BY Vanessa Calys-Tagoe, 1:01pm September 13, 2022,

An African’s Undiplomatic Sympathy for Britain’s Role in Genocide 52 years ago

Photo Credit: Government of Alberta/Flickr

Some memories lay dormant and are not always amazing. A development in the present could trigger decades of sadness consciously tucked away in the mind and a single development could trigger them rushing through and surfacing like the events just happened. 

When the BBC announced the death of Queen Elizabeth II following the official announcement from Buckingham Palace, globally well-wishers flew to social media to express their condolences and sympathy with the royal family. 

Within minutes, the official Royal Family account on Twitter had garnered almost a million likes with the accounts followership doubled. Sympathetic messages were pouring in; from comments to the quoted tweets, the loss could be felt. 

However, as quickly as the sympathetic messages came in, a sharp-tongued brutally honest and as some have described it “vile” message came from a professor in linguistics, Uju Anya. 

A now deleted tweet, Uju stated that, “I heard the chief monarch of thieving, raping genocidal empire is finally dying. May her pain be excruciating.”

Within seconds, the plethora of lambasting and “dragging” she received was without exaggeration, worldwide. CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos even came at her saying “this is someone supposedly working to make the world better? I don’t think so. Wow,”

While many westerners and a few Africans and blacks disagree with Uju’s point of view, it is important to understand the background that necessitated not only Uju’s vitriol, but that of many other Africans and black people. 

Uju herself explained under her tweet saying, “If anyone expects me to express anything but disdain for the monarch who supervised a government that sponsored the genocide that massacred and displaced half my family and the consequences of which those alive today are still trying to overcome, you can keep wishing upon a star.”

Uju’s explaining statement positions her as an indirect victim of the Biafra war; a civil war and genocide that occurred in Nigeria. She is an indirect victim because not her, but her ancestors were direct victims of the massacre.

The Biafra war and Britain’s involvement

The Nigerian Civil War, commonly known as the Nigerian-Biafra War, lasted from 1967 to 1970 and involved the federal government of Nigeria and the secessionist state of Biafra.

Nigeria endeavored to bring together groups split by ethnicity and religion when it gained independence in 1960; this effort resulted in tensions that eventually led to two military coups, from which the Northern region’s leaders triumphed. The Igbo people declared their homeland, the Eastern area, independent after the Northern coup in 1967, which led to the deaths of military and civilian Igbo people. Odumegwu Ojukwu was the head of what was now known as the Republic of Biafra.

 In Lagos, the federal government was a ruthless military dictatorship that took control in a bloody coup in 1966. The northern and western regions were ravaged by a pogrom that killed hundreds of Igbo residents both during and after that coup. The federal government did not offer any assistance.

It was led by Yakubu Gowon, a charming colonel with a British education. He was a puppet, though. A handful of colonels from northern Nigeria were the real tyrants. Early in 1967, when the crisis worsened and roughly 1.8 million refugees were being hosted in eastern Nigeria, reparations were sought.

A concordat was agreed upon at a summit in Ghana that was organized by the British. However, when Gowon returned home, the colonels blatantly disregarded his requirements and abandoned the deal. The Eastern region officially seceded in April and by July the federal government had waged a war on them. 

The British declared support for Nigeria and supplied them with ammunition and weapons. BBC reporters who were sent to cover the war had their reports smeared and their persons labeled as “stooges of Biafra” 

Meanwhile, with the support of Britain, Nigeria kept its oppression of the people of Biafra and it’s estimated that almost a million children died. 

The leaders of the Britain at the time could have exercised some tact and diplomacy however, it did not. It rather covered its tracks after realizing that a bad judgement call had been made when support was thrown at Nigeria. A BBC journalist described Britain’s involvement as “What is truly shameful is that this was not done by savages but aided and assisted at every stage by Oxbridge-educated British mandarins” 

Eventually, Biafra had to surrender to Nigeria, but lives had been lost and the pain and hurt were embedded and passed down from generation to generation. 

Half a century and more after the civil war, many descendants of the Igbo people have churned out their anger towards Britain as they believe that if Britain had not supplied the ammunitions and weapons their loved ones would not have been dead. 

Cycling back to Uju, while many would have preferred her to tweet with some decorum, tact and

diplomacy, only her and persons like her can understand the painful background she is coming from. If she is over 50 years, then she would have witnessed the cruelty and unbridled way her family, friends, acquaintances and tribe’s men and women were murdered. 

The Queen is automatically charged for the offense of the leaders who propagated the provision of ammunition to Nigeria because well Britain is for the Royal Family. There was no way she would not have been in there known. Or is there? Uju and all those like her do not think so. 

The rhetoric of Africans not having moved on from colonization is not only insensitive but ignorant. Anyone 50 years and over who was in Nigeria at the time witnessed the Biafra war and upon the Queen’s death, well memories come alive and the result can be equated to Uju’s naked tweet. 

The Biafra war left a bitter taste in the mouths of the many who lived it and for those who have come to read about it, the undiplomatic involvement of Britain beats imagination. 

In what would look like poetic Justice, Uju’s undiplomatic tweet could be described as a shadow from the past of Britain’s undiplomatic act at the time. 

Regardless, all of these show the times through which Britain’s longest Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II lived through and the long-lasting effect decisions taken throughout that lifetime have had and may continue to have. 

Last Edited by:Sedem Ofori Updated: September 13, 2022


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