Sunday, May 08, 2011

Reconciliation: A lesson from Nigeria?

I recently finished reading The State of Africa by Martin Meredith. Subtitled 'A History of fifty years of Independence' it is just that - a broad survey of the continent and a book for anyone who believes that useful lessons can be learned from the failure of others.

Well written albeit in simple straightforward prose, the litany of the continents woes is sometimes a little overwhelming; names, places, dates tend to swim into one another, so it is best to read a chapter or two at a time. There are one or two bright patches such as the process of reconciliation in Nigeria following the Biafran war.

Meredith notes that:

The aftermath of the war was notable for its compassion and mercy; and the way in which the memories of Biafra [the secessionist state in south-eastern Nigeria] faded. Quoting Lincoln, Gowon [Head of the Federal Military Government of Nigeria] talked of binding up the nations wounds. No medals for services in the war were awarded, no reparations were demanded; Biafran rebels were reabsorbed in the Federal Army; civil servants [who served the secessionists] returned to their posts in the federal government; and property belonging to Igbos [the people from the rebel areas in the South East] in the North and other Federal areas was restored to them. In this war, said Gowon, there had been 'no victors and no vanquished'.

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