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BORN IN FIRE: PRELUDE TO BIAFRA 103 it saw as an "inexcusable atrocity."'28 The Nigerian Foreign Minister, on the other hand, thought a military target was involved; and when pressed further on the issue in view of the overwhelming evidence of outside observers, he merely said it was a "military error." One thought immediately of Guernica, which has been immortalized for us by Picasso. The parallels are remarkable. Guernica-like Umuohiagu-was bombed by the Nazis on a crowded market day, leaving thousands dead. The Biafran toll has already risen to 550 [the Times (London), 11 February]. The Nazi Foreign Minister called Guernica a "regrettable military error." The qualifying epithet did not occur to the Nigerians. Finally, Nigeria, presumably fighting to keep its country united, has nevertheless resolutely refused to let international relief agencies fly in food and medicine to relieve the suffering, especially the children. It has shot at relief planes of the Red Cross and Church Relief Services, which have persevered in sending much needed relief under hazardous conditions, on the spurious claim that International Red Cross are gun merchants. The implication of Adekunle's statement is terrifying. "I want to prevent even one Ibo having even one piece to eat before their capitulation" sounds a persistent and sinister echo. In Calabar, which the Nigerians have controlled for the last eighteen months, Adekunle himself has refused international relief to what is left of its population. The umpteenth "final" offensive, which the Nigerians announced at the end of January,29 has consisted entirely in ceaseless 8 The New York Times, 8 February 1968. 'See the Observer (London), 26 January 1969 bombings of defenceless civilians; no engagement with the Biafran military forces has been launched. The implication, to the Biafrans, is unmistakable; and with it, their will to survival. Furthermore, Nigeria has often claimed that the struggle is an internal matter, somewhat overlooking the considerable involvement of Britain and the Soviet Union. Biafrans only wish it were so, for then the war would end speedily in their favor. This is not merely speculation. In the first two months after Nigeria invaded Biafra, the war was an internal affair. Biafran quickly captured the entire Mid-Western State of Nigeria, and, as I have said, were within striking distance of Lagos, before Britain took fright and poured arms, ammunition, and personnel into Nigerian hands. Yet Biafra still warmly and confidently entertains hope of triumph. It is, in the words of Thomas Mann, "the hope beyond hopelessness," for the sake of those hapless children, for suffering humanity, and a reaffirmation of man's essential nobility. Walter Benjamin, the highly gifted German Jew who was hounded to an early death by the Nazis in 1940, concluded his brilliant essay on Goethe's Elective Affinities with the words: "Only for the sake of the hopeless are we given hope." And so for these, for the oppressed and downtrodden, and-dare I add-for the sake of a despoiled Africa, we in Biafra must succeed, we must survive. where "a new Federal offensive which Lagos confidently believes will be the 'last push' against the Ibo heartland [was] launched without fanfare." Also the New York Times' report, 5 February 1969, of "Another 'Final' Offensive."
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