My biggest take away from the Legacies of Biafra conference is … ‘We Need To Tell Our Story’. That’s how Jewish people and Rwandan people have been able to move on.
6 million Jewish people were killed by genocide, 3 million Biafran people were killed by genocide, yet there is a wall of silence.
We have not yet come to terms with what happened. A tragedy of unbelievable proportions happened.. and we have swept it under the carpet.
The response from people over the past few days has been phenomenal – 3 survivors of the war that attended this conference called me separately this morning – and I ended up crying each time – they each said they needed that gathering, and that it is helping them so much … After 50 yrs !!!
If you have older relatives, record their stories with your mobile phones. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us .
People in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and indeed Nigeria will and can learn from the collective memory of the Nigeria-Biafra war.
The picture below was our centrepiece on stage during the event. As I explained to everyone in the lecture theatre – This is not a shrine but a symbolic collection of the memory of Biafra.
1, The Bicycle wheel symbolises the cycle of time / humanity.
2, The photos on the wheel are to show the faces of real people that were affected by the war.
3, The child’s shoe is a symbol for the lost children of Biafra.
4, The Clock symbolises that time has been passing, but the hurt still remains.
5, The Number 50 symbolises that the Nigeria-Biafra war started 50 yrs ago this year
6, The wooden Bowl and ladle signifies Hunger, and that food was used as a weapon of war
7, The camouflage net signifies war
8, The crate signifies the Airlift and the humanitarian agencies that worked to stem the genocide happening in Biafra.
9, The three pillar candles that were flickering throughout the conference was a memorial to the Men, Women and Children that died on all sides of the war.
10, The radio signifies the main medium for communication during the war.
War is not a joke . Anything can cause conflict. People don’t set out to go to war. Those who think that the current agitation /actualization/secession efforts by some groups may not result in conflict need to learn their history.
This conference set out to educate, and help us take stock of what we have learnt from the war… but it did more than that.
The conference was never a call to arms.. and never will be.
We also need to stop portraying Biafra as involving only Igbo people. The defunct Republic of Biafra was made up of the following ethnic groups – Igbo, Efik, Ibibio, Annang, Ejagham, Eket, Ibeno, Ijaw etc . Anyone who is not adding these other ethnic groups to the Biafran story is either ignorant or untruthful.
Atrocities were committed by both the Nigerian and the Biafran soldiers on the Biafran people. The narrative needs to be balanced and not one sided. War brings out the worst in people.
The intellectual wealth in that conference was unbelievable… A Sheer and immense group of people with formidable knowledge of the war ( Formal and informal) because it was not just a gathering of important people , or academics, or ordinary people… It was a gathering of people … REAL people who wanted to share, learn, take stock,and decide the best way to move on.
War Trauma doesn’t just affect the people directly involved in the war, but also the generations that come after the war.
written by Yvonne Chiọma Mbanefo