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STORIES BY PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS

STORIES BY PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS Photo Credit - Internet

The story of Biafra will not be complete without the accounts of United States Peace Corps Volunteers in Nigeria.

The Peace Corps Program was created in 1962 by the United States government to provide social and economic development to developing countries of the world through the skills of its volunteers. These volunteers were expected to deploy their education and experience in their host communities, working in government, education, community health, agriculture, technology, and in other spheres, while also promoting understanding between the United States and their host communities.

Many of these volunteers lived in the eastern part of Nigeria when the war broke out in July 1967. Three years later, Biafra capitulated, and on 9 January 1970, General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu fled to Ivory Coast after handing over power to Major-General Philip Effiong. On January 15, 1970, at Dodan Barracks, Lagos, Major-General Philip Effiong announced the end of the Nigeria-Biafra war in the presence of General Yakubu Gowon. He said, “I, Major-General Philip Effiong, Officer Administering the Government of the Republic of Biafra, now wish to make the following declaration: That we affirm that we are loyal Nigerian citizens and accept the authority of the Federal Military Government of Nigeria. That we accept the existing administrative and political structure of the Federation of Nigeria. That any future constitutional arrangement will be worked out by representatives of the people of Nigeria. That the Republic of Biafra ceases to exist.”

And so, Biafra ceased to be.

Many people remained in the former Biafra while others went back to their bases in other parts of the country. Some aid and religious organizations had been thrown out by the Nigerian government. Others, such as the Peace Corps, had recalled their workers. They had given volunteers a few hours to pack up their belongings, say good bye to their friends and colleagues, and report at a central base from where they were evacuated out of Nigeria. Some volunteers, like David Koren and Tom Hebert, would return to work on the Airlift from Sao-Tome. Fifty years after, some of these former volunteers  have shared their Biafran stories with me.

To commemorate the end of the war and honour the services of these men and women, their stories will be published here starting from January 11, 2020.

Documenting the stories of survivors is the core idea of this project and we hope that each story in the collection adds to our understanding of the Biafran experience from the perspective of those who lived it.

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