Nigeria declares Biafra separatist movement terrorist group

After half a century, the issue of Biafra's independence still sparks tension in Nigeria's diplomatic relations. The last controversy came last Monday when President Muhammad Buhari's executive rejected the criticisms of the United States and the European Union, regarding the decision to classify as a terrorist organization the secessionist movement of Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).

The Nigerian government has stated that it is an "internal matter" and that the international community's intrusion on the legality of the measure issued by the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, is equivalent to a violation of Nigeria's sovereignty.

International attention on autonomy in the south-eastern part of the country had already been fuelled last week, when the Nigerian Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, based on a Nigerian intelligence report, said that "The separatist group's financial headquarters is in France and urgent measures were needed to block support."

Moments ago as the news spread, French Ambassador to Nigeria, Denys Gauer, has denied what the Nigerian minister has said and with a note signed by the Embassy's Political Adviser, Claude Abily, has asked the Federal Government of Nigeria to provide documentary evidence to substantiate its claim. Then, last Friday, Ambassador Gauer met Lai Mohammed to reiterate the estrangement of the Paris government in the affair.

The secret bank account

In recent months, Abuja has traced in France a secret bank account held by the IPOB, which would use the funds deposited on this account to finance its activities at home and abroad.

As reconstructed through a thorough investigation by the federal government, security agencies provided unsustainable evidence that the Nigerians diaspora to support the IPOB would have poured huge sums of money on the deposit, and would use France as a clearing house.

Investigations also confirmed inflows into the IPOB account from Holland, Hungary, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Turkey, Singapore and other European countries. And they have also rebuilt that a football tournament was recently organised in Senegal to raise funds for the organization.

In recent days, also Nigeria's Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, said that the IPOB was considered a terrorist organization, but had retracted the statement.

Operation Python Dance II

On September 15, in the five south-eastern states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo, the Nigerian army launched Operation Python Dance II to end the secession campaign of the IPOB movement.

The exercise, which will end on 14 October, has met a tough opposition from the Biafran population, which, to impede the activities of the military, set in motion all its propaganda machine.

Meanwhile, last week the Nigerian authorities imposed a curfew in the Southeast state of Abia, after clashes between army militants and activists demanding Biafra's independence.

The United Nations recognition

The accusation of terrorism against IPOB would be based on attacks by members of the autonomous group against security officials and Nigerian citizens.

However, it must be pointed out that the IPOB has been recognized internationally since was joined at United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the body that engages more than 3,200 registered non-governmental organizations in a productive dialogue on sustainable development through a programmatic cycle of meetings. The issue, in this way, has been added to the many separatist claims that demand the intervention of the United Nations.

Meanwhile, the anti-Nigerian sentiment continued to sink under the ashes emerging periodically and giving rise to bloody clashes between the Biafran separatists and the Federal army, always repressed with violence by the Nigerian military.

Military protests and repressions rose after Nwannekaenyi "Nnamdi", Kenny Okwu Kanu, British citizen and IPOB leader, arrested on October 19, 2015, who was imprisoned for transmitting statements by Radio Biafra's microphones, which incited a new struggle for the independence of the region.

A 60-page report released on November 2016 by Amnesty International described the military repression of secessionists in the Biafra region as "a chilling campaign". The document indicates that between August 2015 and 2016, at least 150 peaceful pro-Biafra activists demonstrators were killed in several cities of Southeast Nigeria.

The Nigerian army, however, has always denied the allegations of the Ngo claiming that the demonstrators had been violent. Meanwhile, in the south-east of Nigeria, it continues to fight in the name of the green and red black flag of Biafra, in the center of which there is a yellow sun, symbol of the Biafra nation. A sun that after fifty years has never gone down.

@afrofocus

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