Former Biafra Leader Ojukwu Dies in Britain

Posted November 26th, 2011 at 9:25 pm (UTC-5)
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A Nigerian colonel, politician and the leader of the former breakaway Republic of Biafra has died at the age of 78.

Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu died in a hospital in London after a long fight to regain health following a stroke.

The office of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan issued a statement Saturday saying Ojukwu will be remembered as one of the great personalities of his time who stood out as a fearless, erudite and charismatic leader.

But internationally, he is better remembered for the late 1960s images of starving Biafran children with emaciated faces and stick-like arms.

A son of one of Nigeria's richest men and educated in Britain, Ojukwu gained international prominence during the 1966 coup in Nigeria. An estimated 1 million people were killed during the ensuing civil war.

A coup against the Igbo people in the mainly Muslim north led him to proclaim an independent Republic of Biafra in eastern Nigeria in 1967. Despite international aid, the region long dependent on food from neighboring regions, suffered severe shortages during the next three years of continued fighting.

After being defeated in 1970, Ojukwu fled the country and spent the following 13 years in exile.

He returned to Nigeria after being pardoned in 1982 and subsequently ran in two presidential elections without success.

He is revered as a hero among his Igbo people who claim to suffer political isolation in

the country.