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The Sixties
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Relations Between Africans, African Americans and Afro-Caribbeans
The Sixties
Living in America: An Introduction for Foreigners
Africa and America in The Sixties: A Decade That Changed The Nation and The Destiny of A Continent
Africa and America in The Sixties....(2)
Africa and America in The Sixties...(3)
Tanzania: The Land and Its People
Africa is in A Mess: What Went Wrong and What Should Be Done
Tanzania under Mwalimu Nyerere: Reflections on an African Statesman
Africa After Independence: Realities of Nationhood
Black Conservatives in The United States
African Countries: An Introduction
Relations Between Africans and African Americans: Misconceptions, Myths and Realities
Kenya: Identity of A Nation
Investment Opportunities and Private Sector Growth in Africa
South Africa in Contemporary Times
My Life as an African: Autobiographical Writings (1)
My Life as an African.... (2)
My Life as an African....(3)
Author Profiles
Ethnicity and National Identity in Uganda: The Land and Its People
Tanzania and Its People
An Introduction to South Africa
Kenya and Its People
South Africa: The Land, Its People and History
An Introduction to Tanzania
The Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar: Product of The Cold War?
South Africa and Its People
African Immigrants in South Africa
British Cities
Great Britain: A General Introduction
The United States and Its People
Great Britain: The Land, The People and The Culture
Botswana and Its People
 

1968


PROBABLY more than in any other period during the Nigerian civil war, the year 1968 witnessed the fiercest and deadliest military engagements between the Federal Army and the secessionist forces. It was also a year of intense diplomatic efforts to end the conflict.

And probably no single group caused so much devastation as did the Egyptian pilots in their indiscriminate bombings of civilian centres in Biafra when they went on bombing missions on behalf of the federal forces. As William Norris, a British journalist who covered the war, reported in his eyewitness account in the Sunday Times of London, 28 April 1968:


“I have seen things in Biafra this week which no man should have to see. Sights to scorch the mind 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.”


All the main towns in the secessionist region were bombed by Egyptian pilots flying Nigerian war planes. They included Aba, Abakaliki, Afikpo, Arochuku, Awgu, Bonny, Brass, Degema, Ikot Ekpene, Itu, Okigwi, Onitsha, Opobo, Oron, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Umuahia, and Uyo. Schools and hospitals and other places where civilians sought refuge were also bombed. So were numerous villages across Biafra.

President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania was said to have asked President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt to withdraw his pilots in order to stop the bombing of Biafra:


“The Biafrans hoped that President Nyerere's close friendship with President Nasser - whom he had visited in March (1968) - would influence him to withdraw Egyptian pilots flying MIGS. According to a Biafran radio anouncement, such a request was in fact made by the Tanzanian Government.” - (Africa Contemporary Record, p. 220. See also the Biafran paper, The Mirror, April-May 1968).

A few months earlier when federal troops took back Benin from the Biafrains, the secessionist forces did not entirely lose out. It is true that with the loss of Benin, Ojukwu failed in a major strategic gamble to outmanoeuvre the federal army. But he was able to seize and carry away a substantial amount of money from the Mid-West when Biafran troops accupied the region from September to October 1967. The Biafrans took at least 2 million (2 million pounds) from the Benin branch of the Federal Central Bank.

The money, together with an even bigger amount of 37 million which had been seized from branches of the same bank at Enugu and Port Harcourt, gave the Biafran government substantial foreign exchange resources which they used to help finance their war effort and put up stiff resistance against the federal forces although the Biafran troops were confined to a very small area with millions of people. And Ojukwu himself kept the spirits high among his besieged brethren:


“With the crucial assistance of a mobile transmitting station still using the signal of Radio Enugu, Biafra's charismatic leader welded the 8 million Ibos into a defiant and unyielding people of immense fortitude, sagacity nd resourcefulness.” - (Africa Contemporary Record, p. 553).