The Igbo genocide and 5 June 1969

Published on Pambazuka News, by Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, May 25, 2011.

Reflecting on the availability of documentary sources, Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe discusses the history of the Igbo genocide.

Thankfully, for the interest of posterity, the Igbo genocide, perpetrated by the Nigeria state, is one of the most documented crimes against humanity. Leading university and public libraries across Europe (particularly in Britain, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Portugal, Denmark and Sweden) and North America have invaluable repositories of books, state papers (including, crucially, hitherto classified material now declassified as part of mandatory timeframe provisions and freedom-to-information legislations), church papers, human rights/anti-genocide/anti-war groups’ campaign papers, reports, photographs and interviews, Red Cross/other third sector papers, reports and photographs, newspaper/news magazine/radio/ television/video archives and sole individual depositories, some of which are classified as ‘anonymous contributors’… // 

… NOT-YAKI

Quite auspiciously, the record of those who ordered/executed the Igbo genocide makes no pretences, offers no excuses, whatsoever, about the goal of their dreadful mission – such was the maniacal insouciance and rabid Igbophobia that propelled the project. The principal language used in the prosecution of the genocide was Hausa. Appropriately, the words of the ghoulish anthem of the genocide, published and broadcast on Kaduna radio and television throughout the duration of the crime, are in Hausa: ‘Mu je mu kashe nyamiri/Mu kashe maza su da yan maza su/Mu chi mata su da yan mata su/Mu kwashe kaya su’ (‘Let’s go kill the damned Igbo/Kill off their men and boys/Rape their wives and daughters/Cart off their property’).

The Hausa word for war is yaki. Whilst Hausa speakers would employ this word to refer to the involvement/combat services of their grandfathers, fathers, uncles, sons, brothers, other relatives and friends in ‘Boma’ (reference to Second World War Burma [contemporary Myanmar] military campaigns/others in south-east Asia, fighting for the British against the Japanese) or even in the post-1960s Africa-based ‘peace-keeping’ military engagements in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, East Africa, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Sudan, they rarely use yaki to describe the 29 May 1966 – 12 January 1970 mass murder of Igbo people. In Hausaspeak, the latter is either referred to as ‘lokochi mu kashe nyamiri’ (‘when we murdered the damned Igbo’) or ‘lokochi muna kashe nyamiri’ (‘when we were murdering the damned Igbo’). Pointedly, this ‘lokochi’ (when, time) conflates the timeframes that encapsulate the two phases of the genocide (29 May 1966 – 29 October 1967 and 6 July 1967 – 12 January 1970), a reminder, if one is required, for those who bizarrely, if not mischievously, wish to break this organic link.

Elsewhere, genocidist documentation on this crime is equally malevolent and brazenly vulgar. A study of the genocide-time/‘post’-genocide era interviews, comments, broadcasts and writings on the campaign by key genocidist commanders, commandants and ‘theorists’ and propagandists such as Benjamin Adekunle, Yakubu Danjuma, Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo, Hassan Katsina, Ibrahim Haruna, Oluwole Rotimi, Obafemi Awolowo, Anthony Enaharo and Allison Ayida underscores the trend. A brief review of Obasanjo’s contribution (published in his memoirs, My Command) that focuses on his May 1969 direct orders to his air force to destroy an international Red Cross aircraft, carrying relief supplies to the encircled and blockaded Igbo, is crucially appropriate … (full text).

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