Colonial Heritage, Identity-Building and Communication: English and Nigerian Languages in Biafra

Ugochukwu, Françoise (2019). Colonial Heritage, Identity-Building and Communication: English and Nigerian Languages in Biafra. In: Kelly, Michael; Footitt, Hilary and Salama-Carr, Myriam eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Languages and Conflict. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 419–439.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-04825-9_19

Abstract

The Biafran War (1967–1970) has often been called “the forgotten war”, yet it marked a watershed in the development of the Nigerian foreign policy, gave birth to the NGO Médecins sans frontières and its refugee camps taught foreign journalists the intercultural skills they were to use later to report on other African conflicts. While many books and scholarly articles have been written on the war, its use of languages and impact on post-war language policies have never really been considered. Using media bulletins compiled by the author between 1968 and 1970, data collected by French journalists and published in 1968–1969, memoirs published later by various people involved in the humanitarian efforts of the period and songs recorded by the Biafran Red Cross during the conflict, this chapter will reveal how war years confirmed language preferences built during the colonial period. It will show how the necessity to communicate both with the outside and within the Biafran enclave contributed to gradually shape language practices, and will consider the reasons behind that choice. It will finally confirm the huge emotional and psychological power mobilised by languages during the conflict.

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