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Int’l Media Reports: protests over Biafra activist’s arrest

Nigeria protests over Biafra activist’s arrest – BBC

10 November 2015

Hundreds of people in southern Nigeria have been protesting about the continued detention of Nnamdi Kanu, an activist who supports the creation of a breakaway state of Biafra.

The director of Radio Biafra was arrested last month and is still being held despite a court order to free him, his mainly ethnic Igbo supporters say.

The government says his station has been operating without a licence.

Biafran secessionists fought a three-year civil war that ended in 1970.

More than one million people lost their lives before the uprising was eventually quelled by the military.

Secessionist groups have attracted the support of many young people in the south-east in recent years.

The BBC’s Abdussalam Ahmed in the southern-eastern city of Enugu says in reality they do not want a repeat of the civil war but are keen to draw the attention of the central government to some developmental challenges the region faces.

Our correspondent says the peaceful protests started on Friday in the oil-rich Delta state and has since taken place in five other major cities in the region.

The demonstrators are mostly young men holding Biafra flags and banners with pictures of Mr Kanu, who is also a leader in the secessionist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

Tuesday’s march is taking place in the city of Owerri in Imo state a day after the region’s biggest market in the city of Aba was reportedly shut down by protesters.

A Pro Biafra protester in southern Nigeria on Sunday 8 November, 2015 [Nnamdi Kanu has been in the custody of Nigeria’s intelligence agency for more than three weeks]

Nnamdi Kanu has been in the custody of Nigeria’s intelligence agency for more than three weeks

“We won’t give up until our director Nnamdi Kanu is released,” one protester told our reporter during a protest in Enugu.

The Biafra activists say a court in the capital, Abuja, ordered the release of Mr Kanu but authorities have refused to comply despite all the conditions set being met.

It is not clear where Radio Biafra is based but it mainly broadcasts to the Igbo-speaking south-east of the country.

The Nigerian government began jamming its signals in July but it is still available online and via mobile phones by a dialling a local number, our reporter says.

An IPOB leader, Uchemna Madu, told the BBC that the group was fighting against the “injustice and inequality” ethnic Igbos faced in Nigeria.

“We believe in Nigeria, we have businesses everywhere in the country but we are getting nothing apart from political and social marginalisation,” he said.

“Our lives and properties are not secured, we want to live on our own.”

The Nigerian authorities have always maintained that most of the issues the Biafra activists are complaining about are not unique to southern part of the country.

Shots, teargas fired at pro-Biafra demo in Nigeria By AFP/UK Daily Mail – 10 November 2015

Police in Nigeria’s oil hub of Port Harcourt on Tuesday fired shots and teargas to disperse hundreds of pro-Biafra supporters as they marched for the release of a key activist, residents said.

Shots were fired into the air to scare away the protesters in the southern city, while air force helicopters were deployed for surveillance, they added.

The police spokesman for Rivers state, of which Port Harcourt is the capital, confirmed the protest but denied shooting or using teargas.

Port Harcourt refinery in Nigeria’s Rivers State ©Pius Utomi Ekpei (AFP/File)

“Measures have been put in place to handle the situation in such a way that public peace is not disrupted and to ensure life and property are protected,” Ahmad Muhammad told AFP, without elaborating.

The protest, involving the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group, comes after a series of similar marches in state capitals in southern Nigeria in the last week, despite a police ban.

The groups support the creation of a breakaway state of Biafra in the southeast and want the release of Nnamdi Kanu, who is believed to be a major IPOB sponsor and director of the pirate radio station Radio Biafra.

He was arrested in October, several months after Nigeria’s government ordered Radio Biafra to be taken off air for allegedly broadcasting “unsavoury hate messages”.

A previous unilateral declaration of secession to create the Republic of Biafra sparked a brutal civil war in Nigeria from 1967 to 1970.

Federal police said last week security had been increased across the country and measures put in place “to ensure security and nobody will be allowed to disturb the peace of the nation”.

The demand for Kanu’s release has stirred up more protests across states in the region in the past days.

Since the end of the civil war, which left more than one million dead, many from starvation and disease, there have been sporadic attempts to revive the Biafra movement.

– ‘No faith in Nigeria’ –

The Igbo people who dominate the southeast region claim they have been unfairly treated — even punished — since the fighting stopped.

Infrastructure such as roads, water and electricity is lacking along with medical care and education, while Igbos say they have been denied senior political posts.

The founder of the Igbo Youth Movement, Elliot Uko, says years of feeling marginalised have fuelled the current protests.

“These people who want Biafra do not have faith in Nigeria anymore,” he said.

“The idea of re-enacting (the) Biafra Republic has always been in the hearts and minds of young people, especially those who seem not to believe that the Igbo will ever get justice in Nigeria.

“They believe Nigeria is pulling the Igbo backward, they believe the Igbo are better off in a separate state. I have been organising seminars and workshops for Igbo youths for decades, I know their mindset.”

A revival of secessionist calls was exploiting lingering anger and bitterness, he said, adding the government needed to take note of the grievances and to “give all sections (of society) a sense of belonging”.

Children who fled the civil war in Nigeria’s Biafra region receive food in Libreville, Gabon in March, 1969 ©- (AFP/File)

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