n Africa Conflict Monthly Monitor - MASSOB and security in south-east Nigeria - although peaceful, this Biafran secessionist movement should not be ignored - : West Africa - issue in focus

Volume 2013, Issue 09
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The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), led by Ralph Uwazuruike, is a secessionist movement located in the south-east of Nigeria. This organisation nurtures a long-held hope of the formation of a state, Biafra, independent from Nigeria. Biafra's attempted secession in 1967 resulted in a devastating civil war that lasted until 1970, when the breakaway territory capitulated and was reintegrated with Nigeria. That war resulted in an estimated 1 to 3 million mortalities, due largely to the famine and disease. The war also cemented longstanding ethnic, political and religious tensions, which remain factors in Nigerian security and stability today.

Currently, MASSOB is a prominent group amongst several Biafran liberation movements and the latest iteration of a series of such movements that have arisen since the 1967-1970 war. MASSOB is formed out of the Igbo ethnic group that inhabits a region of southern and south-eastern Nigeria, referred to by some as Biafra. As with most of Nigeria's domestic politics and non-state-actor-related violence, ethnic tension is a key conflict driver behind the Biafran separatist movement that MASSOB represents. In the south and south-east of the country, ethnic tension is further exacerbated by several factors. Notably, while this region is extremely densely populated, the Biafra region is economically weak and underdeveloped as a result of political marginalisation. The Niger Delta, which is in the south of the country, is similarly underdeveloped and economically sidelined. The Delta region is often counted as part of Biafra and is the primary economic source of wealth in Nigeria. As a result, inhabitants of the Delta and Biafra in general feel victimised by 'the north', as Biafrans often refer to the Abuja-based government. This underlying dissatisfaction further fuels the Biafran movement.

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