A former US Congressman who piloted relief flights in the now defunct Republic of Biafra during the Nigerian civil war (1967-1970) has spoken in favour of a referendum for the independence of the Biafran territories. This region was forcibly annexed to modern-day Nigeria during the British colonisation, which ended in 1960.
"The Biafrans have known suffering and death and as a responsible witness to that holocaust, and as a Christian man of honour I add my voice to those calling for an internationally recognized referendum on the future of Biafra," Robert Dornan wrote in a statement, sent to IBTimes UK by the Organization of Emerging African States (Oeas).
Dornan flew at least 12 food-relief night flights to Biafra during the conflict, erupted after a Biafran Republic was established in 1967. Following a civil war that claimed between one and three million lives, the republic was re-annexed to Nigeria.
Dornan said: "I was there piloting a dozen mercy flights to help feed starving Biafran children. It was an experience that stayed with me always. Incredibly, Biafra is creeping back into the headlines."
The statement by the former member of the US House of Representatives came as a pro-Biafran movement is gaining momentum in south-eastern Nigeria, where activists hold regular marches calling for independence and the release of their leader Nnamdi Kanu.
The activists often claim security forces open fire on "unarmed" and "peaceful" protesters. Amnesty International confirmed to IBTimes UK that Nigerian security forces had used excessive force against pro-Biafran protesters on some occasions. However, the army and police have denied allegations of violence.
"No one wants to see another Biafran war. With over 185 million people in Nigeria and about 40 million in Biafra, the results would be a catastrophe of Biblical proportions. The timid leadership in the United States and the European Union has sadly neglected and side stepped the Biafra issue," Dornan continued.
The Nigerian government has always maintained that Nigeria's unity is a priority for the country and that although peaceful pro-Biafran protests are welcome, demanding the breakaway of the Biafran territories is against the constitution.
Political figures who spoke on Biafra
Dornan is the latest public figure to speak on the Biafra cause. Earlier in January, the high representative for foreign affairs of the European Union, Federica Mogherini, responded to a letter by Oeas seeking support in the ongoing independence fight.
British MP Angela Reyner met with some Biafran representatives in the UK and said in a statement on Twitter that she had contacted the UK Foreign and Commonwealth office expressing concern over "the situation in Biafra".
Reyner's call for investigations on the ongoing situation followed MPs Tom Elliott and Danny Kinahan's motion in which they acknowledged pro-Biafran calls for independence. The motion read: "That this House acknowledges the Biafran issue could be improved with the co-operation of the Nigerian government by offering a referendum; and urges the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to use its diplomatic strength to assist in the resolution of this matter."
In November 2015, James Duddridge, Minister for Africa and the Caribbean, confirmed that British consular officials will meet Kanu – who holds British and Nigerian citizenships – after a question from Kanu's constituency MP, Harriet Harman.