Published Date

May 1, 2004

Resource Type

Archival Resource, Primary Source



This resource was developed in 2004 as part of “Biafra, Nigeria, the West and the World” by David Trask. 

The goal for those studying the global concerns during the Biafran secession era is to try to assess what people outside of Biafra—including England, the former colonial power over Nigeria—thought of the conflict and what they proposed should be done about it. Other voices come from outside England and from Biafrans.


Charles DeGaulle

[Remarks made at a press conference, Paris, on 9 September 1968. (Text by courtesy of the French Embassy, London.)  From:  Kirk-Greene, vol. 2, p. 329]

This is a statement made by the President of France, Charles De Gaulle, at a press conference. He gave a speech in this same year endorsing the idea that the province of Quebec could/should secede from the nation of Canada.

  • What is his view of the situation in Biafra?
  • What does he think should happen there?
  • What action does he refuse to take with regard to Biafra? Why?

President De Gaulle’s exchange with a reporter:


The drama taking place in Biafra seems to grow more tragic every day. You have alluded several times to the Biafran problem. Mr. President, could you give us your point of view on this problem ?

De Gaulle:

I am not sure that the system of federation, which sometimes, in certain parts and from a certain angle replaces that of colonization, is always a very good and very practical system, particularly in Africa. But not only in Africa, for in fact it consists in arbitrarily joining together peoples who are sometimes very different or even opposed to each other and who, therefore, have no desire whatever to be joined. We see this in Canada, in Rhodesia, in Malaysia, in Cyprus, and we see it in Nigeria. Indeed, why should the Ibos, who are generally Christians, who live in the south in a certain way, who have their own language, why should they depend on another ethnic fraction of the Federation ? Since this is what one ends up with once the colonizer has withdrawn his authority. In an artificial federation, one ethnic element imposes its authority on the others.

Even before the present drama in Biafra, one could wonder how Nigeria would be able to live, in view of all the crises the Federation was experiencing. And now that this appalling, enormous drama has occurred, now that Biafra has proclaimed its independence and that, to subdue it, the Federation is resorting to war, blockade, extermination and famine, how can it be imagined that the peoples of the Federation, Ibos included, can resume life together?

France, in this affair, has done what was possible to help Biafra. She has not performed the act which, to her, would be decisive, of recognizing the Biafran Republic, because she regards the gestation of Africa as a matter for the Africans first and foremost. Already, in fact, some States of Eastern and Western Africa have recognized Biafra. Others appear to be moving in that direction. This means that, where France is concerned, the decision which has not been taken is not ruled out for the future. And indeed, one can imagine that the Federation itself, recognizing the impossibility of keeping on its present organization, may turn itself into some kind of union or confederation that would reconcile Biafra’s right to self-determination with continuing ties between it and the whole of Nigeria.

Statement by Margery Perham, “Friend” of the Igbo

Margery Perham was a long time scholar who studied and wrote about West Africa, specifically Nigeria. Later you may encounter he analysis of a rebellion among women in colonial Nigeria. This statement was regarded by supporters of Biafra as harmful if not “treasonous.”

  • What values form the basis of her plea? Western? Nigerian? Both?
    Why does she want the leader of Biafra to change his course?
    Why should he listen to her and value her advice?

Margery Perham’s Radio Broadcast to the Leader of Biafra, General C. O. Ojukwu: [Broadcast over Lagos Radio, 7 September 1968. (Text by courtesy of Dame Margery Perham.)From Kirk-Greene, Volume 2, 326-327]

“Concern from a Friend of Nigeria”

This is Margery Perham speaking. I am speaking to you, Emeka Ojukwu, and to the Ibo people with you.

You know for you have written to me—how many Ibo friends I have and how I have tried to put the Ibo ease in Britain for many months. I know that many wrongs have been committed both against your people and by your people since this conflict began. But it is no time to speak of these things now when your Biafra is being surrounded by Federal troops, and it cannot be long before you and your people will have to face defeat.

If you try to fight to the end, many thousands of lives which Nigeria cannot spare will be sacrificed, both on your side and on the Federal side. More than this, if you insist upon holding out to the end, then thousands, perhaps millions, of women and children may die, or be wounded, or have their health fatally destroyed by hunger and hardship. And those people who have come from Britain and elsewhere to help you—doctors, nurses and others—they too might be killed or wounded. It is feeling for your people, and especially the innocent women and children, which has so deeply stirred the sympathy of people in Europe and America who have seen their suffering on television. The world which is watching would condemn you if they now believed that you were using your leadership to prolong a hopeless struggle at their expense: there would be not only sorrow, but indignation against you.

You might say that I have been put up by the Federal Government [the Gowon-led Nigerian government] to make this appeal. It is not so. I think I am too well known in Britain and by many of your own people for it to be thought that I would act or speak in any other way than upon my own judgment and initiative, and as a Christian. I cannot speak for the Federal Government. I can only say that from what I have seen and heard, not only in Lagos but in visits to other parts, the East and the North, I do not believe that your people would be in danger of massacre or revenge. You must know, even if your people do not, that an immense effort is now being made to prepare the way back for your people into life in Nigeria.

I therefore beg you not to take upon yourself the terrible responsibility of refusing to surrender and of fighting to the end.

Statements of European Religious Leaders

European Christians attempted to exert influence over the secessionist conflict at many points.  The two statements printed below deal with a call for a restriction on the import of weapons into the conflict as well as a general call for peace in the area.

Statement on Arms Supplies by the Church of England

  1. It is a matter of deep concern to the Churches and Societies we represent both in Nigeria and Britain, that the conflict in Nigeria has reached the point of civil war.
  2. We recognise that the Federal Government is the only legal Government in Nigeria. But we are aware that the Eastern Region which is in a state of disagreement with the Federal Government contains more than 7,000,000 people, and consequently the proportions of the dispute surpass the limits of local pacification by the Federal Government.
  3. We are aware from Nigerian information that fighting can be of such a widespread character as to lead to an embittered war of sporadic conflict. This can extend to a very long duration with permanent results in estrangement and bitterness between the Regions.
  4. We therefore urge H. M. Government not to permit arms to be sent to the Federal Government as the sending of arms cannot but prolong the fighting and increase the bitterness now felt in the Eastern Region. We believe that the paucity of arms on both sides of the conflict is a vital factor which may shorten the period before negotiations bring a solution to the problem now confronting the Federation.
  5. Our intimate knowledge of the peoples of the Eastern Region leads us to the conviction that no scale of escalation in the hands of the Federal Government will suffice to subjugate that Region. We are therefore anxious that H. M. Government should not share in a course of action which can only lead to protracted suffering which a cessation of armed conflict and a return to negotiation could prevent.

Issued on 18 August 1967 on behalf of the Conference of British Missionary Societies, Church Missionary Society, Church of Scotland Foreign Mission Committee, and the Methodist Missionary Society.

[From Kirk-Greene, Crisis and Conflict in Nigeria, vol. 2, document #123, p. 152]

The Churches’ Call for Peace

The Roman Catholic Church and the WCC unite in one voice in a most urgent appeal to both contesting parties for an immediate cessation of armed hostilities in this sad conflict and for the establishment of a lasting peace by honourable negotiations in the highest tradition of Africa ….

We further point out that war is an inhuman and futile attempt to settle disputes. In this sad conflict, especially, armed hostilities cannot achieve a settlement of the differences; on the contrary they are liable to bring, on a scale that is frightening to contemplate, only further loss of life, starvation, suffering and devastation. Even if, against all right reason, armed hostilities continue, the parties can never achieve peaceful co-existence without a negotiated settlement. The longer hostilities endure, the more innocent human lives will be sacrificed in violence and bloodshed, the more impoverished and devastated will become this beloved erstwhile land of promise ….

We appeal in particular to the African Chiefs of State to offer the contribution of their counsel, their suggestions and, should the case arise, their mediation, with a view to the resolution of this sad conflict ….

While it is not our part to declare on the issue of contention, we are bound to call the most immediate attention to the sacred issue of the human right to life itself, which is so seriously threatened on such a vast scale by the horrors and effects of the war. We therefore urge governments and international agencies in a position to act effectively in this matter to secure a denial of external military assistance to both parties, an immediate cessation of hostilities, the necessary assurances of security to both sides on the laying down of arms, and a negotiated peace ….

Issued simultaneously in Geneva on behalf of the World Council of Churches and in Rome on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church, 20 March 1968. Text by courtesy of the British Council of Churches.

[In A. H. M. Kirk-Greene, Crisis and Conflict in Nigeria A Documentary Sourcebook 1966-1970, vol. 2 (London: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 201]

Biafran Propaganda to Influence World Opinion

The statements below are some of the 39 accusations made in a propaganda pamphlet published in 1968 within Biafra.

  • What is propaganda? To what extent can it be believed?
  • This pamphlet was directed toward . . . whom?  People within Biafra who are unsure of the value of the war?  Nigerians outside Biafra?  Potential supporters outside Nigeria?
  • What issues does it raise and what values does it use to raise concern?   Which of these claims seem true to you based on your other readings?  Which claims do you want to check out further?

Thirty-Nine Accusations (Enugu, 1968)

FROM: Kirki-Greene,vol. 2, 199-201

(22) Turning Minority Areas into Battlegrounds

The sweet love affair between the Northerners and the unfortunate Biafrans whom they have bamboosled into believing they are ‘minorities’ warms up when the unruly Hausa troops approach any Biafran ‘minority’ village and start mortaring and shelling. The indiscriminate shelling (as many as 500 in twelve hours!) finds targets among the women and children whom the emirs profess to love and to protect. Those who are not killed are slaughtered, and for the benefit of the press, a handful are carted back to Lagos and Kaduna, away from the ‘liberated’ areas to somewhere where their services can be more readily dictated.

(23) Flouting Geneva Convention

Ninety per cent of the Hausas, Tivs and Fulanis who make up the so-called Nigeria army have never been to school, can neither read nor write and are not interested in ‘Grammar’.

The Geneva Convention to them is nonsense. They have no regard for it except as a bother.

Consequently, all those fighting for Nigeria adopt the code of vandals in place of the international code ….

(24) Turning the Hands of the Clock Back

The feudalistic Emirs are assuming in their ignorance that no revolution has in fact taken place in Nigeria; that all that is required is a military conquest of Biafra, and the old dead Federation of Nigeria, complete with its corruption and political gymnastics, will again be resuscitated.

This single conviction is responsible for the arrogance, recrimination, and remorselessness of the Hausa-controlled Lagos Junta. It cannot see that the old Sardauna Nigeria is simply no more.

(25) Striving to Promote Backwardness

The Hausas and Fulanis believe that once Biafrans are exterminated, everybody will be equal. There will be no educated men, no progressive people with new ideas. Those so-called Nigerians who will be left can then settle down to an easy life of indolence in which population will be the basis of merit. Everything in the ‘national cake’ will then be shared out to those idiots from the most populous parts of that imagined country.

Also, the one element which inspires progress–namely challenge–will have been eliminated and with it the roots of democracy. In short, the fear of progress will have been removed for ever ….

(27) Re-Introducing Colonialism into Africa

The Hausas and Fulanis were the most reluctant to achieve self-government and let the British go. Even after Nigerian Independence, the bogey of ‘Northernisation’ still carved out a kingdom for British and other non-Nigerian nationals to make careers in Northern Nigeria in preference to Southern Nigerians equally qualified and less expensive to maintain.

Today, a Northerner has usurped power in the Central Government of Nigeria and is hastening to undo the Independence struggle which Biafrans successfully fought against British Colonialism.

To make sure of a greater success in plunging Nigeria into the dark ages, the Northern clique has re-admitted Britain in every field, has signed a military pact with Russia and has ensured the final and perpetual return to a pre-Independence colonial status.

The tragedy of it all is that African Nations watch it happening with absolute unconcern.

(28) Waging a Religious War

The killings of Biafran officers in the former Nigerian Army and civilians resident in Northern Nigeria, Lagos and Ibadan, were condoned by the Gowon Regime with the smug satisfaction that ‘Allah in his infinite mercy’ had made it possible for ‘another Northerner’ to be at the head of affairs in Nigeria.

This attitude was in keeping with the late Sardauna’s boast to continue Dan Fodio’s jihad till he dipped the Koran in the sea.

‘To make war on the heathen, if one has the power is a declared duty’, the Sardauna said in his autobiography.

In short, convert the heathen Biafrans to Islam, or exterminate them ….

What were the issues in Biafra/Nigeria from the perspectives of people outside the country? What did Biafra “mean” to these outsiders?  What did they understand about the actual events in the country?

In collaborative discussions compare the principles and stories told by all of the different documents you have looked at for Biafra.  What things can you say you feel certain did occur because everyone seems to agree in their statements?  What things are mentioned by only some or even one of the participants?  Are their any issues that seem left out? How do these findings match up statements about the causes of the secession movement?