Will Biafra be updated soon? Why

The Biafra War as a media event

Table of Contents

List of figures

1 Introduction

2. Choice and importance of the topic

3. Research situation

4. History of the Nigerian Civil War 1967-
4.1. Causes of the Civil War
4.2. The road to civil war
4.3. Dimension and impact of the civil war
4.4. propaganda
4.5. End of war and post-war period
4.6. Reintegration and the Political Order in the Post-War Era

5. Depiction of the war in the media
5.1. Thesis and aim of the investigation
5.2. The construction of reality and the role of the media
5.3. The privatization of war propaganda
5.4. The war coverage in the German media
5.4.1. The reporting after independence and the beginning of the military conflict in selected German newspapers
5.4.2. Reporting in The mirror
5.4.3. Qualitative evaluation of the reporting in The mirror

6. Conclusion and outlook



Insurance in lieu of oath:

List of figures

illustration 1: Religius and Ethnic map of Nigeria. Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/de/Religius_and_Ethnic_map_of_Nigeria.png, last updated on July 23, 2012, last checked on October 17, 2013. 10

Figure 2: Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon. Source: http://igbofocus.com/How-Yakubu-Gowon-Caused-The-Ni/Yakubu-Gowon.jpg, last updated on September 30, 2013, last checked on October 17, 2013 .. 14

Figure 3: Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. Source: http://d3trabu2dfbdfb.cloudfront.net/1/2/1270137_o_1.jpeg, last updated on November 26, 2011, last checked on October 17, 2013 .. 16

Figure 4: Title page Der Spiegel, August 19, 1968. Source: ONLINE, SPIEGEL; Hamburg; Germany: DER SPIEGEL 34/1968 - Biafra death sentence for a people. Available online at http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-21112596.html, last checked on October 21, 2013 .. 38

Figure 5: Starving Children of Biafra War. Source: Life, 07/12/1968 - Title page: Starving Children of Biafra War, p. 1. 39

Figure 6: A people dies, 09/02/1968. Source: Der Spiegel 36 (1968), pp. 94-95. 41

Figure 7: PR - The secret great power, Public Relations in Germany, July 8th, 1968. Source: Der Spiegel 28 (1968), pp. 32-42. 42

1 Introduction

Today, the African continent is still regarded as “foreign”, “instinctual”, “cultured” and “unreasonable”. In the past, these arguments served to legitimize, oppress and colonize an entire continent. The “black continent” is being robbed of its dignity through discrediting reporting. Our perception of the African continent is determined less by reality than by representation in the media. In this form, the media kindle hostility and widen the gap between cultures. The recipient of the mass media is confronted every day with images and information about the collapse of states in the “Third World”. In the past there have always been phases in which images and information burst over us in abundance. Due to the sudden disappearance of the reporting, it is not clear to the consumer why such catastrophes and wars occurred and what the causes were.

The targeted examination of the subject of the Biafra war with some journalistic examples is intended to make the critical examination of the reporting clear. In the 1970s, Africa and especially Biafra became an all-encompassing topic in the German media landscape. Biafra has become synonymous with starvation and mass death. The pictures shown were terrifying and depicted dying and starving people in a degrading manner. Photos and other media should suggest a certain image of Africa based on a machinery of propaganda. The image that was already present in most of the minds and still prevails is that of the “wildness” and “lack of culture” of the African continent. The knowledge about the "black continent" is not particularly great, so we write, talk and film about Africa. Educating about the real picture of Africa remains an arduous business.

The aim of the present work is to examine the reporting on the Biafra War in the German print media. The question of the thesis relates above all to the targeted influencing of press agencies and the effect achieved in German society.

First of all, this work will give a brief descriptive overview of the events that led to the civil war in Nigeria. Furthermore, the war period and the post-war period are shown. This is followed by the analysis of the reporting based on selected German newspapers. This is followed by the reporting of the magazine The mirror moved into the center of the investigation. A qualitative study of all follows Mirror- Article from 06/05/1967 to 02/16/1970, which could be assigned a direct connection with the Biafra war.

Attempts are made in the context of various media to clarify the mutual interaction between press agencies and published media.

2. Choice and importance of the topic

My personal interest in this topic is due to a lecture by Dr. Dr. Johannes Harnischfeger in the "Colloquium on Non-European and Early Modern History" at the University of Duisburg-Essen in the summer semester of 2012, chaired by Prof. Dr. Christoph Marx and Prof. Dr. Stefan Brakensiek. The lecture was entitled "Igbo - Nationalism and Biafra " and represents my personal basis on this topic.

The Biafra War in Nigeria (1967-1970) caused a lot of echo in the international media, especially in Germany the media showed images of the war, mainly of starving children and mutilated soldiers.

The causes of the Nigerian civil war, which broke out when the Igbo and a majority of minority peoples in southeastern Nigeria split off under the name "Biafra", are to be found in the socio-economic and cultural north-south divide of the country, which defines Nigerian politics before and after independence. After Nigeria's independence, the political and military elites set in motion a dynamic of ethnic competition.[1] The politicized ethnicity of the country is named as the most important determinant in the political system, it was the mass and mobilization basis for the political parties.[2] Growing ethnic distrust and the resulting political crises shook Nigeria after independence and resulted in a civil war.

The Biafra War, initially fought off the beaten track for a year, became an international war and media event through the publication of war images and other media. The response from newspaper readers, television viewers in Europe and the rest of the world was empathetic and aroused great willingness to donate.

Through the dissemination of images of the starving civilian population, humanitarian organizations were called into action, and these also became important actors in the civil war.

Taken together, the different perspectives of the media representation and the self-perception of the warring parties result in a complex, differentiated picture of the war and its consequences. The history of the Nigerian civil war is predestined for a more detailed analysis of the media products that were published during the war. Dealing with this topic also implies the question of whether the targeted use of the media in the Biafra war had a manipulative or even propagandistic character.

3. Research situation

The literature on this topic is largely shaped by English-speaking authors. The heyday of this topic is to be located in the 1970s, whereby a lot of literature on the Biafra war has also been published subsequently. The most important works, which have often been used in the present work, are the publications of: Axel Harneit-Sievers, Martin Sturmer and Gernot Zieser in the German-speaking area. In the English-speaking world, John De St. Jorre, John Stremlau, Ikzepe Nnaemeka as well as Kenneth Post and Michael Vickers are among the most important authors. German-language research is characterized by the elaboration of overview presentations, which are often similar. The English-language and especially the Nigerian research are shaped by subjective impressions of the time.

In the literary work, the works of C. Odumegwu Ojukwu and Olsegun Obersanjo are particularly striking, as they represent the opposite opinion of both parties.

The elaboration of Gernot Zieser, who made the propaganda strategies of Biafras a research aspect early on in the Nigerian civil war, is particularly important for the development of the media aspect. With his dissertation on the propaganda strategies of Biafra, Gernot Zieser was the first in all of Western Europe to research the work of public relations on behalf of governments. In addition, Zieser examined the intercultural communication between developing and industrialized countries.

4. History of the Nigerian Civil War 1967-1970

The history of the Nigerian civil war is well documented in the current research literature. In large-scale work, both the causes and the course of the Biafra War have been comprehensively dealt with. At this point of the work I would like to forego a detailed description and refer to the relevant literature on the topic.[3]

Instead, I would like to briefly present the historical and cultural context relevant to the present work. At the beginning, the causes of the conflict, some of which stem from the colonial era, are summarized in an overview.

The prehistory of the Biafra War and its course follow, with the position of the propaganda being discussed. The end of the war, the reorganization of Nigeria and the associated problems are discussed in the following sections. In the further course, the focus is on the public discourse and the media representation of the war, which at the same time leads to the main part of the work.

4.1. Causes of the Civil War

The history of Nigeria in its current borders begins in 1914 with the establishment of British protectorates over northern and southern Nigeria and their subsequent amalgamation. While the north of Nigeria remained as a province, the south was divided into an east and west region.

As a result, an area with a distinctly heterogeneous ethnicity emerged.

With the exception of the capital Lagos, which had a special position, there were three regions in which a large number of ethnic groups with different cultures, languages ​​and forms of government lived together. In each of the three regions one of the big three ethnic groups of Nigeria dominate: in the north the Hausas / Fulani, in the southwest the Yoruba and in the southeast the Igbo.

Figure not included in this excerpt

illustration 1: Religius and Ethnic map of Nigeria.

Overall, these large ethnic groups make up about 60% of the total population. There are also a large number of minorities. Around half of Nigeria's total population lives in what was then the north, the largest region in terms of area. The administration of the British colony was based on the system of "indirect rule", which is designed in such a way that it makes use of the power of the traditional rulers and thus establishes itself through them. The already mentioned tripartite division into autonomous regions, each of which was ruled by a majority population, caused social polarization. The social minorities, approx. 40% of the total population, were disadvantaged in this system, because according to the constitution they had neither rights nor special protection.[4]

With Nigeria's independence in 1960 and the establishment of a parliamentary democracy, regional autonomy was already deeply anchored in society. Within the regions, the respective parties represented the interests of the elites, who thus claimed power and were thus able to influence the distribution of the state budget.[5] A new political class emerged at both the federal and regional levels. Their interest was to gain advantages in the struggle for privileges and access to state resources. In order to obtain these privileges, every means was right for them: abuse of office, corruption and manipulation of the political institution for self-enrichment.

Political rules of the game were hardly observed, so that militant riots broke out, especially before and during various elections.[6]

Colonialism in Nigeria not only brought about the integration of the economy into world trade, or an urbanization process, but created one "Forced political integration"[7] of groups with different cultural, religious and ethnic differences. The tensions between inclusion and difference increased the ethnic-regional differences. With the introduction of the protectorate in Nigeria, a stronger self-government of the indigenous population should be promoted. The colonial rule of Nigeria was closely linked to the direct political connection between colonial officials and local, traditional rulers.[8]

As a result of colonial rule and the associated political cooperation between colonial rulers and local authorities, ethnic disparities developed.

“A collective identity of 'the' Yorubas, 'the' Igbo etc. as distinct ethnic groups did not exist in the pre-colonial period. Identity was - at least outside the Islamic world - primarily defined locally [...][9]

The instrumentalization of ethnic identity was politicized by the 1950s at the latest. In order to acquire voters, legitimize political independence and later gain control of the political system, the Nigerian elite needed a broad mass of the population.[10]

The increasingly ethnic dimension of politics was promoted through appeals of regional and ethnic affiliation, or through threats and marginalization. Ethnonationalism was transported through the election campaigns of the party leaders to the smallest municipalities, where they were stylized as defenders and protectors. The diversity of ethnic groups was instrumentalized by the politicians and was considered an effective means of recruiting voters when other arguments for mobilizing voters failed.[11] It can be assumed that the cornerstone of the ethnic-cultural differences is already there "The most important determinant in the emerging political system of Nigeria"[12] was.

4.2. The road to civil war

All elites were interested in maintaining the system, but in some cases pursued their own interests, so that Nigeria's unstable political system within the regions and coalitions quickly began to break up after the declaration of independence.[13] At the regional level, the clientele system was promoted and at the national level competition was created in which the ethnic disputes merely exacerbated the political conflicts.[14] The fragile political balance between the three regions and their elites, which already had extensive autonomy after independence, threatened one "Escalating series of political crises"[15] collapse. On January 15, 1966, young officers carried out a military coup, which was the climax of the violent clashes.

Leading politicians from the northern and western regions were killed in this coup. The intentions of the putschists, the majority of whom were Igbos, were initially social revolutionary and they opposed corruption, abuse of office and called for a move away from tribalism.[16] The majority of the putschists came from southern Nigeria, a fact that increased interethnic distrust.


[1] Harneit-Sievers, Axel: "'Though Tribe and Tongue May Differ, in Brotherhood We Stand': Nationalism, Ethnicity and Federalism in Nigeria." In: Bruckmüller, Ernst, Sepp Linhart and Christian Mährdel (eds.): Nationalism. Vienna 1994, p. 220.

[2] Harneit-Sievers, Axel: Consequences of the War and Overcoming the War in Africa: The Nigerian Civil War 1967-1970. Hanover 1992, p.15

[3] For the history of Nigeria see Harneit-Sievers, Axel (2000): African History and World History. Regional and universal topics in research and teaching. Berlin: The Arabic Book (workbooks / Center for the Modern Orient, Humanities Centers Berlin e.V, 17) .; Jean Bühler (1968): Biafra: Tragedy of a Gifted People. Zurich, Stuttgart: Flamberg, Schweizer Spiegel .; Isichei, Elisabeth (1983): A History of Nigeria. London.; Graf, William D. (1988): The Nigerian State. Political Economy, State Class and Political System in the Post-Colonial Era. London.

For the civil war see Harneit-Sievers, Axel (1992): Der Sezessionskrieg um Biafra.´No winners, no defeated´ - an African success story? In: Hofmeier, Rolf and Volker Mattheis (eds.): Forgotten wars in Africa. Göttingen, pp. 277-318 .; Wirtz, Albert (1982): War in Africa. The post-colonial conflicts in Nigeria, Sudan, Chad and Congo. Wiesbaden.

For the post-war period, see: Nnaemeka, Ikzepe (2000): Post Biafra Marginalization of the Igbo. London, New York: Zed Books .; Eghose E. Osaghae, Ebere Onwudiwe, Rotimi T. Suberu (eds.) (2002): The Nigerian Civil War and its aftermath: John Archers.

[4] See Graf, William D .: The Nigerian State, p. 15.

[5] Post, Kenneth, Vickers, Michael (1973): Structure and Conflict in Nigeria 1960-1964, London. P.63-106.

[6] The 1963 census controversy should be mentioned here.

[7] Osterhammel, Jürgen; Jansen, Jan C. (2012): Colonialism. History, forms, consequences. 7., completely revised. and updates Edition, original edition Munich: Beck (Beck series, 2002: C. H. Beck Wissen). P. 88.

[8] Marx, Christoph (2005): History of Africa. From 1800 to the present. 1st edition Stuttgart: UTB history. P. 161.

[9] Harneit-Sievers, Axel: Consequences of the war and overcoming the war. In: Africa, p. 15.

[10] Wirtz, Albert: War in Africa, pp. 78-62.

[11] See Graf, William D .: The Nigerian State, p. 32.

[12] Harneit-Sievers, Axel: Consequences of the war and coping with the war. In: Africa, p. 15.

[13] Harneit-Sievers, Axel: The war of secession around Biafra, p. 279.

[14] Heerten, Lasse (2011): A for Auschwitz, B for Biafra. The civil war in Nigeria (1967-1970) and the universalization of the Holocaust. In: Contemporary History Research / Studies in Contemporary History (8), H 13.

[15] Diamond, L. (1988): Class, Ethnicity and Democracy in Nigeria. The Failure of the First Republic. London. P. 173.

[16] Harneit-Sievers, Axel: The war of secession around Biafra, p. 279.

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