Forging a nation while losing a country : Igbo nationalism, ethnicity and propaganda in the Nigerian Civil War 1968-1970

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Doron, Roy Samuel

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This project looks at the ways the Biafran Government maintained their war machine in spite of the hopeless situation that emerged in the summer of 1968. Ojukwu’s government looked certain to topple at the beginning of the summer of 1968, yet Biafra held on and did not capitulate until nearly two years later, on 15 January 1970. The Ojukwu regime found itself in a serious predicament; how to maintain support for a war that was increasingly costly to the Igbo people, both in military terms and in the menacing face of the starvation of the civilian population. Further, the Biafran government had to not only mobilize a global public opinion campaign against the “genocidal” campaign waged against them, but also convince the world that the only option for Igbo survival was an independent Biafra. Thus it is not enough to look at the international aspects of the war, or to consider the war on a strictly domestic level. By looking at both the internal and external factors that shaped the Biafran propaganda machine and the Biafran war effort and how these efforts influenced international support and galvanized internal resolve to continue fighting, we can see how the Biafran war effort was able to last for twenty months after the fall of Port Harcourt. Recent scholarly and political work, uncovered documents, and the new plethora of memoirs on the Civil War provide us with a veritable treasure trove of data and analysis with which to study the issue of Igbo nationalism and a unique opportunity to create a new vision of secessionist conflict in Africa. This work will thus provide a step in moving away from the long accepted “Tribalism” paradigm that has so long pervaded not only the study of post-colonial Civil Wars in Africa, but more importantly, the discourse in looking at ethnicity, violence and national identity across the continent. Further, by analyzing the ways that the Biafran propaganda machine operated on a nationalist level, we can see the effects of Biafran secession on the broader Igbo national consciousness and the Igbo national movement, as well as on subsequent political movements in Nigeria.




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