenal dividend to Britain’s treasury as it became the world’s premier arms exporter to Africa: in 1999 alone, Britain sold £65 million worth of arms to Africa; in 2000, the total was £150 million (Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, “Ban arms sales to Africa – nothing else required”, openDemocracy, London, 14 June 2005) and by 2004, these sales had crossed the £1 billion threshold (Anthony Barnett, “UK arms sales to Africa reach £1 million mark”, The Guardian, London, 12 June 2005). Blair’s exports’ targets included Africa’s notorious genocide-states, especially Nigeria, the Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Furthermore, Britain sold arms to 10 out of 13 conflict-stricken countries on the continent during the epoch including states in east/central Africa then involved in the so-called Great Lakes’s War where London in fact sold arms to both sides of the principal protagonists (DRC, Rwanda, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Uganda) which led Charles Onyango-Obbo, the east African journalist, to reflect, at the time, that “Britain is supporting both sides [in the war] – it just robs them of any moral authority and a lot of people rightly do despise the British government on this affair” (BBC News, “UK arming African countries”, London, 3 April 2000). That Blair actually categorised this foreign policy to Africa (and elsewhere in the South) as “ethical foreign policy” (“UK arming African countries”), underscored the staggering depth of contempt that his administration had for the peoples of this part of the world.


Back to Biafra


For Blair on Biafra, southwestcentral Africa, as should be expected from the bold strokes of his “ethical foreign policy” thrust to the rest of Africa, it was indeed business as usual… The Igbo genocide was now in its 30th year with phase-IV, begun on 13 January 1970, entering its 27th year. Britain had in league with its client state of Nigeria, beginning on 29 May 1966, launched the Igbo genocide, the foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa. Britain had sought to “punish” Igbo people for their vanguard role in the campaign to terminate the British conquest and occupation of this region of Africa during the 1930s-October 1960. Britain and Nigeria murdered 3.1 million Igbo or 25 per cent of this nation’s population during 44 subsequent months of the most devastating savagery not seen in Africa since Germany carried out the genocide of the Herero, Nama and Berg Damara peoples in southwest Africa at the first decade of the 20th century. At the apogee of phases I-III of the Igbo genocide, 1968/1969, Harold Wilson, then British prime minister who coordinated the genocide from London, was fulsomely adamant about the objective of the slaughtering: “[I] would accept a half million dead Biafrans if that was what it took” Nigeria to destroy the Igbo resistance to the genocide (Roger MorrisUncertain Greatness: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy, 1977, p. 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.

(Harold Wilson... : “would accept a half million dead Biafrans if that was what it took” Nigeria to destroy the Igbo resistance to the genocide)

In May 1999, in pursuant of his own contribution to the prosecution of the Igbo genocide, Tony Blair reached out to Olusegun Obasanjo, who had recently become head of regime in Nigeria, to establish close ties in which sales of British arms to Nigeria was going to play a dominant role. Obasanjo is a fiendish genocidist operative who led a brigade in south Biafra in mid-1968-January 1970 slaughtering tens of thousands of Igbo people. In June 1969, Obasanjo ordered his air force to shoot down a 3-person crew international Red Cross aircraft bringing urgent relief to the encircled, blockaded, and bombarded Igbo, and he later boasted remorselessly of this crime in his memoirs, aptly entitled My Command (Ibadan & London, 1980: 78-79).  True to type, Obasanjo resumed his murder campaign against the Igbo soon after taking office in regions across occupied Biafra. Other state and quasi-state agents especially in north Nigeria also joined in an expansive trail of organised waves of pogroms against diaspora Igbo populations at the time. According to a US justice department report, a total of 50,000 people were murdered in these campaigns between 1999 and 2004 (US Department of Justice, “Armed Conflicts Report – Nigeria”, Washington, DC, 25 February 2014, p. 1), Obasanjo regime’s first term, the overwhelming majority of them Igbo.


In March 2015, in yet another ritual bout of a British prime minister reaching out or employing the services of a “recycled” genocidist Nigerian trooper from the earlier phases of the genocide to continue the Igbo slaughter, the mantle now fell on David Cameron. Cameron imposed Muhammadu Buhari, one of the vilest Nigerian genocidist operatives throughout these 50 years of the Igbo genocide, as head of Nigeria regime. Buhari got involved in the genocide right from its launch on 29 May 1966 (four months before Cameron was born in England) and during the Nigerian expansive trail of the mass slaughter of Igbo military and civilians alike in north and west Nigeria regions from 29 July 1966-July 1967 to encapsulate phases I-II of the genocide timeframe. During phase-III of the genocide, the invasion of Biafra, July 1967-January 1970, Buhari was commander of a genocidist corps in north and northcentral Biafra, slaughtering to the hilt.  Just as the earlier Obasanjo regime mentioned, Buhari has carried out his own spate of murders of Igbo people across Biafra since taking power. His regime has murdered a total of 2000 Igbo between November 2015 and January 2017. Former US President Barack Obama, working collaboratively with Cameron, co-imposed Buhari as head of this regime. Obama is the first African-descent president of the US republic in 233 years of existence and his unflinching support for an African-led genocidist regime in Africa waging a genocide against an African people is surely an unconscionable, monumental tragedy of his presidential legacy (http://re-thinkingafrica.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/herbert-ekwe-ekwe-this-piece-is.html).


Theresa May’s opportunity, the Richard Gozney effect


Cameron resigned his prime minister’s position precipitously on 13 July 2016 after losing the “Brexit” referendum on British membership of the European Union. Theresa May has since become prime minister and is presented with an historic opportunity to confront and terminate the British central role in the ongoing Igbo genocide in Biafra. This genocide has gone on for 50 years. May must now reject that baton of the relay race-to-murder-Igbo people that has been passed down the track from Harold Wilson’s 10 Downing Street tenure.  


Thankfully, there is indeed a British official antecedent that May could find helpful as she plans to bring this gruesome catastrophe to an end. In December 2005, soon after the Olusegun Obasanjo regime forces had just carried out a stretch of murders of Igbo peaceful demonstrators in Owere, Umuahia and Aba (eastcentral Biafra) calling for the restoration of Biafra, Richard Gozney, then chief British representative in Nigeria came out openly and condemned the slaughtering unreservedly (The Vanguard, Lagos, 17 December 2005). This was and remains unprecedented from such a high profile British state official since 29 May 1966. 

Four salient features of the genocide must have weighed heavily on Gozney’s mind that prompted such a public demonstration: (1) 3.1 million Igbo people had been murdered earlier on in the genocide and tens of thousands in the subsequent decades (2) Harold Wilson’s recorded, blatant support for the genocide,  “[I] would accept a half million dead Biafrans if that was what it took” is harrowing (3) Harold Wilson’s own admission in his memoirs that the Nigerian military, equipped zealously by Britain, expended more small arms ammunition in its campaign to achieve its annhilative mission in Biafra 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, p. 630, added emphasis) is harrowing (4) Britain’s Lagos (Nigeria) diplomatic mission military advisor Robert Scott’s acknowledgement (at the height of the genocide, mid 1968- January 1970) that as the Nigerian genocidists unleashed their campaigns across Igbo cities, towns and villages, they were the “best defoliant agent known” (Sunday Telegraph, London, 11 January 1970) is harrowing. Grozney would also have observed the stunning Igbo resilience of the Biafra freedom movement and drew the unmistakeable conclusions of its indestructibility...


Maybe Britain and the rest of the world have waited all this while for this very introspective only daughter of a respected vicar in a rural parish in southeast England to become prime minister to end the Igbo genocide, this longest and most gruesome genocide of the contemporary world. All Theresa May requires is to announce to the world that Britain has terminated all support – military, political, diplomatic – for the prosecution of this genocide, apologise to Igbo people, pay reparations on behalf of the 3.1 million Igbo murdered during phases I-III of the genocide (29 may 1966-12 January 1970) and the tens of thousands murdered subsequently during its phase-IV (13 January 1970-present day), pay reparations to the survivors, and pay reparations to reconstruct the shattered  Biafra economy, Africa’s most enterprising economy prior to the genocide.


A May declaration terminating the genocide will bring this crime against humanity to an immediate end. Unquestionably.

(John Coltrane Quartet, “Vigil” [personnel: Coltrane, tenor saxophone; McCoy Tyner, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; Elvin Jones, drums; recorded: live, Comblain-la-Tour, Hamoir, Belgium, RTBF radio & television network, 1 August 1965])



Barnett, Anthony. “UK arms sales to Africa reach £1 million mark”. The Guardian, London, 12 June 2005.

BBC News. “UK arming African countries”.  3 April 2000.

Ekwe-Ekwe, Herbert. “‘African American son’, US foreign policy and Africa: A statement”. rethinkingafrica, 30 March 2016, http://re-thinkingafrica.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/herbert-ekwe-ekwe-this-piece-is.html, accessed 13 February 2017.

Ekwe-Ekwe, Herbert. “Igbo genocide, Britain and the United States”. rethinkingafrica, 4 October 2015, http://re-thinkingafrica.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/herbert-ekwe-ekwe-conquerors-concord-in.html, accessed 10 February 2017.

Ekwe-Ekwe, Herbert. “Rights for Scots, Rights for the Igbo”. rethinkingafrica, 17 January 2012, http://re-thinkingafrica.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/rights-for-scots-rights-for-igbo.html, accessed 12 February 2017.

Ekwe-Ekwe, Herbert. “Time for reflections”, openDemocracy, London, 22 December 2005.

Ekwe-Ekwe, Herbert. “Ban arms sales to Africa – nothing else required”. openDemocracy, London, 14 June 2005.

Ekwe-Ekwe, Herbert. African Literature in Defence of History: An essay on Chinua Achebe. Reading: African Renaissance, 2001.

Hill, Christopher. “Lies about crimes”. The Guardian, London, 29 May 1989.

Independent, The. London, 29 January 2017

Morris, Roger. Uncertain Greatness: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy. London and New York: Quartet Books, 1977.

John Coltrane Quartet. “Vigil”. Live. Comblain-la-Tour, Hamoir, Belgium. RTBF radio & television network, 1 August 1965.

Obasanjo, Olusegun. My Command. Ibadan & London: Heinemann, 1980.

Sunday Telegraph. London, 11 January 1970.

US Department of Justice. “Armed Conflicts Report – Nigeria”. Washington, DC, 25 February 2014.

Vanguard, The. Lagos, 17 December 2005.

Wilson, Harold.  Labour Government, 1964-1970: A Personal Record. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1971.

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe








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