Africa

US documents support Achebe: Gowon blocked food supplies to Biafra

gowonUS documents support Achebe: Gowon blocked food supplies to Biafra, shot down Red Cross relief aircrafts, sabotaged Biafran farmlands . Information released online from the US Department of State archive from January 20, 2001 to January 20, 2009 indicates that during the Nigeria civil war, the government of General Yakubu Gowon offering a food corridor was busy shooting down RED CROSS Aircraft ferrying food to Biafra. On June 5, 1969, an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) plane was shot down by a Nigerian MIG while en-route to Biafra with relief supplies. Elombah.com investigators discovered that on July 1, 1969, the Federal Military Government (FMG) kicked out the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and imposed a de facto embargo on relief flights into Biafra. Airlifts into Biafra could operate only in daylight following inspection in Federal territory. Those food and medical relief supplies from Sao Tome were declared illegal and subject to military interdiction by Gowon. The issue arose as Alhaji Femi Okunnu, alleged that former Biafran leader, General Emeka Ojukwu used starvation to prolong civil war. He was commenting on the allegation by Professor Chinua Achebe of Chief Obafemi Awolowo using starvation against the Igbo during the war. Okunnu a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, served as the Federal Commissioner for Works and Housing between 1967 and 1974. He was also appointed by General Yakubu Gowon, Nigeria’s wartime head of state, as a Special Envoy and Leader of Peace Talks, during the 30-month Nigerian civil war. He had said in an interview with Tribune that “the other side refused to negotiate seriously. They were only interested in the sovereignty of Biafra. That was the goal of Ojukwu; an independent Biafra and he tried to use starvation to attain that goal.” biafra But available records show that on 30 June 1969, the Nigerian government banned all Red Cross aid to Biafra; two weeks later it allowed medical supplies through the front line, but restricted food supplies. Later in October 1969, Ojukwu appealed to United Nations to mediate a cease-fire. The federal government then called for Biafra’s surrender. By this time food was very short in Biafra and they were having major problems trying to save the starving civilian population. Many countries and church agencies were offering food, but the planes trying to fly it in had to run a gauntlet of fire usually during the night, which made it harder for the pilots to see where they were going. At one time each cargo plane had a fighter with it to try and mislead the troops below. Many flew at tree top level to evade being in the Nigerians line of fire, cutting down their exposure time to just a few seconds. Commenting on Alhaji Femi Okunnu allegation, a Historian, Obi Nwakamma said: “Okunnu was part of a war cabinet that sanctioned the use of cruel and inhuman methods in the prosecution of war, also known as “war crimes.” Years later after the pyrrhic victory, I do not expect him to say anything less in self-justification. But if he were thinking a little more compassionately you would expect that he’d take a step back, re-examine the situation, and acknowledge that the government in which he served at the highest level bears profound responsibilities. It would not bring back those starved to death or bombed to smithereens but it’d salve the conscience of that unfortunate nation a little bit.” In the words of Obi Nwakanma, the effect of the blockade on Biafra was clear, but once the urgency of relief became equally clear for the survival of the civilian population, it became necessary to limit the blockade on food to the civilian population. The abortion of such a relief as a strategy of war constitutes a war crime. The push to starve the civilian population in order to pressure the Biafra leadership to surrender should be seen for what it was: a targeted, genocidal act. Okunu bears responsibility in part, until it is proven that he dissented from any such initiative. It was not only starvation that was used: the bombing of civilian populations; markets, hospitals, schools with entire school children killed in session, etc are clearly documented. There are rules to war. All is not fair in war. This is the basic point of this argument and the thrust of Achebe’s criticism of the federal policy of starvation. Further archival reports see by Elombah.com show that from 1968 onward, the war fell into a lengthy stalemate, with Nigerian forces unable to make significant advances into the remaining areas of Biafran control. The blockade of surrounded Biafra led to a humanitarian and propaganda disaster when it emerged that there was widespread civilian hunger and starvation in the besieged Igbo areas. An over used tactic of the Nigerian forces had been the sabotage of farmland, and this was now beginning to affect Biafra’s population. Images of starving Biafran children went around the world. The Biafran government claimed that Nigeria was using hunger and genocide to win the war, and sought aid from the outside world. Many world organised volunteer bodies organised blockade-breaking relief flights into Biafra, carrying food, medicines, and sometimes (it was claimed) weapons. Nigeria also claimed that the Biafran government was hiring foreign mercenaries to extend and lengthen the war. Another archival document had blamed Ojukwu and Gowon for Biafra Starvation death toll. It said disagreement on shipments between Mr. Gowon and Mr. Ojukwu, were more to blame for the failure of relief materials reaching dying children, women and men desperately in need of food. Mr. Gowon, the cable said, discontinued air shipments to the Eastern region despite pressure from the United States and the Red Cross, fearing transport airplanes were being used to convey arms to Biafra. Initial shipments by the Red Cross, had delivered 16 to 20 tons of food a night in a lone DC–4, feeding an estimated 850,000 people in Biafra three meals per week, the document said. Federal forces sabotaged farmlands =========================

Sources: US DEPT OF STATE ARCHIVE: – 71. Situation Report Prepared by the Nigerian Task Force, Washington, June 6, 1969 [ PDF version ]

On June 5, an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) plane was shot down by a Nigerian MIG while en-route to Biafra with relief supplies. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 742, Country Files, Africa, Nigeria, Vol. I. Confidential. – 72. Department of State Press Statement, Washington, undated [ PDF version ] In this statement, which was handed out to the press on June 6, the Department expressed U.S. regret for the attack by the Nigerian Air Force and reiterated the U.S. position of avoiding political or military involvement in the Nigerian civil war. The attached briefing paper, which was read but not distributed, acknowledged that relief and arms night flights were intermingled, and urged expanded relief through daylight flights and a land corridor. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Special Coordinator on Relief to Civilian Victims of the Nigerian Civil war, February 1969-June 1970, Lot 70 D 336, Box 517, ICRC, Records. Unclassified. At the top of page one of the statement, Schott wrote, “Clyde – Here is last Friday’s statement. The top page was handed out and the second one only read out. SCS.” In a Letter from the Secretary-Treasurer of Joint Church Aid-U.S.A., Inc. (Kinney) to the Special Coordinator on Relief (Ferguson), New York, February 26, 1969, Kinney expressed hope that one of Ferguson’s first acts would be to ask the Nigerian Government to cease attacking relief planes making night flights into Uli airstrip. – Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Special Coordinator on Relief to Civilian Victims of the Nigerian Civil War, February 1969 -June 1970, Lot 70 D 336, Box 517, D-13 Voluntary Agencies Joint Church AID. No classification marking.

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In a Telegram 36410 From the Department of State to the Embassy in Nigeria, March 8, 1969, 1954Z, The Department reported on Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Palmer’s meeting with Nigerian Information Commissioner Anthony Enahoro. They discussed U.S. humanitarian policy,bombing of civilians and relief aircraft, assistance to Relief Coordinator Clyde Ferguson, protection of Ibos, Soviet influence in Nigeria, and delays in Nigerian visa issuances. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 7 Nigeria. Confidential. Repeated to London, Geneva, Paris, and Cotonou. Drafted by R.J. Wach (AF/W), cleared by Palmer, and approved by Melbourne.

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“On 30 June 1969, the Nigerian government banned all Red Cross aid to Biafra; two weeks later it allowed medical supplies through the front line, but restricted food supplies. Later in October 1969, Ojukwu appealed to United Nations to mediate a cease-fire. The federal government then called for Biafra’s surrender. “By this time food was very short in Biafra and they were having major problems trying to save the starving civilian population. Many countries and church agencies were offering food, but the planes trying to fly it in had to run a gauntlet of fire usually during the night, which made it harder for the pilots to see where they were going. At one time each cargo plane had a fighter with it to try and mislead the troops below. Many flew at tree top level to evade being in the Nigerians line of fire, cutting down their exposure time to just a few seconds.”

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The Gowon govt offering a food corridor was busy shooting down RED CROSS Aircraft ferrying food to Biafra

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“From 1968 onward, the war fell into a lengthy stalemate, with Nigerian forces unable to make significant advances into the remaining areas of Biafran control. The blockade of surrounded Biafra led to a humanitarian and propaganda disaster when it emerged that there was widespread civilian hunger and starvation in the besieged Igbo areas. An over used tactic of the Nigerian forces had been the sabotage of farmland, and this was now beginning to affect Biafra’s population. Images of starving Biafran children went around the world. The Biafran government claimed that Nigeria was using hunger and genocide to win the war, and sought aid from the outside world. “Many world organised volunteer bodies organised blockade-breaking relief flights into Biafra, carrying food, medicines, and sometimes (it was claimed) weapons. Nigeria also claimed that the Biafran government was hiring foreign mercenaries to extend and lengthen the war.” Mercenary wars – Biafra conflict 1966

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Federal forces sabotaged farmlands

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WHO IS THIS Robert S. Goldstein? In a Memorandum From the Country Director for West Africa (Melbourne) to the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (Palmer), Washington, April 18, 1969, The memorandum outlined the lobbying activities in Washington of Biafrans Dr. Pius Okigbo, Dr. Eni Njoku, and Dr. Kenneth Dike. – Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Special Coordinator on Relief to Civilian Victims of the Nigerian Civil War, February 1969 – June 1970, Box 514, Lot 70 D 336, Political. Limited Official Use. NO MENTION WAS MADE OF ANY Robert S. Goldstein?

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60. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon, Washington, April 24, 1969 [ PDF version ] Kissinger warned the President that the Congressional chorus on Nigeria might be rising again, in particular due to a new organization, “Americans for Biafran Relief,” with Senator Kennedy taking the lead. Tabs to attachment are included with Kissinger’s January 28 memorandum, Document 25 Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 741, Country Files, Africa, Nigeria. Confidential. Sent for information. — 61. Telegram 3636 From the Embassy in Nigeria to the Department of State, April 25, 1969, 1518Z [ PDF version ] The Embassy suggested that “Americans for Biafran Relief” might present an opportunity to put pressure on Lieutenant Colonel Ojukwu, Military Governor of the Eastern Region of Nigeria, to facilitate relief efforts. The Embassy wanted the onus for blocking relief put on Ojukwu. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-9, Biafra-Nigeria. Confidential. — 80. Memorandum From Roger Morris of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), Washington, July 1, 1969 [ PDF version ] Morris told Kissinger that the Federal Military Government (FMG) had all but kicked out the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and imposed a de facto embargo on relief flights into Biafra. Airlifts into Biafra could operate only in daylight following inspection in Federal territory. Those from Sao Tome were illegal and subject to interdiction. Morris was apprehensive of negative reaction by Senator Kennedy and the Biafra lobby.

Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi
Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi
Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC and CEO of Portia Web Solutions. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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