- A CIA report has revealed the reason France backed Biafra during Nigerian civil war
- According to the report, France was motivated by the prospect of having access to the region's oil
- France, Gabon, Tanzania and Ivory Coast were the countries that openly backed Biafra
The reason why France supported Biafra during its breakaway struggles from Nigeria between 1967 and 1970 has emerged.
According to a report by Premium Times, despite its humanitarian appeal, France supported Biafra in efforts to have access to the region's oil.
Premium Times reported that a recently-declassified war-time memos compiled by the U.S. Central Investigation Agency, CIA, disclosed this facts.
“France supported Biafra because of the oil and ERAP, but not the Ibo revolution,” said Jean Mauricheau-Beaupre, French secretary general for African and Malagasy Affairs, referring to Emergency Response Action Plan, ERAP.
According to the memo, Mr. Mauricheau-Beaupre on February 10, 1969 said French support was merely given to a “handful of Biafra bourgeoisie in return for oil”.
The French minister was also quoted to have ruled out the possibility of a guerilla war in the region because there was no popular support in the region.
“The real Ibo mentality is much farther to the left than that of Ojukwu and even if we had won, there would have been the problem of keeping him in power in the face of leftist infiltration,” he said, referring Chukwuemeka Ojukwu.
France, Gabon, Tanzania and Ivory Coast were the countries that openly backed Biafra while Nigeria federal government received help from the United Kingdom and Russia.
France was said to have sent $30 million worth of material to Biafra, and lent then Ivory Coast’s President Houphouet-Boigny $3 million to aid Biafra operations.
According to CIA, France realised it could not support a Biafran guerrilla resistance, hence, the European country removed stocks of French-supplied arms and divide same to French bases at Douala and Abidjan
“The rationale for this position as expressed by Mauricheau-Beaupre to individuals concerned with executing Biafran operations was as follows: ‘France supported Biafra because of the oil and ERAP, but not the Ibo revolution,” the cable said.
The CIA also reported that Ojukwu, the Biafran leader has the strong support of a people who seemed determined to win self-determination.
“The Biafran leaders have successfully—-if cynically—exploited the issue of starvation to win political sympathy abroad. They believe time is on their side and that either (a) the FMG coalition will collapse or (b) outside sympathy for their plight will bring about a solution favourable to them,” it wrote.
Going further, the CIA disclosed that the British government supported the Nigerian federal military government with “non-sophisticated arms sales”, while the Soviets became a major arms suppliers.
Meanwhile, the United States of America placed an embargo on arms sales to both sides while regarding the civil war as primarily a Nigerian and African problem.
“The FMG gives frequent assurances that the Soviet involvement is only a matter of wartime necessity and portends no political realignment of Nigeriaʼs traditional pro-Western stance. We have no evidence that the FMG has thus far granted any significant political concessions in return for Soviet arms. However, Soviet prestige and acceptance has increased,” the CIA wrote.
“Soviet intentions are unclear. They probably consider Nigeria a target of opportunity to extend their influence at Western expense and relatively little cost to themselves. Whether requested or not, they have not gone beyond the provision of military equipment, including aircraft and the training of pilots.”
“Although disappointed and perhaps somewhat embarrassed–at slow FMG military progress, they appear willing to continue their support in the belief that prolonged fighting and FMG frustrations will increase the political value of their help,” the report said of Russia.
The Organization of African Unity (OAU), all shifted support to the Nigerian Federal Military government by 1969 except four members (Ivory Coast, Gabon, Tanzania, Zambia, that recognized Biafra in 1968).
OAU regarded the civil war as an internal problem which should be solved within an African (OAU) frame-work.
The United Nations however did not play any significant role in the way except for the participation by UNICEF and other specialized agencies in the relief effort.
NAIJ.com had reported that contrary to the agitation for the Biafran Republic by the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) led by Nnamdi Kanu and the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), the late leader of breakaway Biafra Republic during the Nigeria’s civil war between 1967 and 1970, Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu had warned against second Biafra agitation.
In a 27 seconds video clip obtained by NAIJ.com through a Twitter user, Ojukwu had warned that the second Biafra agitation was not necessary, adding that he and his people learnt their lessons from the first one.
With the current unrest in Nigeria arising from agitations for Biafra, NAIJ.com hit the streets to ask Nigerians how they think the country can be united again. Watch their responses below.