What Is Biafra Now Called?

biafra-now-called Credit: DFID - UK Department for International Development/CC-BY 2.0

The area that was Biafra is once again part of Nigeria. Biafra declared independence from Nigeria on May 30, 1967, and the last Biafran officers surrendered to the Nigerian federal government on Jan. 15, 1970.

When Nigeria gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1960, it contained a number of ethnicities and followers of Christianity and animism as well as Islam. This diversity coupled with the wealth disparity between the Muslim north and the oil-rich Christian south led to tensions between the Igbo and Hausa peoples. Between 10,000-20,000 Igbos were massacred in the north, causing around a million more to flee to the Igbo-dominant east. Non-Igbos were then forced out of the east, and the head of Nigeria's aptly named Eastern Region, Lieutenant Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu, declared the area to be an independent republic. The name Biafra was taken from the nearby bay, the Bight of Biafra.

The head of the Nigerian government, Yakubu Gowon, did not accept Biafra's secession, and war broke out. The U.K. and the Soviet Union supported the federal government with weapons while Gabon, Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Haiti and Zambia recognized Biafra's independence, and France sent the secessionists arms. While the Biafrans won a few initial battles, they could not ultimately withstand the federal government's superior numbers. Ojukwu eventually fled the country, and Biafra was reincorporated, but not before more than a million people died in the accompanying battles and starvation.