Biafra’s War: A Tribal Conflict in Nigeria That Left a Million Dead


Almost half a century has passed since the Nigerian Civil War ended. But memories die hard, because a million or more perished in that internecine struggle, the majority women and children, who were starved to death.

Biafra’s war was modern Africa’s first extended conflict. It lasted almost three years and was based on largely ethnic, by inference, tribal grounds. It involved, on the one side, a largely Christian or animist south-eastern quadrant of Nigeria which called itself Biafra, pitted militarily against the country’s more populous and preponderent Islamic north.”

In this vast picture of the Nigerian-Biafran War showing a comprehensive portrait of Nigeria and, to a larger extent, of West Africa in the 1960s, Al J. Venter not only writes about the war in all its complexity, but also makes the reader live the war. Through his incredible account in which personal experience mingles with historical facts, the multiples faces of the first fully mediatized war in the 20th century become more and more visible to the public as they mix with individual stories about it.

Al J. Venter also accompanies his book with numerous rare photographies of people’s dialy life during the war, from atrocities to domestic scenes. What is also enriching is the enormous number of testimonies and witness accounts from many war pilots and journalists of the time. The personal touch and experience, as well as the insightful analysis of the events and atmosphere of the time, give the book a deeply human dimension- it is, eventually, what makes History an everyday experience and collective contribution.

More than “just another” history book, Venter’s account is a true historical document which allows older as well as younger generations to understand a bit more about this complex ethnic civil war that largely shaped the political present situation of Nigeria.

Biafra’s War: An Tribal Conflict In Nigeria That Left A Million Dead by Al J. Venter

978- 19121747020 / Helion & Company, 2015

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She is the author of a collection of short stories and a translator of books from French to Romanian. She is trilingual in Romanian, French and English, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

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