The Republic of Biafra was a short-lived secessionist state in southeastern Nigeria. It existed from May 30, 1967 to January 15, 1970. The military's Chief of Staff formally announced capitulation on January 12. The country was named after the Bight of Biafra, the bay of the Atlantic to its south.
Biafra was recognized by a small number of countries during its existence: Gabon, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, and Zambia. Despite lack of official recognition, other nations provided assistance to Biafra. France, Rhodesia and South Africa provided covert military assistance. The aid of Portugal proved to be crucial to the republic's survival. Portugal's São Tomé and Príncipe became a centre of humanitarian relief efforts; Biafran currency was printed in Lisbon, which was also the location of Biafra's major overseas office. Israel also gave Biafra the arms that it captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, but that same conflict ruled out further assistance.
In January 1966, a coup in the Nigerian government was attempted, which was bloody and short-lived. Since mostly Igbo officers in the Nigerian army survived, it was assumed that they had initiated the coup, and in the months of May and September of 1966, Igbo migrants living in northern Nigeria were the targets of mass killings. Most of Nigeria's eight million Igbo people live in what was then the Eastern Region of Nigeria, which had as military governor the Igbo Lieutenant Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. He declared the region an independent state with a capital at Enugu, and his troops began seizing federal resources such as inbound postal vehicles.
Nigeria responded initially with an economic blockade and brought military force to bear starting on July 6, 1967. In the ensuing civil war, raids were made by Biafran troops west into Nigeria in July and August. Nigerian troops soon recovered, however, advancing into Biafra and forcing the repeated transfer of the Biafran capital from Enugu to Aba and then Umuahia by the end of the year, and to Owerri in 1969.
By 1970, Biafra had been ravaged by war and was in great need of food supplies. Amid economic and military collapse, Ojukwu fled the country and the rest of the republic's territory was re-incorporated into Nigeria. Around a million people are thought to have died in the conflict, mostly through starvation and illness.
Biafra's national anthem used the Finlandia tune by Jean Sibelius.
This conflict inspired musician/artist/activist Jello Biafra in his choice of name.
Nigeria later renamed the Bight of Biafra as the Bight of Bonny.
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