June 5, 1969

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

The ICRC was sending aid into Biafra with the approval of the Federal Military Government, although they, like other organizations in the airlift, flew at night into the Uli airport. Unlike Joint Church Aid, the ICRC flew from Fernando Pó (Equatorial Guinea) as well as Dahomey.. In June, a Swedish Red Cross plane was shot down by the Nigerian airforce. A few weeks later, the Nigerians stripped the ICRC of its role in coordinating the official relief proram. The government’s new, hard line on relief flights was made clear in a report in the Africa Research Bulletin:

A Federal statement…said that “this disaster has long been prophesied by the Federal Military Government to the International Committee of the Red Cross…which has repeatedly been approached to discontinue mercy night flights in favour of daylight flights so that their identity could at no time be mistaken for Ojukwu’ s arms planes, many of which are of the same type.”…Recent raids by aircraft mistaken for civilian planes had obligated the Federal Government to resume night air patrols “bearing in mind the ICRC’s words that they were prepared to risk their lives to feed the rebel civilians.”

The FMG had not, up to that point, been attacking relief planes, but this was the warning that such tacit acceptance of the flights was no longer operational.

See Also:

De Waal, Alex. Famine Crimes: Politics and the Disaster Relief Industry in Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997.

Desgrandchamps, Marie-Luce. “’Organising the unpredictable’: the Nigeria-Biafra war and its impact on the ICRC.” International Review of the Red Cross 94:888 December 2012): 1409-32.

Nigeria Situation Report: ICRC Plane Shot Down. June 6, 1969. Archived at 2001-2009State.gov.

“Red Cross Plane Carrying Supplies To Biafra Downed by Nigerian Jets.” Washington Post, June 7, 1969, A10.

Source: Laurie Wiseberg, “The International Politics Of Relief: A Case Study Of The Relief Operations Mounted During The Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970),” PhD Dissertation, UCLA, 1973.