Chinua Achebe & the Nigerian Civil
Achebe was born in Nigeria
in 1930. He is the son of a teacher and the most widely read African novelist
in history. For the first 30 years of his life Nigeria was a British colony and it
was controlled and exploited by the British for agricultural goods such as
cocoa. As such, much of Achebe’s earlier work, including his most famous novel ‘Things
Fall Apart’, describes the destructive influence that the European colonizers had
on African culture.
Nigerians were granted independence from the British on the 1st October
1960 but it was not long until internal disputes and unrest prompted a group of
Igbo (people who lived in the south-east of Nigeria) to break away from the
main Nigerian government. They declared their independence from Nigeria in July 1967 and called themselves the Republic of Biafra. Achebe lived in this area and
worked for the Biafran government as an ambassador.
the war did not go well for the Biafran’s. The
Nigerian army was more powerful and they imposed economic sanctions on the Biafran people preventing them from receiving food. Nigeria also prevented foreign medical supplies
and doctors from reaching Biafra. By the end
of the war in 1970 the inhabitants of the country were starving and it is
estimated that between one and three million people died of malnutrition over
the course of the three year war.
majority of the people who died were civilians who had not been involved in the
fighting but suffered due to the lack of food and adequate health care. These
deaths created international outrage as poets like Achebe publicized the plight
of the refugees in the camps through poems like ‘Refugee Mother and Child.’
a result of the atrocities in Nigeria
the organization Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctor’s
Without Borders) was set up in 1971 to medical aid to people in war torn countries.