Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Daly on Biafra

In 2018, Samuel F. Daly, Duke University published "The case against Victor Banjo: Legal process and the governance of Biafra," pp.95-112 in A. Dirk Moses and Lasse Heerte, eds., Postcolonial Conflict and the Question of Genocide, out with Routledge. Here's an excerpt from the introduction:
In June of 1968, Chief Justice of the Biafran Court of Appeal Sir Louis Mbanefo confidently assured a British diplomat that "all Biafra not in enemy hands was committed without distinction to independence." In fact, the Biafran government feared that the situation in the new country was divided from within; there were many within Biafra who did not see themselves as "Biafrans." In the opening months of the war, Biafra’s leadership became increasingly paranoid about threats of subversion and espionage; Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu found internal enemies everywhere he looked, and no one was above suspicion. It was true that many Biafrans had reservations about the war, even though few were actually engaged in the kind of cloak-and-dagger espionage that Ojukwu feared went on behind every closed door. This fear shaped Biafra’s internal administration in important ways. Law occupied an important place in Biafra’s administration and its national imaginary, and the fact that the legal system continued to operate throughout the war suggests that the Biafran government was animated by the law to a greater extent than historians have appreciated, or at least that the secessionist government saw value in the performance of legal processes. The present chapter looks inward on Biafra through the lens of its legal system, which reveals dimensions of Biafra’s internal life not captured in its propaganda and other sources. Using a treason trial from early in the war it investigates how Biafra’s political culture came to be characterized by paranoia, and how the application of military justice shaped questions about the ethnic identity, political ideology and administration of the new state.

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