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Igbo in Biafra Still Dream of Independence from Nigeria


There are many requests for international protection made by migrants who are activists of the Nigerian separatist movement Igbo. They come from the south-eastern part of Nigeria and, in many cases, suffer discrimination and persecution by the federal government.

Their dream is the establishment of an independent state in Biafra.

Biafra War: Struggling for Independence

The Igbo people have dreamed of independence since the days of British colonialism. This desire led to a civil war in 1967, when they declared independence in southeastern Nigeria (called the Republic of Biafra).

However, the war did not have the desired effect. Defeated by the federal army and oppressed by malnutrition, they surrendered in 1970.

After the Biafra war, the Igbo were excluded from important government and military roles. Various research reports that a deep separatist sentiment still persists in the south-eastern part of Nigeria today. Furthermore, tensions remain between the northern states (mostly Ausa and Fulani) and those of the south (mainly of Igbo, Yoruba and Ijaw ethnic groups).

Igbo Separatist Groups

This climate has favoured the birth and development of separatist groups. The principal ones are the Massob (Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra) and the Ipob (Indigenous people of Biafra). The former was founded in 1999 and the latter in 2012.

There are also several other pro-Biafra groups in the area. However, because of internal political differences there is still no united front. Massob and Ipob declare that they jointly follow a non-violent policy, which would aim to hold a referendum on the independence of Biafra. To this end, these groups organise protests and demonstrations. The federal government, on the other hand, accuses the two groups of being violent. In this regard, the government has declared the Ipob a terrorist organisation.

Human Rights Violation

Several Nigerian sources have reported seven serious accidents between August 2015 and August 2016. On these occasions the security forces killed at least 150 members and supporters of the Ipob and Massob, and injured hundreds during meetings, marches and other non-violent gatherings. In addition, there would have been over a hundred arrests.

The Nigerian army investigated the violent incidents in 2015 and 2016 as part of the activities of a wider commission of inquiry. However, according to the US State Department, the government had not carried out a proper investigation.

The Nigerian National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), in a statement in September 2017, expressed strong concern about the alleged invasion of parts of the geopolitical areas of the south-east and south by the Nigerian army and called for compliance with the rules of engagement. As a result, The NHRC will cooperate with the authorities in the investigation.

However, the situation remains extremely precarious and separatist project activists have become vulnerable to persecution and inhuman and degrading treatment.

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