Timeline

1960
October 1

Nigeria gains independence from the United Kingdom

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1966
January 15

Coup d’état led by Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna and other junior Army officers, including the murder of numerous Northern political leaders. It is often referred to as “The Coup of the Five Majors”

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January 16

Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, head of the Nigerian Army, who aided in coup suppression efforts in the South, is declared head of state

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January 17

Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu becomes Military Governor of the Eastern region

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July 29

Mutiny by northern soldiers at the Abeokuta barracks, leading to a counter-coup and the appointment of Lieutenant-Colonel Yakubu Gowon as Supreme Commander of the Nigerian Armed Forces

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September 29

Considered to be the deadliest day during a series of pogroms against Igbo people living in the North. In response, hundreds of thousands of persecuted Igbo flee to the Eastern region

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1967
May 30

Ojukwu declares the independence of the Republic of Biafra

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June

Federal Military Government (FMG) of Nigeria places an embargo on the shipping of goods to and from Biafra, excluding oil tankers; complete embargo, including oil, begins at the end of June 1967. The ICRC plays a leading role in arranging deliveries of aid, working with the FMG and not defying the blockade.

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July 6

War begins when Nigerian Federal troops attack Biafran soldiers

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December

Irish Catholics begin campaign to send money and support to Biafra

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1968
January 26

War reaches a stalemate, with neither side able to make major gains

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January 29

First introduction of Biafran currency

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March 27

First airlift into city of Port Harcourt, organized by Father Anthony Byrne, who also managed the Catholic relief operations in Biafra

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April

British photojournalist Don McCullin arrives in Biafra; one of his most famous photographs of Biafra, entitled “Albino boy” was taken the following year, in 1969

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May 4

Photographs by French photojournalist Gilles Caron appear in Paris Match

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June 26

The government of the Republic of Biafra releases a “Charge to Humanity” statement outlining the deteriorating situation in Biafra

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July

Founding of the American Committee to Keep Biafra Alive, an organization with a mission to inform and educate Americans about the Nigeria-Biafra War

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July

World Council of Churches (WCC) meets in Sweden and discusses relief actions taken since outbreak of Nigeria-Biafra War and what to do going forward

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July 12

Biafran children appear on the cover of Life Magazine with headline “Starving Children of Biafra War”

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August 7

The announcement of the formation of the American Jewish Emergency Effort for Biafran Relief

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September 8

“The ‘Point of No Return’ For the Biafrans” article written by Lloyd Garrison published in The New York Times

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September 13

The National Council of Churches in the United States of America meets in Houston, Texas, and condemns the mass starvation occurring in Biafra, calling it a “human tragedy” and appealing for increased humanitarian relief

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October 4

James MacCracken, Executive Director of the Church World Service (CWS) of the National Council of Churches, delivers statement before Senate Foreign Relations Committee concerning assistance in Nigeria and Biafra

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November

Formation of the Joint Church Aid (JCA), a group of churches from 33 countries that worked together to increase the aid flow to Biafra

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1969
February 22

Nixon appoints Dr. Clarence Clyde Ferguson Jr. as the US Special Coordinator on Relief to the Civilian Victims of the Nigeria Civil War

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May

Biafrans raid oil field in Kwale

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May

Biafrans commence land offensive reinforced by foreign mercenary pilots, attacking military airfields in Enugu, Port Harcourt, Ughelli, and Benin City

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May 27

Gowon declares the division of Nigeria in 12 states, which includes splitting the Eastern Region into three parts

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June 5

Red Cross plane is downed while delivering relief supplies to Biafra. As a result, the Red Cross ceases air deliveries of aid.

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June 30

Nigeria bans International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) aid to Biafra; the American Jewish Emergency Effort for Biafran Relief has raised a total of $185,000

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1970
January 7

Nigerian forces launch its offensive “Operation Tail-Wind,” which successfully conquers towns of Owerri and Uli within 5 days

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January 15

Official surrender papers signed by Biafran General Philip Effiong, deputy to Ojukwu who had fled to the Ivory Coast a few days prior

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1971
December 20

Médcins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) is founded in Paris, with leadership by several doctors who had volunteered in Biafra and who were frustrated by the lack of aggressive response by the ICRC and international community. Bernard Kouchner is the most well-known spokesperson for the group

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2006
September 12

Publication of Nigerian author Chimamada Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, a novel about the Nigeria-Biafra War

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2012
October

Publication of Nigerian author Chinua Achebe’s memoir about coming of age during the Nigeria-Biafra War There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra

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