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The International Politics of the Nigerian Civil War, 1967-1970

The International Politics of the Nigerian Civil War, 1967-1970

JOHN J. STREMLAU
Copyright Date: 1977
Pages: 448
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x129n
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  • Book Info
    The International Politics of the Nigerian Civil War, 1967-1970
    Book Description:

    Biafra's declaration of independence on May 30, 1967, precipitated a civil war with important implications for the territorial integrity of all newly independent African states. Allegations of genocide commanded the world's attention and brought forth unprecedented humanitarian intervention. This full account of the internationalization of that conflict draws on hitherto confidential records and more than two hundred interviews with foreign policymakers, including Yakubu Gowon and C. Odumegwu Ojukwu.

    Originally published in 1977.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7128-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. LIST OF MAPS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. CHRONOLOGY OF IMPORTANT EVENTS IN THE NIGERIAN CIVIL WAR
    (pp. xv-xx)
  6. Part I. An African Affair

    • 1 NIGERIA’S PREWAR FOREIGN POLICY
      (pp. 3-28)

      In June 1966, less than twelve months before Biafran secession, Nigeria’s head of state, Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi, summoned his ambassadors from their diplomatic posts in Africa for six days of consultations in Lagos. The meeting was to have been the start of a series of ambassadorial gatherings leading to a comprehensive review of foreign policy, the first since Nigeria achieved independence from Britain in 1960. The decision to begin with an assessment of the federal government’s interests in Africa was explained by General Ironsi:

      In the whole sphere of Nigeria’s external relations, the Government attaches the greatest importance to our...

    • 2 THE LOSS OF AUTHORITY AT HOME AND ABROAD
      (pp. 29-61)

      “Foreign policy is authoritative or it is nothing,” a scholar once observed.¹ The degree of international confidence that a sovereign elicits varies directly with the extent to which he is perceived to speak for his polity, and the success of his foreign policy varies directly with the degree of confidence elicited. If the polity is in such a degree of turmoil that its essential structures are no longer identifiable, the conduct of international relations will also break down. Foreign powers do not know to whom to listen, and the presumed sovereign cannot be certain of the allegiance of those he...

    • 3 THE WORLD DECLINES TO TAKE SIDES
      (pp. 62-81)

      Britain’s ambivalence toward the Gowon regime, which surfaced publicly over the issue of security guarantees for a meeting of the Supreme Military Council in May 1967, had been building for several months. When David Hunt arrived in Lagos during February as the new British high commissioner, he brought a message from the Queen that carefully hedged the possibility of future support from London. According to Hunt, the message “began by expressing our support for theconceptof Nigerian unity, assuring the Federal Government that Britain would do nothing to encourage secession. The rest of the message was taken up with...

    • 4 THE OAU BECOMES INVOLVED
      (pp. 82-106)

      As the violence in Nigeria increased, so did the level of diplomatic activity surrounding the conflict. Evidence of this appeared throughout Africa, where preparations were underway for the Fourth Annual Summit of the Organization of African Unity, scheduled to convene in Kinshasa on September 10, 1967. Behind the various approaches was a widely shared concern that secession in Nigeria threatened the stability of the region. With the introduction of Soviet aircraft, many governments feared the return of cold war rivalries to Africa.

      The first public moves on behalf of a peaceful settlement appeared in East Africa soon after secession was...

  7. Part II. The Issues Transcend Secession

    • 5 BIAFRA PENETRATES THE INTERNATIONAL SYSTEM
      (pp. 109-141)

      Withdrawal from the Midwest and the loss of the capital at Enugu forced the Biafran government to undertake a major reassessment and reorganization of the war effort. The confident self-image of Biafra as a military power invulnerable to federal attack had to be abandoned, along with the notion that the war would be a brief affair. Instead, the realization that the Ibos were a people under siege began to take hold.

      The new emphasis would be on Biafra’s determination to fight on, regardless of the cost. To enhance the credibility of the threat to wage an indefinite “people’s war” against...

    • 6 PEACE CONFERENCE DIPLOMACY, PHASE I
      (pp. 142-180)

      To understand the course of negotiations during the Nigerian civil war, one must bear in mind that during the final two years of the conflict secession was not the real issue dividing the two sides. Following the collapse of Biafra’s August 1967 invasion of the Midwest and the subsequent tightening of the federal blockade, Biafra’s chances of achieving complete and lasting sovereignty were negligible. Unless the rebel army miraculously received enough heavy equipment to mount a major counteroffensive or the Gowon regime in Lagos suddenly dissolved as a result of internal political discord, some form of Biafran surrender was inevitable....

    • 7 PEACE CONFERENCE DIPLOMACY, PHASE II
      (pp. 181-214)

      African interest in promoting Nigeria/Biafra peace talks peaked sharply during the spring of 1968. The intrusion of the Commonwealth Secretariat into what had been widely acknowledged as an African matter was quietly resented. Although the Commonwealth of Nations and the Organization of African Unity have a partially overlapping membership, they are grounded in opposing political traditions. The OAU seeks to forge international linkages where none previously existed in order to create a new, self-determined, and eventually self-reliant, regional political order. The Commonwealth, by comparison, stands as the remnant of a former imperial system. By successfully bringing the two sides together...

    • 8 A WAR OF ATTRITION
      (pp. 215-252)

      September 1968 passed without peace and national reconciliation, as General Gowon’s latest “final offensive” again proved inconclusive. Elements of Colonel Adekunle’s 35,000-man Third Marine Division succeeded in pushing north from Port Harcourt, and captured two of Biafra’s three remaining towns, Aba and Owerri, but the victories produced few strategic advantages. More importantly, a third prong in Adekunle’s northward push came within seven miles of capturing Uli airstrip before being stopped by a Biafran counterattack. Had the airstrip fallen, Biafra might have surrendered. Instead, the war dragged on for another fifteen months. Before returning to a discussion of foreign involvement one...

  8. Part III. Isolating the Conflict

    • 9 MAINTAINING INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL SUPPORT FOR NIGERIA
      (pp. 255-279)

      Nigerian foreign policy adapted to the growing international public concern over conditions in the Ibo enclave by seeking to maintain good relations with those governments facing the strongest pro-Biafran lobbies. At the same time, Lagos pressed the members of the Organization of African Unity for a maximum show of diplomatic support, so as to discourage European and American political interference in what the federal government hoped the major powers would continue to regard as primarily an “African affair.” The inherent difficulty in pursuing these two objectives simultaneously was that it necessitated the granting of diplomatic assurances that were sometimes contradictory....

    • 10 INTERNATIONAL REFLECTIONS OF A MILITARY STALEMATE
      (pp. 280-319)

      Biafra’s chances for wider diplomatic recognition were discounted by Nigerian diplomats following the September 1968 military advances by the federal army and the strong vote of confidence from the OAU summit in Algiers. In strictly political terms, Ojukwu’s attempt to penetrate the international system had been contained. But on another level, mobilizing foreign humanitarian support, the Biafrans were receiving adequate assistance to withstand the hardships created by the federal blockade, and their capacity to sustain a war of attrition continued to improve during the closing months of 1968.

      With the Nigerian army bogged down in what European commentators derisively referred...

    • 11 THE FUTILITY OF SECESSION
      (pp. 320-356)

      Biafra’s strategy for internationalizing the civil war underwent a major shift during the second quarter of 1969. For nearly a year, secessionist forces had sought, in Ojukwu’s words, “to delay the enemy until the world conscience can effectively be aroused against genocide.”¹ By “effectively,” Ojukwu meant governmental intervention to bring about a cease-fire and a political settlement that would guarantee the integrity and self-determination of his regime. Following the collapse of the September 1968 federal offensive, Biafran troops steadfastly defended their positions, while the world’s conscience produced an outpouring of material assistance. This, however, was not enough. International political support,...

    • 12 A NIGERIAN AFFAIR
      (pp. 357-388)

      When the Biafran rebellion collapsed in January 1970, the terms of surrender and the subsequent program of reconstruction were managed exclusively by the federal military government. Despite the high degree of international interest and involvement during the conflict, Nigerian reunification was finally achieved without external assistance, foreign mediation, international peace-keeping or security guarantees, and with little regard for the “friendly advice” from those powers that had supported the federal government. The absence of guerrilla resistance and the readiness of the Ibo elite to cooperate in reestablishing federal authority in the secessionist territory reinforced the belief in Lagos that many prominent...

  9. APPENDIX I Schedule of Nigerian Interests in Other Countries
    (pp. 391-398)
  10. APPENDIX II Aid to African Countries 1960-1965
    (pp. 399-402)
  11. NOTE ON SOURCES
    (pp. 405-408)
  12. INTERVIEWS
    (pp. 409-412)
  13. LIST OF WORKS CITED
    (pp. 413-418)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 419-425)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 426-426)