Nigeria’s independence, 60 years later

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Nigeria became independent from Britain on October 1, 1960, and today has Africa’s largest economy. FRANCE 24’s Nicolas Germain looks at how the newly independent state was soon entangled in a devastating civil war in the eastern Biafra region that would claim nearly two million lives.

Africa’s most populous nation became independent from Britain on October 1, 1960, a little over 100 years after colonizers first arrived.

The spread of Western education from Christian missionaries was strongly opposed, especially by Muslim leaders in the north. Under colonialism, the south was more developed, and this division would have long-lasting consequences that continued earlier independence.

Nigeria’s first nationalist movements emerged in the 1920s, and opposition to colonial rule grew over the next three decades. After independence, tensions between two ethnic groups – northern Hausa and eastern Igbo – led to violence in 1966, when more than 1,000 people were killed in the north.

Igbo leader Emeka Ojukwu declared independence from the eastern republic of Biafra in 1967, and the civil war began in July.

The war lasted until 1970, and nearly two million people died, most of them from starvation and disease. After witnessing the horrors of war, humanitarian workers founded the NGO Doctors Without Borders.

50 years later, the Biafran War remains far the deadliest conflict in Nigeria’s history.

Click on the player to see the full FRANCE 24 report.

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