The Republic of Biafra

2/03/2012     Biafra

The Republic of Biafra was a short lived state in Eastern Nigeria. It declared independence on 30th May 1967 and the Nigerian authorities began military operations against it in the July. Some African countries officially recognised the new country and some Western countries provided assistance, including Portugal. The first Independence issue of Biafra (issued 5th February 1968) was printed by the Mint in Lisbon.

The second issue, from which the offset (offered as lot 7656 in our 9th November sale) comes, was overprinted on Nigerian stamps at the Biafran Government Printer. A third issue, the First Anniversary of Independence, was also printed in Lisbon. Stanley Gibbons footnote a fourth issue of Butterflies, plus the same overprinted for the 1968 Mexico Olympics. As there is no evidence that these issues were actually used for postage within Biafra they fall outside of the scope of their catalogue and hence do not receive catalogue numbers.

One interesting additional piece of history related to the story of Biafra and the ensuing conflict is the connection to the Internationally known organisation Medicins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders), French doctor Bernard Kouchner, witnessing the suffering caused, publicly criticised the Nigerian government and the Red Cross when he returned to France. Doctor Kouchner created a new aid organisation that would ignore political and religious boundaries to prioritise the welfare of victims.

Biafra issued two more sets in 1969 – the Second Anniversary of Independence and the visit of Pope Paul to Africa. These stamps were printed in Italy. Again, there are more issues such as a 1969 Christmas set, overprinted on the Pope Paul for which no evidence exits that they were postally used in Biafra.

This short lived state was overrun by Federal Troops and the Biafran forces surrendered on 15th January 1970. Over one million people had died in battle or from starvation. issued.

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