With the declaration "Long live the Republic of Biafra!" Lt. Col. Chukuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, declared eastern Nigeria independent on May 30, 1967. The move had been prompted in part by a government-led massacre of Igbo settlers.
The Igbo ruler led his new (but little-recognized) nation in a civil war in July 1967 following an invasion by Nigerian troops.
In the fighting that ensued, more than 1 million people died. At first the Biafrans held their own, but soon the USSR, Egypt, and Britain began to ship weapons to Nigeria's government. Biafra surrendered after a costly three-year struggle.
Mr. Ojukwu, who still lives in Nigeria, told the Associated Press that he regularly speaks to Nigeria's President Obasanjo and sees himself as an elder statesman who has left the past behind. He was in Boston recently to appeal to Igbo expatriates to return.
In May, a Nigerian presidential commission began looking into government "human-rights abuses" (including, perhaps, the massacre of Igbos) that occurred around the time of Biafra's breakaway.
Meanwhile, The National Union of True Igbo Movement is pressing the government to pay entitlements to former Biafran soldiers and police.
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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor