The OAU And Conflict Management In The Nigeria Civil War

Project and Seminar Material for International Relations

The OAU And Conflict Management In The Nigeria Civil War


This work examines the role organization of African unity played in conflict management of Nigeria civil war from 1967-1970. After the end of colonial era in Nigeria, the emergence of political party triggered the conflict between the three tribes in Nigeria from the NCNC, AG and NPC. The killing of Major General Aguiyi Ironsi who tries to move for unitary system of government and the killings of thousands of Ibo’s all around northern and western part of Nigeria and making the country unconducive for the ibo’s. Colonel Ojukwu been the governor of the eastern part of Nigeria demanded the return of ibo’s back to eastern region. After the death of Major General Aguiyi Ironsi, Leiutenant Colonel Yakubu Gowon emerged as the Head of State. After the meeting in 1966 Aburi in Gold Coast between Ojukwu and Gowon the reach a dialogue. On May 30th1966 Ojukwu declared Biafra an independent State, after some meetings against the secession which failed leads to the outburst of civil war. The OAU which was created for the unity of the African countries under the chairmanships of Emperor Haile Selassie, President Ahidjo, President Ankrah and President Diori. The OAU is, by design and constitution, an essentially conservative organization. It is anti-secessionist, anti-interventionist, and anti-border changes. Such an Organization must face up to the questions of change and destruction that the normal social process inevitably involves, that is, whether or not to recognize a change in a concrete situation and if not, what concerted action should be taken to frustrate the change. The OAU decided not to recognize the change in the Nigerian situation inherent in Biafra’s demand for secession. It’s inability to enforce its decisions on Member States paved way for the continuity of the civil war. The OAU could do nothing to prevent four Member States (Tanzania, Zambia, the Ivory Coast, and Gabon) from recognizing Biafra. Therefore it was recommended that Organization should deal with substantive issues. It is essential to see the problem as it really is, if necessary by sending committees of inquiry or hearing both sides, and not as members feel it is. Each conflict has its own peculiarities and nothing is gained by treating it as a precedent.

Chapter Five


As is clear from its record, the Organization was always most successful in the first phase of action intended to maintain internal order, namely putting an end to active hostilities or intervention. (Of course, except the Nigerian case, where the OAU had no success from the beginning.} The Crisis could sometimes be kept from spreading, the fighting stopped and the parties brought to the conference table. However, when it came to the second phase, finding a solution to the problem and settling the dispute definitively, there was little or no success. No borders were drawn, reconciliation was urged but not imposed or accepted, subversion or intervention often resumed after initial temporary success in stopping it.

The OAU’s task was not finished as long as peace and harmony were threatened and a conflict could start again. What was far more serious was that the OAU had steadily decreased its efforts. Whereas it appointed a Commission to seek a settlement between Algeria and Morocco, there was nobody to study and inform the Organization of the Situation in the North of Africa. The OAU drew up an ambitious if impracticable peace plan for the Congo: a ceasefire, a reconciliation, a reminder to the warring parties of their pledges; the creation of a true Algerian presence. During the civil war in Nigeria, however, the OAU went to the other extreme and its presence had little or no significance.

One thing has to be admitted: all the OAU’s activities were characterized by its weakness and conservatism. The Organization had few material means or sources of pressure upon its members. It did not have the military or financial force to run a real peace keeping operation. Nor could it impose decisions. Only when contending nations realized that they could not get what they wanted did they call upon the OAU to restore peace or seek with them a solution. Identified its hands with Article III, paragraphs 2 and 3. And the only solution a nation would accept was one it already desired or a second best, Very much depended on good will. It is important to recognize this, because each attempt at imposing a solution had failed, the most visible failure came when the Congo Commission forgot its limits -and tried to impose a solution on Prime Minister Tshombe. Neither a ceasefire nor reconciliation could be forced on opposing sides, Politics was the art of knowing nor was doing what possible. The OAU enjoyed its successes when rival parties were simply encouraged to define and then accept their own terms, by helping them find a solution, and then consecrating it on the altar of African Unity, the OAU had a definite role to play.

But the Organization could increase its change of success. As an international organization, it should be fundamentally, if not exclusively, a reaction to the problem of war. The Pacific Settlement approach should be characterized by emphasis upon the problem of discouraging It has resort to war as a means of solving disputes. To deal with every dispute. No matter how fruitless or dangerous it appeared, it is better to attempt a settlement than to let a dispute deteriorate. Moreover, the sooner it acted, the better, for the most realistic solution might best be found before hatred and passion accumulated and clouded the acceptable terms. It is necessary always to pay attention to timing. The best moment to offer services is when there is a draw. When the parties are of equal strength and neither could overcome the other, both will be most willing to compromise. Even after one party has seized the initiative, there are periods of deadlock and stalemate when a settlement may seem reasonable. The last opportunity is just before the defeat of one side, and a political conclusion may prove more satisfactory than a military victory.

The Organization should deal with substantive issues. It is essential to see the problem as it really is, if necessary by sending committees of inquiry or hearing both sides, and not as members feel it is. Each conflict has its own peculiarities and nothing is gained by treating it as a precedent. Fear of territorial adjustments or tribalism is not a sufficient reason to ignore legitimate claims and aspirations. On this basis the OAU can seek feasible solutions. The next and most difficult step is to obtain acceptance from the parties. This can be done first by emphasizing the advantages of a settlement, any settlement, over the continuation of a conflict. Warfare harms both sides and internal strife only leads to lasting bitterness. But a temporary disengagement is not enough.As long as the underlying causes have not been resolved, the conflict could flare up again.

Finally, it has to convince both sides of the advantages of the proposed compromise, and the compromise has to be designed to provide both sides with some advantage, If the parties are not willing to accept a settlement, the other member states should seriously consider whether pressure is not appropriate. The OAU has few resources, and an attempt at imposing a solution by force is bound to fail. Still the Organization can certainly exert greater pressure than it has in the past. Moral pressure can also be fit.

The parties could be censured for their intransigence. Diplomatic pressure is also possible, and a threat from the member states to sever relations and cease support will not leave the belligerents indifferent. Even economic sanctions are possible in some cases. This procedure is realistic, but it requires considerably more imagination and courage. For it to work, it is also essential to develop a feeling for compromise. In the OAU, the members dealing with a conflict have to be neutral. This does not mean a mixture of states, but a body consisting of members that earnestly desire a solution, then, the parties have to be open to compromise. They cannot expect to obtain all their demands, some of which are unreasonable in |the circumstances. Unfortunately, the experiences in seeking internal order in the Organization all too often show that some of its members take sides or even intervene and that the parties are very inflexible. Only if this changes is there real hope for maintaining internal order.

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