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ideas have consequences

You are here:Home>>Strategic Research & Analysis>>Analysis: Chinua Achebe's Biafran memoir - There Was a Country
Friday, 28 September 2012 03:59

Analysis: Chinua Achebe's Biafran memoir - There Was a Country

Written by Martin Plaut
Chinua Achebe Chinua Achebe Photo:Don Hameman

image of Martin PlautMartin Plaut, African editor BBC World Service,  gives a compassing analysis  on Chinua Achebe new book   on Biafran war called - 'There Was a Country'

 

Martin Plaut  analysis:

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This is a memoir filled with sadness - sadness at the deaths of so many of his fellow countrymen and sadness too at the fate that has befallen Nigeria.

 

The book begins by recalling the coup and counter-coup that left Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and the Northern premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello dead.

 

Thousands of Igbo people were killed in retaliation. At the end of May 1967, Biafra declared independence and there was a rapid descent into war.

 

Achebe portrays the Nigerian government as ruthless in its suppression of the rebellion.

Biafran army soldiers and captives - May 1967More than one million people died during the Biafran conflict - BBC

A statement is attributed to Chief Obafemi Awolowo which summarises this attitude: 'All is fair in war, and starvation is one of the weapons of war. I don't see why we should feed our enemies fat in order for them to fight harder.'

 

Soon images of malnourished children filled the international press. Achebe accuses the United Nations of following Nigeria's lead, and standing idly by as Biafra was crushed. As Achebe puts it: "You see we, the little people of the world, are ever expendable."

 

The author writes movingly about the final days in January 1970: "In the end, Biafra collapsed. We simply had to turn around and find a way to keep those people still there alive. It was a desperate situation with so many children in need, kwashiorkor rampant, and thousand perishing every week... some people said: 'Let's go into the forest and continue the struggle.'

 

"That would have been suicidal and I don't think anybody should commit suicide."

 

 

 

 

 

Last modified on Friday, 28 September 2012 22:33

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