Security Deteriorating in Nigeria’s Former “Biafra”

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by John Campbell

Nolan Quinn contributed to this post.

Fighting between government forces and an Igbo separatist group risks adding yet another challenge for the Buhari administration. The emergence of an Igbo paramilitary force highlights the growing breakdown of any federal government monopoly on the use of force in the face of multiple security challenges.

Even in good times, security is fragile in the former Biafra. Insecurity has multiple dimensions. The Igbo people are Nigeria’s third largest ethnic group. They were the losers in the 1967–70 civil war in which they tried to establish a separate, Igbo-dominated state, Biafra.

Many Igbo continue to believe that they are disadvantaged in Nigeria, and there continues to be residual support for Biafran independence, though not among the Igbo “establishment.” Conflict over land and water, once largely restricted to the Middle Belt, is spreading to the south, where it frequently acquires ethnic and religious overtones.

Many Igbo—mostly Christian—believe they are targeted by the Muslim Fulani herdsmen bringing their flocks south in search of better pastures. Criminal activity is widespread and often the Igbo attribute it to the Fulani.

Africa in Transition
John Campbell and Michelle Gavin track political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa. Most weekdays.

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