"I have seen things in Biafra this week which no man should have to see. Sights to search the heart and sicken the conscience I have seen children roasted alive, young girls torn in two by shrapnel, pregnant women eviscerated, and old men blown to fragments, I have seen these things and I have seen their cause: high-flying Russian Ilyushin jets operated by Federal Nigeria, dropping their bombs on civilian centres throughout Biafra ...
At Onitsha - the 300 strong congregation of the Apostolic Church decided to stay on while others fled and to pray for deliverance. Col. [Murtala] Mohammed's Second Division found them in the church, dragged them out, tied their hands behind their backs and executed them."
["Nightmare in Biafra," Sunday Times (London, 4/26/68, p.12), by a war correspondent]
Nigeria's a typical West African mess of a country, only bigger and meaner. It's divided up the usual way: the coastal tribes are Christianized from sucking up to the European colonists. The further inland you go, the drier, hungrier and more Islamic it gets. The Brits grabbed the Nigerian coastline from the Portuguese when they realized there was money to be made, and turned the two big coastal tribes, the Ibo and the Yoruba, into their overseers on the Nigerian plantations. That left a lot of the inland Muslim tribes, the Hausa-Fulani people of the Sahel, permanently pissed off, sharpening their knives and biding their time.
The Hausa-Faluni got their chance in 1963, when the last Brit in Nigeria hopped on a plane, yelling back to the Natives "Congratulations, chaps! You're independent!" As soon as the Brits bugged out, the tribal massacres got going. Muslims in the north hacked to death every Ibo they could find. They hated these smartasses from the coast -- and now the Redcoats weren't there to stop them from taking revenge. 30,000 Ibos were killed in a few days.
The rest of the world (except Israel) turned their backs on the Ibo, let the Nigerians starve them into submission. The USSR sold the Nigerians every plane, tank and gun they could cram into their shopping cart, and the British loaned their pilots to fly as Nigerian AF mercs, bombing Biafran civvies and blowing up convoys bringing food and meds to the Ibo villages. The famine in Biafra was the first time we saw pictures of African kids with skeleton arms and legs and big balloon bellies looking up at the camera. It was easy to get shots like that in Biafra, because the whole country was starving.
A year into the war, the Ibo had nothing left. No food, no ammo, not even fuel, which is ironic when they were sitting on the big Niger delta oilfiends.
Even the bravest troops can't fight when they're dying of starvation. So in 1969 the Nigerian Army sent 120,000 men pushing through the center of Biafra, dividing the Ibo zone in half. It was like Sherman"s march to the sea -- it broke the Biafrans' backs.
Early in 1970 Biafra surrendered. Nobody knows how many people died. The low guess is a million, the high ones maybe three millions. Almost all were Ibo civilians.