SURVIVORS OF ‘BIAFRA WAR’ IN NEW PUSH FOR REPARATIONS
Jul. 14 (GIN) – Survivors of the Nigerian civil war that raged for 3 years and whose horror was captured in
unforgettable photographic images that shocked the world have renewed their demand for compensation for
the suffering of those years.
Ndigbos, a socio-cultural Igbo group, were cut down in a brutal war that followed years
of political wrangling among three regional-political sectors joined in an uneasy alliance
by British colonialists. The newly-independent Nigeria consisted of Yoruba, Igbo and Muslim Hausas. After a deadly coup and counter-coup, the Igbos declared their intention to breakaway and form a sovereign republic called
Biafra. Their intention triggered a war against the new republic which had minimal defenses. A military blockade of the Biafrans
in 1968 led to a humanitarian disaster including widespread civilian hunger and starvation in the besieged Igbo areas.
The Biafrans claimed that Nigeria used hunger and genocide to win the war, and they sought aid from the outside world.
Only five countries (Tanzania, Gabon, Côte d'Ivoire, Zambia and Haiti) officially recognized the endangered Biafra republic. The UK and the Soviet Union supported (especially militarily) the Nigerian government while Canada and France helped the
Biafrans. The United States declared neutrality, with the Secretary of State explaining that "Nigeria is an area under
British influence ." Nevertheless the U.S. provided some military assistance to the Nigeria government.
Images of the Biafran war came to life in the recent best-seller by the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie –
Half of a Yellow Sun – now a movie.
It is estimated that up to three million people died due to the conflict, most
from hunger and disease.
This week, the Reparation Committee of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, in a 28-page document titled: “Atrocities and
Injustices Against Ndigbo,” set out a list of demands and submitted them to President Goodluck Jonathan.It reads in part: “The Federal Government should pay 400 billion naira each to the five states of the South
East as compensation to those who lost loved ones, lost properties, and those still suffering dislocation today in Nigeria.
Compensation would be made to those Igbos who escaped during the pogroms and war and returned to find their jobs
taken, their properties and houses occupied and their Biafran money worthless. This has led to a feeling of an
injustice as the Nigerian government policies are seen as further economically disabling the Igbos even long after the war.
The group is also asking the Federal Government to invest in a massive re-planning of Igbo cities with proper structures
uch as provision of urban water works, a sort of Marshall Plan often devised for war-ravaged area. w/pix of
war memoir by Chinua Achebe
MANDELA’S LAST DAYS RECALLED IN ‘ASSISTED DYING’ DEBATE
Jul. 14 (GIN) – A contentious debate will take place this week in England’s House of Lords on a subject close
to the heart of Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, now an outspoken advocate for a dignified death
at life’s end – something he fears was denied to his best friend and collaborator for human rights –
Tutu, in an editorial this week in The Observer of London, recalls with a touch of bitterness how the 95-year-old President, suffering from a lung infection, incapacitated and increasingly unresponsive, was posed for a photo op with political leaders even when he was barely able to smile.
“You could see Madiba was not fully there. He did not speak. He was not connecting. My friend was no longer himself. It was an affront to Madiba's dignity," he said.
“The manner of Mandela’s prolonged death was an affront… I have been fortunate to spend my life working for dignity for the living. Now I wish to apply my mind to the issue of dignity for the dying.”
"I revere the sanctity of life — but not at any cost," he stressed.
Similar assisted dying bills have already been passed in Oregon, Washington, Quebec, Holland and Switzerland, he pointed out.
Tutu, 82, who was hospitalized last year for a persistent infection, also wrote of his own death.
"I have come to realize that I do not want my life to be prolonged artificially," he said. "I think when you need machines to help you breathe, then you have to ask questions about the quality of life being experienced and about the way money is being spent."
“But why is a life that is ending being prolonged? Why is money being spent in this way? It could be better spent on a mother giving birth to a baby, or an organ transplant needed by a young person,” he argued. “Money should be spent on those that are at the beginning or in full flow of their life. Of course, these are my personal opinions and not of my church.”
"People should die a decent death," he maintained. "For me that means having had the conversations with those I have crossed with in life and being at peace. It means being able to say goodbye to loved ones – if possible, at home."
Tutu, who chaired South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and admitted he was "angry with God" during apartheid, has never been afraid to take unpopular positions or stir debate. Mandela once said of him: "Sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid and seldom without humor, Desmond Tutu's voice will always be the voice of the voiceless."
MALALA, A TALIBAN VICTIM, FINDS SISTERHOOD WITH NIGERIA’S MISSING GIRLS
Jul. 14 (GIN) – A Pakistani teen who survived certain death from a terrorist’s gunshot to her face has met with the mothers of Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by elements of the group Boko Haram.
On the first leg of a three day visit, Malala Yousafzai, now 17, and her father, Ziauddin, spoke with some of the mothers, telling them she saw the more than 200 kidnapped girls as her sisters and would stand up for them.
Malala’s recovery led to her advocacy for education for girls.
Speaking with the Nigerian News Agency, she said: “On my 17th birthday, my wish is to see every child go to school and I want to see my Nigerian sisters being released from their abduction and I want them to be free to go to school and continue their education.”
Though it recently became the leading economy in Africa, Nigeria has one of the world's worst records for education. More than 10 million children aged between 6 and 11 are not in school. There is a shortage of more than 200,000 primary school teachers.
At a meeting this week with Malala, President Goodluck Jonathan disputed criticism that his government was not doing enough to find the girls. He called it "wrong and misplaced," according to a presidential statement.
Jonathan has not met with any of the parents, though some regularly make the dangerous drive from Chibok to join activists who have held daily rallies in Abuja.
Parents of the missing girls were quoted this week by The New York Times pleading for international support. “American, France, China, they say they are helping, but on the ground we don’t see anything,” said Lawan Zanah, father of one missing girls. His frustration was echoed by the school principal, Asabe Kwambura who feared that the international campaign #BringBackOurGirls was slacking.
“Continue the campaign,” she urged. “Our students are still living in the woods. We want the international community to talk to the government of Nigeria to do something because they are doing nothing.”
The government, the Times reports, has just hired an American public relations firm for $1.2 million. “That money could be better used to pay for security at schools,” observed Nicholas Kristof, Times journalist.
Meanwhile, a San Francisco-based charity promoting education for girls in Africa received $900,000 after articles that appeared in the Times. Camfed – or Campaign for Female Education – says the money will help 3,000 girls continue in high school across the continent.
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