The case against Victor Banjo: Legal process and the governance of Biafra


Book Section

© 2018 selection and editorial matter, A. Dirk Moses and Lasse Heerten; individual chapters, the contributors. Introduction In June of 1968, Chief Justice of the Biafran Court of Appeal Sir Louis Mbanefo confidently assured a British diplomat that ‘all Biafra not in enemy hands was committed without distinction to independence’. 1 In fact, the Biafran government feared that the situation in the new country was divided from within; there were many within Biafra who did not see themselves as ‘Biafrans’. In the opening months of the war, Biafra’s leadership became increasingly paranoid about threats of subversion and espionage; Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu found internal enemies everywhere he looked, and no one was above suspicion. It was true that many Biafrans had reservations about the war, even though few were actually engaged in the kind of cloak-and-dagger espionage that Ojukwu feared went on behind every closed door. This fear shaped Biafra’s internal administration in important ways. Law occupied an important place in Biafra’s administration and its national imaginary, and the fact that the legal system continued to operate throughout the war suggests that the Biafran government was animated by the law to a greater extent than historians have appreciated, or at least that the secessionist government saw value in the performance of legal processes. The present chapter looks inward on Biafra through the lens of its legal system, which reveals dimensions of Biafra’s internal life not captured in its propaganda and other sources. 2 Using a treason trial from early in the war it investigates how Biafra’s political culture came to be characterized by paranoia, and how the application of military justice shaped questions about the ethnic identity, political ideology and administration of the new state.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Daly, SFC

Published Date

  • January 1, 2017

Book Title

  • Postcolonial Conflict and the Question of Genocide: The Nigeria-Biafra War, 1967-1970

Start / End Page

  • 95 - 112

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9780415347587

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.4324/9781315229294

Citation Source

  • Scopus