The Ties That Divide: Ethnic Politics, Foreign Policy, and International Conflict

By Stephen M. Saideman | Go to book overview

4
Religious Ties and the Nigerian Civil
War, 1967–1970

Shortly after the Congo Crisis, Nigeria's ethnic conflict accelerated. This strife between ethnic groups developed into a secessionist war between Biafra, the Eastern region of Nigeria, largely composed of the predominantly Christian Ibo tribal group, and the Federal Military Government of Nigeria, which consisted of the Muslim Hausa-Fulani group, the religiously heterogeneous Yorubas, and many smaller tribes.

The Nigerian Civil War provides a good contrast to the Katangan secession as four years separated the two conflicts, thereby holding most variables relatively constant. Despite the short time between the two secessionist crises, and despite many similarities between Biafra and Katanga, the international politics of the Nigerian Civil War were not identical to those of the Congo Crisis. No states recognized Katanga while five states recognized Biafra. No global organization, such as the United Nations, became involved in the Nigerian Civil War, but a new regional organization, the Organization of African Unity [OAU], played an important role. In contrast to the UN's role in defeating the Katangan separatists, the Nigerian armed forces defeated Biafra. The Katangan secession increased fears of neocolonialism and white control over Black Africa. Instead, Biafra's secession resonated mostly along religious divides as the Christian Ibos of Biafra were seen as the “Jews of Africa” being oppressed by Nigeria's predominantly Muslim Northern region.

Comparing these two secessionist crises is both feasible and interesting, as there are many features common to both civil wars. Analysts perceived

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