Nigeria at War

February 28, 1968

Report Outline
Progress of War to Save Nigerian Unity
Regional and Tribal Rivalry in Nigeria
Foreign Countries and the Nigerian War

Progress of War to Save Nigerian Unity

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, is torn by a civil war that rivals the Viet Nam conflict in bloodshed and bitterness. Gen. Yakubu Gowon, 32-year-old head of the Nigerian federal government, has proclaimed March 31 the deadline for bringing hostilities to an end and instituting a plan to subdivide the country's present four regions into 12 states. It is by no means certain that the deadline will be met. The Ibo people of the secessionist Eastern Region, which has declared itself the independent nation of Biafra, have fought on stubbornly despite a series of defeats at the hands of the federal forces. Unless Gowon's troops soon force Biafra to surrender, many observers feel that the Nigerian conflict may degenerate into a guerrilla war of indeterminate length.

Arnold Smith, Secretary General of the British Commonwealth, of which Nigeria has been a member since it became independent in 1960, visited the country for two days early in February to assess the chances of a negotiated settlement of the war. Smith, a Canadian, apparently found both sides unwilling to parley at present. He returned to Lagos on Feb. 26 to attend a Commonwealth educational conference.

Cost and Significance of Nigerian Civil War

The fighting in Nigeria, estimated to be costing that country nearly $3 million a day and to have destroyed as much as one-fourth of the federation's basic installations, affects a total population tallied in December 1967 at 62.5 million. Agence France-Presse, the only wire service offering regular coverage of both sides of the present conflict, calculated in November 1967 that the total death toll for both sides had reached 1,000 a day. At that rate, the struggle dwarfed such earlier African disturbances as the Boer War and the invasion of Ethiopia by Italy. Most of the victims are civilians.

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