Further protests in Biafra as trial against pro-independence leader begins

10 demonstrators killed in clashes against Nigerian police · Biafran group plans to establish pro-secession parallel government

Biafra (1967 borders) and main ethnic groups.
Biafra (1967 borders) and main ethnic groups.
10 demonstrators were killed in Aba yesterday in a series of protests that had been called by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), coinciding with the start of the trial against Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of that secessionist group. Kanu and two other activists in favor of the independence of Biafra from Nigeria (Bwnjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi) are charged with treason. The three men could get a life sentence.

Pro-independence protests are taking place intermittently in several cities of this southeastern area of Nigeria since last October, when Kanu was arrested. Besides being the IPOB leader, Kanu was also the director of pro-secession radio station Radio Biafra.

Most protesters are young people belonging to the Igbo people, who makes up the majority population in Biafra. In 1967, Igbo leaders proclaimed the independence of Biafra, a decision that led to a war against the Nigerian army that lasted until 1970 and ended with Biafran defeat.

Several Igbo organizations -IPOB and others like MASSOB- complain Biafran marginalization by the Nigerian government, especially with regard to the benefits from the exploitation of oil in the Niger Delta region, which finds itself within Biafra.

But most of the Niger Delta area lies in fact outside the Igbo-majority region. Organizations seeking to represent several Niger Delta peoples -such as the Ijaw and the Ogoni- are more likely to ask for their own autonomy within Nigeria rather than to join an Igbo-led secessionist project.

MASSOB announced last month it was ready to form a Biafran government as an alternative to Nigeria, for which elections should be held, the group said, on February 22nd.

Writer calls for a Scotland-style referendum

Writer Hussain Obaro, who usually contributed to (one of Nigeria's leading news sites), has called on the Nigerian government to allow the holding of a Biafran referendum on self-determination. Obaro argues independence should be granted if a clear majority of Igbos show their will to secede.

A probably most prominent and influential voice, that of Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, suggested Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari should "sit down" with Igbo representatives and "restructure the nation in a way that no one will want to leave. " Soyinka added that "the idea of Biafra" cannot be "defeated," and that current "agitations" are not surprising for him.