- One of Africa's most industrious sons and "father of the Internet" has made a recollection of the bloody Biafran war at the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's assassination in Atlanta, Georgia. Philip Emeagwali, a Nigerian born, also used the event to draw the attention of the world to the "committing suicide" in Africa.
Emeagwali, described as "one of the great minds of the Information Age" by former US President Bill Clinton, recalled the death of a million people, the fleeing of survivors from the "Dance of Death" and setting up of dusty camps in Biafra in 1968.
He said with a pained voice and vacant eyes, his mentor and teacher [one of the refugee directors] informed him about King's assassination. Mr Emeagwali was a 13-year-old refugee in Biafra [now Nigeria], but wanted to know more about Martin Luther King.
Eight out of ten Biafrans were refugees exiled from their own country after Christian army officers had staged a bloody coup that killed Muslim leaders two years earlier.
"The Muslims felt the coup was a tribal mutiny of Christian Igbos against their beloved leaders. The aggrieved Muslims went on a killing rampage, chanting: “Igbo, Igbo, Igbo, you are no longer part of Nigeria!”
Days later 50,000 Igbos were killed in street uprisings. The situation became so worse that killing became familiar to Biafrans, including the 13-year-old Philip.
"Widows and orphans were most of the refugees in our camp. They had survived the Igbo “Dance of Death” – a euphemism for the mass executions. One thousand men at gunpoint forced to dance a public dance. Seven hundred were then shot and buried en masse in shallow graves," he said, recalling the statement of one a hungry murderer that “the graves are not yet full.”
Six months before King's assassination, Philip and his teacher fled from the "Dance of Death" before being conscripted into the Biafran army and sent to the war front.
The child soldier was among 15 million survivors, but the teacher who taught him about King died in the war. An estimated one million people died in the Biafran war.
"Africa is committing suicide: a two-decade war in Sudan, genocidal killings in Rwanda, scorched-earth conflicts in Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, and Liberia. The wars in modern Africa are the largest global-scale loss of life since the establishment of the Atlantic Slave trade, which uprooted and scattered Africa’s sons and daughters across the United States, Jamaica, and Brazil."
He said the continent's "wars are steering the continent toward a sea of self-destruction so deep that even the greatest horror writers are unable to fathom its depths. So, given our circumstances, Martin Luther King was a name unknown, a dead man among millions, with a message that never reached the shores of Biafra."
Unfortunately, his message did not also reach the ears of “The Black Scorpion,” Benjamin Adekunle, a tough Nigerian army commander, whose credo of ethnic cleansing knew nothing of Martin Luther King Jr.’s movement: “we shoot at everything that moves, and when our forces move into Igbo territory, we even shoot things that do not move.”
He enjoined those who have witnessed and survived the injustice of such "nonsensical wars" to portray themselves as the "torchbearers" of King's legacy of peace for our world, our nation and our children.
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