Charles DeGaulle Supports Biafra

[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 Since this is what one ends up with once the colonizer has withdrawn his authority.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.