Nigeria’s President Muhammud Buhari has arrived in Rwanda to attend the scheduled Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in the capital Kigali.
Minutes after touching ground at Kigali International airport, President Buhari was driven to the Kigali Genocide Memorial a final resting place to over 250000 victims of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi that claimed more than a million people across the country.
“I visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial this afternoon. I took two lessons from this sobering tour: One, Nigerians must continue to be tolerant of one another, and two, we have a responsibility to preserve our own history from the Nigeria Civil War,”President Buhari said.
At the Kigali Genocide memorial, there is a visitor centre for students and others wishing to understand the events leading up to the genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994.
Nigerian Civil War
The Nigerian Civil War (6 July 1967 – 15 January 1970; also known as the Nigerian-Biafran War or the Biafran War) was a civil war fought between the government of Nigeria and the Republic of Biafra, a secessionist state which had declared its independence from Nigeria in 1967. Nigeria was led by General Yakubu Gowon, while Biafra was led by Lt. Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu.
Biafra represented the nationalist aspirations of the Igbo ethnic group, whose leadership felt they could no longer coexist with the federal government dominated by the interests of the Muslim Hausa-Fulanis of northern Nigeria.
The conflict resulted from political, economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions which preceded Britain’s formal decolonization of Nigeria from 1960 to 1963.
Immediate causes of the war in 1966 included ethno-religious violence and anti-Igbo pogroms in Northern Nigeria, a military coup, a counter-coup and persecution of Igbo living in Northern Nigeria. Control over the lucrative oil production in the Niger Delta also played a vital strategic role.
Within a year, the Federal Government troops surrounded Biafra, captured coastal oil facilities and the city of Port Harcourt. A blockade was imposed as a deliberate policy during the ensuing stalemate which led to mass starvation.
During the two and half years of the war, there were about 100,000 overall military casualties, while between 500,000 and 2 million Biafran civilians died of starvation.
The United Kingdom and the Soviet Union were the main supporters of the Nigerian government, while France, Israel (after 1968) and some other countries supported Biafra.
The United States’ official position was one of neutrality, considering Nigeria as ‘a responsibility of Britain’, but some interpret the refusal to recognize Biafra as favouring the Nigerian government.