In 1967, the Igbo unilaterally declared their independence from Nigeria. Leading them quixotically was Col. Emeka Ojukwu, who recently died at the age of 78.
The Biafran struggle, for all its lofty goals, was a conflict which should have lasted only weeks, given the overwhelming superiority of the Nigerian federal army and the fact that international governments — seeing the rebellion as a first major challenge to post-colonial borders throughout Africa — weighed in heavily against the rebels. That it lasted for two and a half years was largely due to Ojukwu’s single-mindedness.
Before the Biafrans would capitulate, the Nigerian blockade of Biafra led to a famine and the conflict became imprinted on the international consciousness and conscience, thanks to a handful of British television reports and photographers. By October 1968 several thousand Biafrans, many of them children, were reported to be dying every day. (read more)
Yet, slowly reporters and photographers arrived, making Biafra the world’s first media famine. But the world could only sit and wait as more than one million people perished, mostly from starvation. With the pictures such as that of a hauntingly emaciated albino boy, Don McCullin introduced the world to the sight of children with stick-thin limbs and grotesquely distended stomachs, characteristic of protein deficiency — images which are to become all too tragically familiar in subsequent decades as famines happened in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Uganda, and the Sudan.