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Republic of Biafra (Nigeria)

Historical flag

Last modified: 2014-07-05 by bruce berry
Keywords: biafra | nigeria | africa | sun |
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[Flag of Biafra] image by Željko Heimer, 09 July 2006

See also:


Background

Biafra was a secessionist state in south-eastern Nigeria that existed from 30 May 1967 to 15 January 1970 which took its name from the Bight of Biafra in the Atlantic Ocean to its south. Its inhabitants were mostly the Igbo people who led the secession due to economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions among the various peoples of Nigeria. The creation of the new state that was pushing for recognition was among the causes of the Nigerian Civil War.

On 29 May 1967 Lt. Col. Emeka Ojukwu, the military governor of the Eastern Region, emerged as the leader of Igbo secessionist sentiment and declared the independence of the Eastern Region as the "Republic of Biafra." The ensuing Nigerian Civil War resulted in over 30,000 deaths before ending in the defeat of Biafra in 1970.
Jens Pattke, 08 July 2006


Republic of Biafra (1967-1970)

According to Flags of the World by EMC Barraclough  (1969) [bar69], "The Republic of Biafra was formed in Eastern Nigeria on 30 May 1967 had a flag of red, black and green, horizontally, with a rising sun from the Coat of Arms (of the old Eastern Province) in gold in the centre. This became obsolete when the Republic ceased to exist on 15 January 1970."

The design and colours are based on the Pan-African flag designed by Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League.
Don Hagemann
28 Nov 1995

Alternative Design

[Flag of Biafra] image by Rob Raeside, 08 July 2006

The eleven rays of the sun represented the eleven provinces of Biafra. The lowest rays were usually more or less horizontal and the remaining rays spread evenly. The rays were normally long and slender, and usually slightly wavy.
Leif Hellström, 24 April 1999

I have in my possession a 12-inch long player vinyl record entitled "This is Biafra" issued during the war by the Biafran Students Association in New York City. The cover design is a large picture of the Biafran flag, quite similar to the first image. There is also a picture in the book "The Nigerian Civil War" by John de St Jorre, of Ojkwu sitting in front of a Biafran flag. Although the flag is partially obscured, it seems similar to the first image. The flag in this picture was obviously 'thrown together' and not professionally made. This 'makeshift' quality was typical of much of the Biafran experiment and may account for the several slightly different versions of the flag extant.
John Beadle, 12 April 1999

With reference to my earlier comments on the Biafran flag, I enclose a couple of scans which help illustrate what the sun in the flag actually looked like. Although neither example is from a proper national flag (one shows a couple of uniform patches, and the other a unit flag), to the best of my knowledge they are representative of how the sun was presented on the flag and elsewhere. Note the slightly wavy rays, of unequal length and width.

[Biafra Military Patches]  Military Patches

[Biafra Military Flag]  Military Flag.

 Images sent by Leif Hellström, 23 April 1999

The 27 April 2000 issue of Courier International (#495) includes the translation of an interview given by Ralph Uwazuruike to the Nigerian weekly magazine Tempo.

Uwazuruike is the leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).  MASSOB has defined a program with 25 steps to achieve the independence of Biafra by non-violence. The third step will occur on 27 May 2000, with the proclamation of independence of Biafra. The proclamation is intended to inform the world, not to create a really independent state (which has actually no police, no army, no paramilitary troops). Proclamation of independence will be symbolized by hoisting the flag.

According to the daily Nigerian newspaper Vanguard, also quoted in Courier International, the governors of the four South-East states of Nigeria have called for a constitutional reform and the establishment of a confederation. This claim is the consequence of the proclamation of Sharia (Islamic) law in the northern state of Zamfara, and may constitute the first step towards the secession of the South-East of Nigeria.

According to Leadership (Abuja) dated 05 June 2008, the flag issue has resurfaced:

Delta State police command has warned members of MASSOB in the state to desist from hoisting the Biafran flag or be prepared to face the wrath of the law.

Mr. Charles Muka, the Delta State police Public Relations Officer, said that MASSOB was an illegal association.

The public relations officer said that the acting commissioner of police, Mr. Jacob Oshomogho, had ordered the arrest and prosecution of anyone caught with the flag.

It was gathered that some flags suspected to be that of Biafra were seen hoisted at the summit junction, Coker area and Umuagu in the state capital, Asaba.

[...]

Some Nigerians who refused to disclose their identity said that security men should act fast before the situation leads to a crisis. They attributed the hoisting of the flags to ignorance on the part of some members of the association.

Source: allafrica.com
Ivan Sache, 30 April 2000; 06 June 2008

Variation

[Biafra variation] image by Jorge Candeias, 03 Aug 2005
Source: Biafranet.com

This is a variation of the flag of Biafra. The flag above is used in a number of places, the sun-symbol as being composed of two separate elements, the half-sun above and a narrow rectangle below. However, some images of this symbol show it differently, with three elements, as a half ring separates the sun proper from its rays. Several examples of this design can be seen at Biafranet together with other examples with the solid sun. Since Biafranet is as Biafran as web pages get, I suppose that the two versions are used interchangeably.
Jorge Candeias, 03 Aug 2005


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