It is hard and perhaps impossible to convey to people in this country the extent of the disasters which have happened, are happening, and are impending in Nigeria. The indifference to the tragedy is in part a racial one. The magazine, Jet, last July headlined a story about the Nigeria-Biafra war with the words: “The War Between Blacks Nobody Cares About.” A struggle between black and white stirs emotions and humanitarian rhetoric and even action—as in the case of the famous Mercy Mission to Stanleyville in 1964. When white people hear of blacks killing blacks, however, there descends a curtain not so much of apathy as of coziness on the conscience: “You can’t blame us this time….”
Last year in northern Nigeria, in the Moslem towns of Kano and Kaduna and elsewhere, about 30,000 strangers—that is to say, persons originating from another region of Nigeria, the East, mainly belonging to the Ibo people—were massacred in a series of pogroms. As a result the surviving Easterners abandoned their jobs and their goods and fled back to their own region. In the chaotic conditions in which this movement of population took place no one knows exactly how many people fled. Eastern estimates put the figure at about two million. There can be no doubt that it was an exodus on a great scale and that had this movement occurred across an international frontier, it would already be classified among the great refugee problems of the twentieth century. It did not take place across an international frontier however, but from one region to another in what was still nominally one country. It was therefore “a domestic problem,” and despite its enormity it aroused far less interest and attention in this country than the fate of a few hundred people, in another African country, had done two years earlier. Those people became the object of intense international concern culminating in the Mercy Mission to Stanleyville in 1964. They were white.
In Nigeria the killing still continues. After the Northern massacres, the Ibos, a people of about eight million who form the majority of the population of the Eastern region, felt that they no longer had a place in Nigeria outside their region. This had been made grimly clear as far as the North was concerned, but even as regards the rest of the country, Ibos felt that there was no security for them in any place where there are Northern officers and Northern troops, as there are throughout the Western region and in the federal capital of Lagos. It was in these conditions that the Eastern region—perhaps unwisely but very understandably—attempted to break away from a Nigeria that most of its people could no longer regard as their country. The Military Governor of the Eastern region, Lt.-Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu, an Ibo, failed in his efforts to persuade the officers from other regions who controlled the rest of the country to agree to a looser form of association between the regions. Last May he declared the independence of the Eastern Region under the name of the Republic of Biafra.
There is no doubt that this step had the enthusiastic support of almost all the Ibos. What degree of support it may have had from the minority peoples of the Eastern Region, who are subdivided into many groups, is in doubt. Both the Biafran claims that these peoples are wholeheartedly in support of Biafra and the claims made from Lagos that the minorities are longing to be liberated by Federal forces should be treated with reserve. It is relevant however that not only Ibos but all Easterners—including the minority peoples, Ibbio, Efek, Ejaw, etc.—were victims of the Northern massacres and expulsions. According to refugees, the only non-Northerners generally spared in those events were those who wore the dress and bore the distinctive face markings of the Yoruba tribe of the West.
Easterners had supplied a number of officers to the old Federal army but very few enlisted men. The bulk of the old Nigerian army, minus the Ibo officers, was therefore at the disposition of the military government in Lagos for the purpose of crushing the attempted secession of Biafra. The military government in Lagos also enjoyed universal international recognition and therefore easy access to additional armaments, which were forthcoming both from Britain and from the Soviet Union. Against this Biafra had to raise a hastily and miscellaneously armed militia, equipped with such weapons as could be obtained, with the aid of such dubious friends as the Portuguese, on the international black market in arms.
In these conditions the head of the military government in Lagos, Maj.-Gen. Yakubu Gowon, promised at the beginning of July to end the secession by “a quick surgical operation”; Western military attachés in Lagos predicted that the war would be over in a week. The war, begun in July, still continues: From a military point of view, it is a desultory, untidy, inefficient war; from a human point of view, it is a war of exceptional atrocity. The Ibos regard it as a war of extermination directed against themselves. The Lagos government officially and emphatically denies this. It points to the code of conduct issued to the armed forces at the beginning of the struggle, stressing that the operation against the East was not a religious war, or Jehad, and that its object was not “to crush the Ibos but to subdue the rebellion of Lt.-Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu and his clique.” Unfortunately this enlightenment at the top level does not penetrate very deep; a Lagos police officer was quoted last month as saying that the Ibos “must be reduced considerably in number.” In some areas outside the East which were temporarily held by Biafran forces, as at Benin and the Mid-Western region, Ibos were killed by local people with at least the acquiescence of the Federal forces: about 1,000 Ibo civilians perished at Benin in this way. In the areas of Biafra itself which have been occupied, Federal troops have been hunting and killing Ibo men—all Ibo males above the age of five according to the Ibos themselves—to the cry of “Ojukwu! Ojukwu!” No one knows how many have died, but the press reports—some of which are quoted below—leave no doubt that the war is being waged in a genocidal spirit.
Even those Americans who have shown concern about the human implications of this tragedy have difficulty in comprehending the political and social background. The Federation of Nigeria was for long presented to the American public as the most hopeful and even “stable” country in Africa; it was democratic and good and frequently contrasted with Ghana, which was authoritarian and bad. In fact the old Federation was only nominally democratic and it carried within it from the beginning more explosive possibilities than any other African state. All African states are socially and politically fragile in that their frontiers, the arbitrary products of the colonial scramble for Africa, enclose various peoples—usually called tribes—the bonds between which are quite tenuous. The most significant of these bonds, as far as the preservation of the State is concerned, is the fact of having undergone the same colonial experience. The distinctive feature of Nigeria was that the peoples of this vast and populous territory did not undergo the same colonial experience. Historically the colonial power, Great Britain, pursued two radically different policies in different parts of Nigeria: the nature of the colonial experience in Nigeria was therefore such that, far from narrowing the differences between the peoples who underwent it, it actually widened and deepened these. The South, comprising the Yoruba of the West, the Ibo of the East, and other smaller peoples, was an area in which colonial rule involved a fairly strong Westernizing influence, Christian missionary effort, and education of an English type (to which Ibos in particular took with an enthusiasm and élan which aroused resentment). In the North, on the other hand, under the formula of “indirect rule,” Britain deliberately preserved the Moslem Middle Ages, deliberately impeding Christian missionary influence and modern education.
THE MOVEMENT for Nigerian independence began in the Fifties among the Southern peoples and principally among the Ibos. The rulers of the North originally disdained and resisted this movement but later, with British advice, agreed to play their part in an independent Nigeria. The part allotted to them was the big part. On the basis of census returns, which were disputed in the South, the North had a majority in the Federal Parliament over East and West combined. But power in the North remained in the hands of feudal rulers, who were not themselves accessible to democratic control but who on the contrary controlled the electoral process. Thus the Northern representation, which dominated the Federal Parliament, consisted of the servants of the Northern feudal potentates. Nigerian democracy was therefore a sham (as was its contemporary, Ghanaian “socialism”). It was however a convenient sham from a Western point of view, since the feudal potentates who controlled the system were and had long been amenable to British guidance and were considered likely to be more amenable than the leaders of the more advanced Western and Eastern regions, left to themselves, would prove to be. So it was no accident that the Nigerian pseudo-democracy was pro-Western in orientation. The value placed in the West on this attitude was reflected in an officially encouraged tendency to take “Nigerian democracy” at its face value and to treat such of its defects as had to be acknowledged as “growing pains” in a supposed progress toward fuller democracy (as in Vietnam).
January 1966 brought the collapse of this particular illusion. In that month a group of young army officers—most, though not all, of whom were Ibos—assassinated most, though not all, of the pivotal figures of the sham democracy. These included the most eminent of the feudal potentates, the Sardauna of Sokoto and his trusted henchman, the Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. From the nature of the old system—hinging as it did on the power of non-elected potentates—radical change could not have occurred without violence (as was also the case in Ghana), and all reports agree that initially the January coup was widely welcomed throughout the country. There were few, if any, to mourn what seems to have been almost universally regarded as a thoroughly corrupt and discredited regime.
Soon however it came to be recognized that the coup had operated selectively. The leading Ibo politicians who had cooperated with the Northern rulers—and had for example helped to fasten on the Western region a government not desired by most of the people of that region—had been spared. The officer who emerged from the complicated process of that coup as supreme commander and ruler of Nigeria, Major-General Ironsi, was himself an Ibo. Not surprisingly therefore the January coup soon came to be regarded as an Ibo coup and—in the North—as an Ibo coup against the North. Resentment at this was certainly among the factors that fanned the always latent anti-Ibo feeling in the North to the point where the mass massacres became possible.
IN JULY 1966 occurred the second coup: an anti-Ibo one this time. Northern men assassinated Major-General Ironsi and several other Ibo officers. Northerners, along with some other non-Ibos, mostly from the middle belt, then gained control of the Nigerian army, except for the small forces under Ibo control in the Eastern region itself. Lt.-Col. Ojukwu, the Military Governor of the East, declined to recognize the political legitimacy of the officer whom the non-Ibo officers in Lagos recognized as supreme commander and thus ruler of Nigeria. Lt.-Col. Ojukwu urged a command rotating among the regions, but this was refused. The case for much greater regional autonomy was also refused, and the allocation of the revenue from Nigeria’s very rich oil resources, located in the Eastern Region, became the object of unresolved controversy. The supreme commander—unrecognized in the Eastern Region—published a decree which purported to divide that region into three new states, thereby precipitating the act of secession which had long been contemplated and planned for.
Thus began a war which supporters of the Lagos government saw as a war for the defense of the integrity of Nigerian territory and central control over Nigerian resources; and which the majority of the population of the Eastern Region saw as a war of self-defense waged against a group of people which had no use for them as citizens of Nigeria, but who coveted the mineral resources of their Region.
It was not to be expected that an American public, troubled by many concerns much nearer home and by the war in Vietnam, should grasp the complex evolution of the Nigerian conflict, and it was natural that this public, with the favorable predispositions which it had been encouraged to have about Nigeria, should react on the whole with a vague hope that Nigeria would “hold together.” It might, however, have been expected that the actual coverage of the war might have brought home to this public the huge human price which probably will have to be paid to hold together physically a territory which spiritually and psychologically was never one, and which is now rent by bitter hatreds. No such realization has in fact come about. This is not because individual reporters have failed in their task—there have been many individual reports which did not minimize the horrors of the war, as we shall see—but because there has been no systematic and sustained effort to cover the progress and effects of the war from both the Nigerian and Biafran sides.
Having seen an earlier African “secession” struggle—that of Katanga—at close quarters and having also visited Biafra shortly before the fall of Enugu, I was greatly struck by the contrast in the handling by the world press of the two situations.
In Elisabethville, Katanga, during the early period of the so-called secession there, there were seldom fewer than a dozen foreign correspondents available for a press conference at any time. When I visited Enugu, in Biafra, during the third week in September, there was not a press correspondent in sight. This contrast had nothing to do with the intrinsic importance of the events in question—the population of the Eastern Region alone (including the refugees) is probably now slightly larger than the entire population of the Congo, including Katanga. The difference was that the secession of Katanga, unlike that of Biafra, had been carried out at the instigation of Western interests and initially under the protection of an invading force of the former colonial power. Some of the press men concerned liked to stress in their reports what their employers chose to regard as the indigenous character of Katanga’s secession; nonetheless the reason why they were actually there was that the secession was not an indigenous but an international phenomenon. The Biafran secession, having real indigenous roots, arouses no such interest. Similarly, the atrocities committed by Lumumba’s troops as they moved through Kasai in August 1960 in an attempt to reach Katanga received tremendous coverage, not because they were horrible—though they were that—but because Western interests had decided that Lumumba must go. Much more widespread atrocities committed in Nigeria have aroused no comparable interest.
THE FIGHTING in Nigeria began early in July. During the month of July The New York Times attempted to cover both sides of the war. Alfred Friendly reported it from Lagos—as he still does at the time of this writing—and Lloyd Garrison, a newspaperman with unusually wide and long African experience, covered events in the Eastern Region (Biafra). Naturally, both sets of dispatches were affected by prevailing feelings among the peoples in whose areas the correspondents were writing. From the two taken together, the reader could get a reasonably good idea of what was going on. This attempt by The New York Times to cover both sides of the war lasted rather less than a month. On July 21 The New York Times carried its last dispatch from Garrison, datelined Enugu, July 20. This dispatch began with the words, “The slaying of civilians appears to be mounting in areas over-run by Federal Nigerian troops….”
In another dispatch from Enugu circulated by The New York Times News Service but not apparently used by The New York Times itself, Garrison stated that “Africa’s newest venture in nation-building appears to have withstood the first tests of infancy” and that “[Biafra’s] spirit of unity and self-sacrifice cannot be matched in any other already established country in Africa, where in many cases the majority of citizens cannot recall the date of their independence.” He added that “to crush the secession will require the killing not only of Ojukwu but also of thousands, perhaps millions, of Ibos…to the Ibos the war offers only two choices: survival or extermination” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 29, 1967).
At this point Garrison withdrew, or was withdrawn from the Eastern Region (Biafra) and was not replaced there. During the three months that the war has continued since that time, this great newspaper has covered the war from one side only: from Lagos.
It seems, however, that the paper no longer needed a correspondent in the East as it had already made up its mind that Lagos was to win. On August 6, in its first clearly anti-Biafran comment, it declared that “Time seems to be running out for the secessionist regime” and spoke of “last-ditch rebel actions.” The principal “last-ditch action” which it had in mind was the seizure by the Biafran Government of the Shell B.P. oil installations, an event which took place at the end of the month when the Times was still making its effort to cover both sides of the war. Two months later, on October 9, the Times was still saying “The war is sputtering out.”1 During all this period—as was natural from its being represented on only one side of the war—the Times continued to present Lagos’s claims as if they were facts. Thus, on October 13, it headlined the news of the fall of Onitsha on its front page (“Nigerians Occupy Eastern Center”) and included this item in its news index.
Onitsha had not however fallen, and at the time of writing still has not fallen. A very attentive reader, with a special interest in the Nigerian question, could have discovered this from The New York Times itself, which, five days later, on October 18 carried on an inner page a wire-service report (under the heading “Nigeria Rebels Repel an Invasion of Anitsha” [sic]) that the Federal Army now admitted having been repelled from Onitsha with heavy losses. This repulse, which was contrary to editorial policy, did not rate a mention in the news index. Many readers of the Times who believed they had learned that Onitsha had fallen must have failed to learn of the fact that it had not fallen. In view of the strategic importance of this Niger bridgehead city, those readers who were left with this mistaken impression must have found the “sputtering out” editorials more convincing than did those who followed the news more attentively. (On October 20, however, the Times carried a report by Mr. Friendly announcing the invasion of Calabar and also referring to the “major reverse” suffered by the Federal troops at Onitsha. The headline was “Nigerian Troops Invade Key Port.”)
This one-sided approach to the war favored a tendency to think about such a war in abstract terms, colored by past conditioning (though this tendency has latterly been partly offset by dispatches by Mr. Friendly from areas occupied by Federal troops in the East). The aura of democracy and virtue still clings to the word “federation” and the military rulers who are working in its name have a corresponding advantage. Those who are rejecting what is presented as federation are, on the other hand, seen as engaged in an evil and regressive activity: “Balkanization.” They are also guilty of “tribalism,” something reactionary and vaguely indecent. The tendency to think in these abstract terms could have been, but was not, compensated by actual reporting of the war, not only from Lagos, but also from the midst of a people who, as Garrison reported and as I saw for myself, saw a more concrete choice before them: survival or extermination. To talk to people whose families suffered in the Northern pogroms about the advantages of Federation is essentially equivalent to addressing Armenians of an earlier period about the advantages of that great supranational entity, the Ottoman Empire. In both cases, there is a gulf of experience between the man who advocates the abstraction and the man who has experienced the reality.
Thus the “broad terms for a settlement” which The New York Times says “have always been clear,” and which will sound reasonable to most New Yorkers, will strike a chill into almost every Ibo. These are as follows:
Biafra must give up the secession and the Ibos must agree to help rebuild Nigerian unity. The Federal Government must demonstrate its determination to provide genuine security for the Ibos, who have suffered far more than any other group in the civil strife of the last two years. Lagos must also make good its promise to negotiate in good faith with leaders selected by the Ibos themselves and show flexibility about the size of the individual states and the powers to be allocated to them under a renewed Federal system.
(New York Times, September 28, 1967)
The word-order suggests that the abandonment of the secession must precede the demonstration of the determination of the Federal Government to provide genuine security for the Ibos. Ibos, whose security is at stake, will ask what happens if the secession is abandoned and if the Federal Government then fails to demonstrate the determination in question. The Federal Government has in the past repeatedly affirmed such a determination—there-by edifying its foreign supporters—and has also repeatedly failed in practice “to provide genuine security for the Ibos.” The Federal answer to this objection is that Ibos must simply forget about the forms of “security” which were in fact provided for them in the past at Kano and Kaduna and later at Benin and Nsukka and in Enugu itself, now a deserted city with shops and houses wrecked by Federal troops looking for Ibos. A Nigerian pro-Federal writer in California, irritated by being reminded of such events, admirably summed up the Federalist position in the following words: “We have just to close our eyes to such things and to everything else and put unity first and reconciliation later” (Los Angeles Times, September 16, 1967).
Again what can be meant in practice by the Time’s doctrine that Lagos must negotiate with “leaders selected by the Ibos themselves”? Lt.-Col. Ojukwu and his friends have certainly at least as good a claim to speak for the Ibos as Maj.-Gen. Gowon and his friends have to speak for the rest of the Federation. The last reporter whom the Times actually had in Eastern Nigeria (Biafra) completely rejected the theory that Ojukwu was pursuing a personal policy, distinct from the aspirations of Ibos generally. Yet the Federal Government has made it plain that it will not negotiate with the actual leaders of the Ibos, but will negotiate with other Ibos approved by it. It is not surprising that Biafrans should regard the idea of “negotiations,” in which the representation of one side is to be determined by the other, as simply a formula for the imposition of a dictated solution. Nor is it surprising that they continue to resist such a solution and to seek to “provide genuine security” for themselves as best they can.
THE POLICY of support for the Federal Government, even by those who know towards what human catastrophes the actions of that government are moving, is justified by the argument that the break-up of Nigeria would spell the break-up of every other African State. Since the boundaries of these States are all artificial—as they are—and since they contain—as they do—different tribal groups which have often been in conflict in the past, it is argued that the success of one tribal group in Nigeria in breaking away would encourage the Somalis in Ethiopia and Kenya, the Ashanti in Ghana, the Baluba in the Congo, and so on, toward making similar attempts. This theory of disintegrating dominoes has clearly some weight with the African governments which make up the Organization for African Unity and with other governments as well. The OAU has called for the preservation of the territorial unity and integrity of Nigeria. Yet there are signs—visible for example in the Ghanaian press coverage of the Nigerian crisis—that other Africans are far from happy about the way in which the Federal Government has sought and is seeking unity and integrity, and about the delays which the Federal Government placed in the way of the coming of an OAU peace mission to Nigeria. The wisest African leaders know that if their own countries are to survive and prosper, it must be through a process of inter-tribal accommodation such as has prevailed in Ghana, for example, among Ashanti, Fanti, Ga, and Ewe.
From this point of view, the primary disaster in Nigeria was not the formal secession of a region but the breakdown of inter-tribal tolerances, culminating in the Northern massacres. African leaders who know Nigeria know also that the analogy between its integrity and that of other African countries is less than perfect. They know that the enormous divergences between the peoples of Nigeria were actually widened by colonial policy and by what many of these leaders regard as neocolonial policies—operating through the Northern rulers—since independence. Other Africans were never so impressed by the “great Nigerian experiment” as Western opinion was encouraged to be and it is not probable that the breakdown of that experiment suggests to them quite such a pressing danger of their own disintegration as some of the “domino” commentary would imply.
They do, however, dislike the war and what it means, and they have made it clear that they would like to have a chance to try their hands at peacemaking. The United States, which has varying degrees of influence with the countries concerned, could undoubtedly exert a significant though marginal influence on the development of events. Merely to mention this in Washington these days is to provoke a reflex in the form of a shudder about “Vietnam in the Congo.” Yet it is not a question of asking the United States to intervene. It is a question of how the diplomatic influence which it actually has is being used and will be used. If, for example, United States representatives, in their conversations with the Nigerian Government, with the British Government, and with OAU Governments, accept the main principles of the present Federal position—no talks before the end of Biafran secession, no talks with Ojukwu, acceptance of the carving up of the Eastern Region into new States—then this will encourage the steamrolling of the Ibos and will also help to set a precedent for further “solutions” of inter-tribal differences by the application of fire-power. If, on the other hand, through the same channels, the United States were to use its influence in favor of a cease-fire first and then negotiations aimed at a lasting settlement, it would be doing what it could legitimately do to head off disaster.
The proposal for a cease-fire without political precondition, leaving the political problems to be discussed in negotiations under cover of the cease-fire, is not a “pro-Ibo” position: it does not claim that the Ibos have throughout been in the right in the Nigerian political process. On the contrary, it reflects a recognition of the intensity of the hatred which past events—including the actions of some Ibo leaders—have engendered and of what conquest by troops animated by such sentiments would mean, not only to Ibos but to all other inhabitants of the Eastern Region who are not willing to demonstrate anti-Ibo feeling to a degree and in a manner satisfactory to the invading soldiery. Such a conquest, and the guerrilla resistance and reprisals which would follow it, would be likely to bring death to hundreds of thousands of civilians, and a life of misery to millions of others. The very existence of this menace implies that, while the fighting continues, any Ibos who might try to bring about negotiations based on abjuring the secession would be likely to be regarded as traitors and be killed. Probably the only Ibo leader who has the authority to reach an agreement with Lagos and make that agreement acceptable to his own people is Lt.-Col. Ojukwu, and even he may not be able to do this while hostilities are actually proceeding. Those who say that Biafra must abandon the secession, and Ojukwu, before a cease-fire can take place are saying in practice that the military subjugation of the East, with all its dreadful consequences, must go on. It may be that no one can now avert this. The OAU leaders however have it in their power at least to try to avert it—by urging a cease-fire without precondition—and this country has it in its power to favor such a development through its influence with OAU countries, with Britain (which still has fairly close ties with Lagos), and directly with Maj.-Gen. Gowon.
IN WASHINGTON, reception for such ideas is cool, courteous, and detached. The tragedy of the Ibos is not denied; the scale of the disaster that seems to be impending is not minimized. Yet the phraseology used, necessarily imprecise and impeccable, leaves the impression that the option decided is essentially that reflected in The New York Times: of combining cautious and even queasy support for the Federal Government with seeking to insure that, whatever the policies of the Federal Government may be in practice, they should be expressed in restrained and even benevolent language. This accords also with British policy.
In Washington, one official, perhaps less cynical than others, used more cynical language: “Do you really think,” he said to me, “that we are in a position at present to preach compromise to other people?” Vietnam was in every mind, and an African conflict, waged between Africans for indigenous reasons, seemed a distant, buzzing irrelevance. Only once, for a moment, did his attention seem to be caught, when it was mentioned that Nigeria’s war against the Ibo people could itself bog down into a miniature inter-African Vietnam. It seems as if we can grasp the fate of other human beings only through analogies which connect with our present preoccupations. It may be the simple analogy of physical similarity: the racial touchstone. It may be an ideological one: the supposed identity of aims of all persons calling themselves Communists; or it may be transposed-historical: making Biafra “the South” in the American Civil War. It may be purely mechanical and superficial, like the “Katanga equals Biafra” analogy which seems to have impressed the Soviet Government and others, or like the predilection of some Negro activists in the US for the Federal Government, on the grounds that the Federals are black Muslims. Or it may be on a rather deeper level, as it seems to me is true of that comparison which Ibos themselves most often make between themselves and the Jews.
Whatever corresponds neither to our immediate interests nor to the grid of some system of analogies becomes invisible; and it is the fate of the Ibos that they do not fit properly into anyone’s grid of analogies, while the Federal Government moves in a cloud of favorable abstractions which evoke at least the acquiescence of the Western powers, the Soviet Union, and most of the African governments. Knowing the realities that these abstractions cover, the Ibos are taking their survival into their own hands. The irony is that the mystique of “Nigeria,” under which they are now being crushed, was in large part of their own creation. The Ibos were once proud to call themselves Nigerian nationalists, although there was no Nigerian nation and although at that time—some years before independence—no one else thought in such terms. Now that they have in very truth formed a nation on their own soil under the pressures of history they are in the gravest danger of being put to death in the name of the nation which they once invented.
The Nigerian land has already undergone enormous and unforeseen changes, and even the military defeat of Biafra, round which the noose now seems to be tightening, will not be the end of the story. It may be doubted whether the Federalist coalition, which probably has the military means to occupy the main centers of the East, has sufficient political cohesion to maintain its domination of that region or even its own integrity. The principle of enforcing conformity through military force is not one that can be applied indefinitely in so large, populous, and varied a territory. African and other opinion may yet come to regard the effort to hold the Federation together and the means used for this purpose as far more ominous for Africa than dissolution into the major units could have been.
“Balkanization” may no doubt be a great evil, but—to show the other side of the analogy lurking in that word—it would be hard to convince any of the present Balkan peoples that it would have been preferable for the recognized and legitimate sovereigns of Austria-Hungary and the Sublime Porte to have held their territories together through the mobility of their professional armies. A sovereign legitimism which treats its boundaries as more sacrosanct than the lives of stigmatized or refractory peoples is no more attractive in Africa than it was in Europe, and hardly likely to endure so long.
The critical comment on the Times coverage needs to be qualified in the light of very recent developments. Their correspondent is still based on Lagos, and they still have no one behind the Biafran lines…Recently, however, Mr. Friendly has been able to report from areas of the East now occupied by the Federal forces; his factual reports from such places (e.g., Calabar) are in contrast with earlier reports filed from Lagos, which naturally reflected official Federal attitudes and announcements. I have no reason to question Mr. Friendly’s competence or integrity. What I do question is the Times’s policy of covering only one side of the war—the side favored by its editorial policy.
As this article goes to press, the arrival of the OAU peace mission to Nigeria is announced. Although initial Biafran reaction to the news of the mission has been adverse, it is still hoped that General Ankrah of Ghana, who enjoys the confidence of Lt.-Col. Ojukwu, may visit Biafra.
December 21, 1967
In this editorial the Times referred to the fate of Wole Soyinka, the Ibo playwright, who was jailed in Lagos following his making an appeal for a ceasefire. The Times mentioned American and British appeals on his behalf and said: “The dignity as well as the humanity of the Lagos authorities will be measured by their response.” Soyinka, at the time of writing, is still in jail. ↩