Biafra (was Re: Unita)

David Altman altman_d at
Wed Dec 29 06:33:08 MST 1999

>I was too young to remember much about that war, safe for the humanitarian
>commotion it caused back them. Portuguese involvement was, of course, top
>secret. Only recently it is surfacing.
>João Paulo Monteiro

Excuse me, but Portuguese involvement in the Biafran war was never a
"secret."  It was well known at the time, and is discussed in detail in the
book, "The Nigerian Civil War" by John de St. Jorre, published in 1972,
among other sources.  The French imperialists were also giving (back-handed)
support to the Biafran cause, as were the Chinese.  The British & American
imperialists supported the Nigerian Federal government side in the war, as
did the Soviet Union. Both sides utilized mercenaries of very dubious

Please tell me, do you think that "democratic" imperialist governments
getting involved in African civil wars is somehow more "progressive" than
the involvement of "fascist" imperialist governments?

About a year ago, I wrote a piece for APST entitled "Ken Saro-Wiwa, Biafra
and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination" which I would be happy to
e-mail to anyone who is interested (if Louis thinks it useful, I can re-post
it to this list).  In brief, here is my position:  The Biafran War was
provoked when one ethnic group (the Igbo) were the victim of vicious pogroms
which left over 30,000 people dead.  Feeling they had no future in Nigeria,
which was an unstable amalgamation set up for the benefit of imerialism and
not the peoples within it, they sought to separate.  They were totally
justified in doing so!  This was the position, I might add, of Julius
Nyererre, one of the most repected African leaders and whose "frontline"
credentials were impeccable, whose Tanzania was one of the few African
countries to recongnize Biafra.

Of course, it's not surprising that various imperialist powers might want to
take sides in such a conflict for their own ends.  This is always the case,
and has nothing to do with the legitimacy of a particular side. I might add
that the "legitimacy" of the Biafran side was proven in battle; although the
war was basically settled within six months, the Biafrans held on for two
more years, landlocked and against overwhelming odds, suffering starvation
and vicious aerial bombardment.  Biafra was a true "People's War," and never
some sort of "puppet" liberation movement such as we see in many parts of

The Nigerian regime, by contrast, is not now and was not then a
"revolutionary" or "progressive" regime which might be supported in such a
conflict.  Various Nigerian governments (except possibly the short-lived
regime of Murtala Muhammad, who was assasinated) have always been notable
for their subservience to imperialist interests.

Please read more about the Biafran conflict before making such ill-informed

David Altman

Get Your Private, Free Email at

More information about the Marxism mailing list