Recently, The CIHA Blog posted two reflections from our conference on Biafra/the Nigerian Civil War: The Problem of How to Enact Diakonia: The World Council of Churches and the Nigerian Civil War, 1967-1970 and Biafra Faith-Based Humanitarian Intervention: Basis in the World Council of Churches. Today, we post an ‘In the News’ piece that demonstrates how the relevance of this conflict persists to the present day. A recent editorial in the New York Times titled “Block the Sale of Warplanes to Nigeria” persuaded Dr Herbert Ekwe Ekwe to write a separate piece called “‘Block the Sale of Warplanes to Nigeria’: What is Missing in an Otherwise Excellent NYT Editorial.” Dr. Ekwe Ekwe praises the author for calling out for the prevention of the US government selling warplanes to the Nigerian government. However, Ekwe Ewke also critiques the editorial, positing that the current situation with Boko Haram and the Buhari regime is directly related to Biafra. The author’s perspectives demonstrate the continuing significance of Biafra/the Nigerian Civil War as the history of the conflict endures within the contemporary politics in Nigeria. Continue reading
Last week we posted the first of two reflections from our conference on Biafra/the Nigerian civil war. In this reflection, Mercy Oduyoye, the director of the Institute of African Women in Religion and Culture at Trinity Theological Seminary in Ghana, discusses her personal experiences with the Biafra/Nigerian civil war and the involvement of the World of Churches in the conflict. Oduyoye leaves readers with a strong statement regarding the Christian base for humanitarian aid and the ecumenical diakonia service – a Christian witness to service that in turn challenges colonial paternalism and social structures that perpetuate poverty.
by Prof. Mercy Oduyoye
I have offered to be on this panel in order to share a personal experience and call attention to the participation of the World Council of Churches-WCC in humanitarian interventions and the theories and theologies that inform its contribution.
In 1968, I married Modupe Oduyoye, a Nigerian, while working in Geneva with the WCC in its Youth Department. Because of our marriage, when I completed my three-year contract in 1970, I did not seek a renewal with the WCC but accepted another offer from the All Africa Conference of Churches-AACC, which made it possible for me to live with my husband and work from Ibadan. Modupe had just moved from being the General Secretary of the Student Christian Movement-SCM of Nigeria, to the position of Literature Secretary of the Christian Council of Nigeria. At this time, the late lawyer/politician, Bola Ige, and the late medical doctor, Akanu Ibiam, formerly sir Francis Ibiam, were well known names in the Nigerian Student Christian Movement, the World Student Christian Federation and in the WCC. Continue reading
We post this week two more reflections from our conference on Biafra/the Nigerian civil war. The first is by Hans von Ruette, the archivist of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, who explores the historical documentation of the WCC to argue that the Council found itself in an unresolvable predicament and experienced severe tensions between remaining apolitical and taking sides in the conflict. Von Ruette ends his post with an impassioned plea to consult archives whenever possible. The questions of what archives exist (written, oral, pictorial) and how to access and interpret them became a major theme of the conference.
By Hans von Rütte, Archivist of World Council of Churches, Geneva (Switzerland)
Abstract: The World Council of Churches was one of the most active external actors in the Nigerian/Biafran war. But it faced an intractable dilemma, caught between enacting Christian ethics of providing relief, on one hand, and keeping a neutral position in order to broker peace, on the other. Different agendas, internal and external, interfered with the result that the WCC became largely unable to act. Ultimately, the dilemma between answering the humanitarian call and receiving and mediating political-diplomatic intelligence was unresolvable. My analysis uses WCC archives to make this argument. Continue reading
Thus far, The CIHA Blog has posted a number of reflections on last October’s Biafra workshop, including Anthonia Kalu on our common humanity, Philip C. Aka on humanitarian integrity, and Helen Chukwuma on arms and welfare humanitarianism. Next in our series comes from Abene Kyere, one of the Blog’s editorial assistants.
by Abena Kyere
It is amazing how a Buchi Emechata book, Destination Biafra, and a workshop can keep you awake and pondering. A workshop keeps you awake when you are one of the organizers and wondering how tomorrow, the first day of the workshop, will turn out. Luckily for us (the Ghana team) the workshop on Rethinking the Origins of Humanitarian Action in Africa turned out well and very fulfilling, thanks to the enthusiasm of all participants and modern technology! Continue reading
It’s not possible to innovate people out of poverty
by Tom Murphy for Humanosphere
commentary by Cilas Kemedjio
This article points out that “innovation” is the new path to paradise in Africa. Yet it also makes us question whether, when it comes to solving intractable problems on the continent as well as in poor communities around the world, the rich really want to find sustainable solutions. Here, since development, economic adjustment, good governance programs, democracy, respect for human rights, and other “solutions” have proved unsustainable, so-called experts are searching for a new fix. It’s always about the magic wand, and the next, and the next, with no accountability when it does not work.
commentary by Akosua Adomako Ampofo
It was the early 1990s. In Ghana we were about half a decade into the Structural Adjustment Program that was meant to place us back on even keel. The medicine introduced to heal our economy, some contended, was a lot more severe than the disease. This was the time when smiling, semi-naked black children graced the cover of a World Bank publication—here was poverty glorified for your coffee table. It was also the time when a World Bank memo asserting that it was best to shift support from Higher Education in Ghana to basic education was “leaked” to some of us at the University of Ghana. Poor people did not deserve higher education, or perhaps they simply didn’t know what to do with it. (The Bank subsequently intimated the memo was not the official viewpoint.) Continue reading