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Chris Mkpayah oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by S. Elizabeth Bird and Fraser Ottanelli.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (44 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (25 p.)
Asaba Memorial oral history project
Interview conducted December 10, 2009.
Oral history interview with Chris Mkpayah, a survivor of the Asaba Massacre, a mass killing of civilians which occurred in 1967 during the Nigerian Civil War. Mkpayah, who was nineteen at the time, was a student at St. Patrick's College, Asaba. The day of the massacre, he returned to his grandmother's house after church, heard shooting, and decided to check on a friend; the friend had been shot in front of his house and was already dead. Mkpayah then returned home and after a while heard the procession of people headed for the plaza, ostensibly to welcome the troops. He joined the procession, believing that the soldiers would not kill unarmed civilians, but the soldiers began shooting and killed several hundred people. Mkpayah was not injured. After dark, he and another friend went to another town, where they stayed until Mkpayah's cousin found them a month later. He went to Biafra in 1968 and stayed there until the war ended.
Crimes against humanity.
y Civil War, 1967-1970.
Civil War, 1967-1970
v Personal narratives.
Bird, S. Elizabeth.
Ottanelli, Fraser M.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Holocaust & Genocide Studies Center.
University of South Florida.
Special & Digital Collections.
Oral History Program.
Holocaust & genocide studies oral history projects.
Asaba Memorial oral history project.
USF ONLINE ACCESS
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
text S. Elizabeth Bird: Were ready to start?
Chris Mkpayah: Yes, please.
EB: Okay, this is just an informal announcement. Â This is Elizabeth Bird, Im in Lagos, its the tenth of December 2009, and I am interviewing Mr. Chris MkpayahMkpayo
EB: (laughs) Okay. Â Well, as I said, we just want to have a conversation about what happened all those years ago and your personal experiences. Â And we wanted to start withjust, if you could talk a little bit about your situation at the time just before, before what happened in Asaba: your family, who you were with, who was there, and what life was like before.
CM: Before August 8, 1967, as far as I can remember, we were in secondary school there.
EB: Im sorry?
CM: I was in the secondary school when the Biafran troops came in. Â It was when they came in that, you know, we closed the school. Â So, everybody has to go home. Â So we went home. Â And we knew nothing, at that time in September; by October, October 6because Biafrans came in between that period. Â They came in.
EB: What was it like when the Biafrans were there? Â Were people happy, or what was the situation?
CM: When they came in, because it was an overnight thing, we all woke up in the morning and then we saw them. Â We were calm then, and we thought they were on their way to Lagos, the ones we conversed with. Â There was peace, nothing happened. Â It was after some monthsthat was within the October period nowwhen they started withdrawing. Â They started withdrawing back. Â So, I can remember it was sixth of October, they now went back to the East, they crossed the River Niger. Â So by night they cross the River Niger, they blew the bridgethe River Niger, they blew the bridge. Â So after blowing the bridge, we heard then that federal troops, they are coming. Â They were shellingyou know, bombing, throwing bombsand we are hearing gunshots at the outskirts of Asaba, around that SPC [St. Patricks College]. Â Meanwhile, theyre now coming to the main town.
EB: So the Biafran troops that blew the bridge
CM: They blew the bridge
EB: On their way back.
CM: On their way back, when they were retreating.
EB: So, how were people feeling when this was happening? Â Were people afraid about the troops coming in, orhow was it?
CM: Nobodywe werent afraid because most of our fathers and our grandfathers, they fought the World Wars and everything, so they thought that we shouldnt run; that soldiers dont shoot, you know, somebody that is not carrying arms. Â They cannot just shoot the civilians. Â So thats why most of us stayed behind. Â We are not all thatwe are not panicking.
EB: Who were the members of your family at that time?
CM: Most of my familys somewhere in Enugu. Â So when they bombarded Enugu, they now came back to Asaba. Â So I have my senior brother, Sylvester Mkpayah; I have another senior one, Dennis Mkpayah; I have another one, Odi Mkpayah; I have Efine Mkpayah, Eke Mkpayah, and others I cannot remember now.
EB: Were both your parents there? Â Your father and mother?
CM: My father was killed when the1966, in Jos. Â He was killed during the first coup. Â So he never came back. Â So we were thinking, He will come back, he will come back, until the end of the war, when I discovered that he was killed there.
EB: Did you know he was killed there, at the time?
CM: No, nobody knew, they didnt know that. Â When it started, you know, they all went into the bush, finding ways back to Asaba. Â By the end of the day, and after sleeping overnight, some people say they didnt see anything. Â So they dont know whetherthey said that some soldiers were (inaudible), but they wanted to go back home, go back to that place, or where you came from.
EB: So that was whendid you live in Asaba all your life?
CM: I was in Asaba at that time, because we were on holidays, and they had to close the school because of the entrance of the Biafran troops.
EB: Which school were you at?
CM: SPC, Asaba. Â St. Patricks College, Asaba.
EB: St. Patricks, yeah. Â So, we were at October 6. Â The Biafrans have left, and then
CM: Yes, the federal troops.
EB: Could you describe, then, what happened on October 7? Â What happened?
CM: So on that October 7, in the morningin fact, I went to morning mass that day. Â So when I came back from morning mass, I now went to my grandmothers place, to lunch. Â So there were, you know, gunshots, you know. Â We were hearing bullets everywhere. Â Then along the line, I said, Let me go and check one of my friends around there, Mr. hes a classmate of mine. Â Molokwu, Joseph Molokwu. Â Thats his name. Â So when I got there, just in front of their house, I now sawhis body was just lying there. Â They shot him. Â So thats whenthat means the soldiers have come into the town. Â So, I left. Â Then I went to another friend in the area, the Nwanukus. Â One is Donald Nwanuku, the other one is Obi Nwanuku. Â So when I got there, their parents now told me that the soldiers have come in, and theyve hid them. Â They dont want anybody to even see them, so they didnt allow me to see them.
So, I now went back home. Â Immediately, I went back home; after some time, started hearing dancing in group. Â One Nigeria, One Nigeria, One Nigeria, One Nigeria. Â So, before we knew it, (inaudible) we are in the house, and some people were running into the house. Â They are coming from another village, that is, relations. Â They now rushed into the house, males and females and children. Â When they came to the house, they now told us that they have started killing people at the outskirts, and this dancing group that are coming, you should go and join them. Â That the soldiers said that they would not come down to welcome (inaudible) federal troops now and they entered Asaba.
Along the line, I said, Let us go, myself and my cousin, P.C. Â He is at Asaba now. Â So as we are coming out towards the road, the Nnebesi [Road] and King Street, at that time, the group, the dancing group of (inaudible). Â Then soldiers surrounded them, were guiding themthat is, Nigerian soldiers, who were carrying guns. Â As they were coming, they wanted to stop me, but I rushed into the crowd; the same thing with my cousin. Â Then we all raised up our hands and were shouting, One Nigeria, One Nigeria, and we continued.
So as we are going, we moved up to (inaudible). Â When we got there, they said that we should come back. Â Then we started coming back again. Â Then, as we are coming back, we now came in front of theMr. Asiches house. Â Hes one of our lecturers in SPC there. Â So were in front of his house, its a big compound. Â One of the sonswe call him Osi Asichehe was coming out from the compound. Â As he was coming out, just in front of the gate, he was shot. Â One of the soldiers shot him. Â He fell down. Â Then, as we are movyou know, they were guiding us, said we should continue moving. Â So as we are moving, they were picking people in the midst and just shoot them. Â They would fall aside.
We continued moving. Â When we got to Umuezei, that place, there is one (inaudible) chief that lives there; they call him (inaudible). Â He has all these trees around the front of the compound; we call it (inaudible) trees. Â It was just like a fence. Â So when we got nearer to that place, we now saw dead bodies surroundingthey have shot all those people. Â They were all lying down. Â We now passed, they keep on moving on; they said we should continue. Â We said, Okay, where are we going to do? Â They said they are taking us towe have to go to SPC and work from there. Â So we continued. Â When we got at Umuezeithats his place therethey now sat everybody down. Â While we sat on theyou know, they said we should all wait. Â There were now some otherthey were now goingsome soldiers were going to the town and bringing people. Â They keep on bringing more people, bringing them there. Â The population now increased, both men and women.
EB: How many people do you think was in that?
CM: As of that time, we are sitting down, were overwere over 600 there, sitting down there, while they continue bringing in people. Â In fact, in our midst, there was one chief, (inaudible) of Asaba, he was there. Â So at this stage we now saw his car, cause the soldiers have taken his car. Â So he noticed, This is my car. Â One of the soldiers had (inaudible). Â A Nigerian officer, that is, driving that car. Â He now told him to stand up. Â So where he stood, he stood up. Â They started dragging him, they was going to shoot him. Â So we all started begging, started begging. Â At this stage, they now hit him with the butt of the gun [and said] You sit down there. Â He now sat down.
So after some time, we are now thinking we should stand up, we should move. Â When we moved, now we came into the major [road] of Asaba, Nnebisi Road, and we continued. Â We passed St. Josephs Church, Asaba, continued moving. Â So when we got to NnebisiI mean King Street; again, that was the beginning of King Street.
CM: King Street.
EB: King Street.
CM: Asaba, yeah. Â When we got there, I said, Lets take that road now. Â They said, No, we cant take that route, we should continue that way we are going. Â Then we continued past the marketwe call it Ogbogonogo Market [Center]. Â We passed it. Â So when we passed it, theres another road that began from Ogbolie [Market Center]; we call that place Ogbolie. Â If we take that route, we now go back into the town. Â I wanted to take that, but they said, No, we should continue that Nnebisi Road, and I continued. Â So when we got to Ogbeosowa Junction, then I said we should go in there.
So as we walked in there, I now saw so many soldiers, sitting down somewhere, cleaning their rifles and (inaudible). Â They moved us, they said, Continue moving. Â So by the time we got to this, uhthe manthe person that owned the place is (inaudible). Â Theres a slab there. Â So when we got there, they said we should now stop. Â We stopped there. Â As we stopped there, they now surrounded us, sat us all down. Â They whip, they start whipping us at the same time. Â So when they whip, we scatter. Â They whip us again, we come together. Â They continued doing this thing for some minutes. Â Even at this stage, they were whipping me and so I refused to go in. Â That was when I sawwhen I turned, I saw my brother. Â So they were saying I should come inside (inaudible). Â I said no. Â They continued whipping me with this (inaudible).
So just after some time, one officer came in: he has marks, like this. Â So when he came inbefore then, there was some young officer that came in, then it was him who asked, Who lives here? Â They should come out. Â So they were trying to bring us to this, before this officer came and said we should all go back into the midst, so we now came to the midst. Â So after some time, the next thing we saw, the officer now sit. Â And then he spoke it in Hausabecause I was born in North, so I heard what he said. Â He said (speaking in Hausa). Â He said they should take us ten, ten, and start firing us. Â So when he said that, I said, We are finished. Â Some people said, No, they are just trying to threaten us, that they would not kill. Â The soldiers cannot kill like that. Â Meanwhile, we have seen the ones they killed, as we are in that position.
So wejust after some minutes, that officer now picked out somebody from the midst, shot him, picked out another person, shot him, picked outthey were just picking like that. Â So suddenly, something powerful just fell down on that spot. Â It was a very big pyramid of bodies. Â So when they fell like that, the next thing is, then people who were prayingsome people were praying, Father, forgive them, they dont know what they did. Â Father, forgive them. Â Before we know itthey just kept going, they didnt shoot. Â They were dead. Â After, we kept quiet. Â There was silence. Â The next thing is, they started shooting. Â There were machine guns and they just ran across; they were shooting at the men. Â This thing continued for some hours.
And it was getting towe started this position in the morning, then this time should be around 4:00 or 5:00 pm. Â So they now started shooting and shooting. Â After some time, they stopped. Â When they stopped, some people would now shout, Kill me, kill me, I never die. Â They announced that the person should raise his hand up. Â If he raised his hand up, they would shoot. Â They just shoot, you know, right on that spot. Â So this thing continued until sometimearound that time, the sun had just fell. Â They now left.
So when they now left, after some time, somebody noweven myself, I didnt know I was still alive. Â There was a person under me. Â So after some time, somebody now said, Ah, they are gone, they have gone. Â So the person now jumped out from the midst into the bushthere is a bush by the side of where they did that thing, where they killed all the men, all of our people. Â And that midst was professionals, students, menand before they did thatI forgot. Â They removedthey asked all the women to leave; they took away all the women and children. Â And we dont knowup till now, dont know what happened to them. Â They took them away. Â So its only men, young men, you know, they killed us, started shooting.
At the end of the dayso, we allwe started jumping out. Â And it was already dark. Â So, the bush where I enteredwhile we are there sitting down at night, and were talking and talking. Â Suddenly, the senior brother to Gabriel Uraih Chris Mkpayah is referring to Ify Uraihs brother, Medua Chuma Uraih, who was also interviewed for the Asaba Memorial History Project. Â The DOI for his interview is A34-00022., he now heard my voice. Â So, when he heard my voice, he called my name. Â (inaudible) Â He says, Wait in that place. Â So I started calling his name and moving until I got to him. Â We were just sitting by a tree. Â He now asked me, did they shoot me? Â I said, I dont know. Â He said, Ill show bring my hand, and I brought my hand. Â He now puttook his hand to the back (inaudible). Â And I now felt a wet, something wet. Â I said, Ah! Â He said they shot him. Â So the two of us now sat in there.
Then we now started planning how were going in the night. Â I said, Okay, lets go to your house. Â Then I thought, Ah, the soldiers are taking over their house. Â So I said, Okay, lets go to our own house. Â Then we started crawling in the night, crossing, crossing, one village to the other until we got to a place where we now saw the Nigerian soldiers. Â We just saw them, so when we saw them, we now had to duck and stayed in the place for some time. Â They now passed. Â So when they passed, we now started finding a way. Â By the time we got to my own house, we now saw soldiers again there, on the back: theyve taken over that house. Â We now started goingwe now went to Grandmothers place in the night. Â When we got thereit was on the outskirts; they didnt even know theyve killed our people, some of them. Â So we went to them and said that theyve killed our people. Â They say we areso they said okay, we should sleep there. Â I said, We cant sleep here, that this people would eventually come into that area. Â We now took off in the night. Â I now started carrying my brother, cause he couldnt walk and stop and walkand blood is gushing out from there.
EB: This is your brother?
CM: His own brother. Â The senior one, yeah.
EB: Dr. [Ify] Uraih. Ify Uraih was also interviewed for the Asaba Memorial Oral History Project. The DOI for his interview is A34-00003.
CM: Uh-huh. Â So after that, I carried him, and we continued walking up towe dont even know the path we are taking. Â We continued until we passed a swampy river, then we crossed it; then, to the other side. Â We now know that weve come into Ibusa, another town, just a neighboring town. Â They were now searching for our people. Â Were just sitting there. Â They left when they heard the gunshot; they now left it in Asaba to the other side. Â They were all just like refugees there, cooking somewe got there early in the morning. Â Its from there we now started, you know, looking for where to go and stay.
EB: Were you hurt yourself?
CM: No, I wasnt hurt. Â I wasnt hurt.
EB: And what about all your brothers and people? Â Were they with you?
CM: No, they left.
EB: They left.
CM: Yes, they left. Â Some crossed it early, before they blew that bridge. Â Some crossed over to the other side.
EB: So were any of your brothers or relatives killed in this?
CM: Uh, yes, the ones thatmy cousins were killed, like Simon (inaudible). Â In fact, he came from Ibadan. Â We were all together that day, before we joined the procession. Â There was supposed to be a reverend to do (inaudible) in the Catholic church. Â He was killed.
Fraser Ottanelli: How old were you?
CM: Thats at that time?
CM: I was nineteen. Â Nineteen years, yeah.
CM: Yeah, nineteen.
EB: Do you have any idea yourself why thiswhy the troops did this? Â Do you thinkwas there some reason why they decided to shoot people or any?
CM: The thing is, by the time we eventually came back, when we came backin fact, before we came back, he was the one with the mother. Â His mother had to come and look for us in the farm. Â In fact, he did the same thing. Â He now got us in the farm where we were; from there, we came back. Â By that time, you know, there was peacefulthere was peace, (inaudible) peace. Â And then there was a captain that at least controlled the whole thing. Â Meanwhile, it was when we came back that we now started asking questions. Â His father was killed; his twofour brothers were killed there. Â There was even his mother that buried them.
But the thing is, when we now started (inaudible) because at that time, we can talk with some of them. Â Some were saying that, why they did that? Â They had to kill us all? Â They thought that [Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna] Nzeogwu, the person that started the coup, hes from Asaba, or hes from a neighboring city. Â Thats why they had to do it. Â Because at that time, some of themI think theyre envious of Asaba people (inaudible). Â So they now took that opportunity. Â Theyre thinking, Lets deal with these people, and reduce them, especially professionals. Â Thats part of it, part of it.
EB: So that was part of the reason, you think
EB: because they were professionals.
CM: Yes, and all those kind of things.
CM: Its part of the reason.
EB: When you were beingwhen the crowd of you were being taken around on this parade with the soldiers, what did you think? Â Did you think they were going to shoot?
CM: As of that time, you knowbefore then, we have not seenI didnt see any dead body around. Â Based on what our grandfathers told us, soldiers dont killI mean, they dont killthey dont shoot somebody without arms. Â I felt this, maybe, when I have left before that time, when they told us, Dont go, that they will not kill us. Â So I felt theyre not going to do it. Â Not until I saw them pick somebody as we were in the procession, shot, and I felt, These people are goingthey have something in mind.
EB: So they would just pick people one at a time as you were moving?
CM: One at a time, as we were moving, yes.
CM: Before we got to thatwhere they now
EB: That must have been terrifying.
CM: Very, very. Â Very, very. Â Its not easy to erase from the memory.
EB: So after this was over, you went in hiding, but when did you come back to town?
CM: To Asaba?
CM: In that time, peace has returned (inaudible). Â As I told you, we, you knowafter that time (inaudible) we now got in touch with my (inaudible), the other cousin, called P.C. Ojobu. Â He was from there, and he decided to come and look for us. Â Because they were asking my mother, was I dead at Asaba? Â He didnt go anywhere. Â He was worried about me. Â He doesnt know the dress I put on, so they were asking the other cousin; he now described it. Â At the end of the day, he came to collect us from that place. Â And even then, we refused. Â We are not coming, we are not coming back to Asaba. Â The soldiers are still there, they can still kill. Â His mother eventually came, so he now convinced her that peace has returned and we should come back. Â That was her I followed, when I returned.
EB: How long after thea few days, a week, before you came back?
CM: Its up to a month.
EB: A month, okay.
CM: Its up to a month.
EB: What waswhen you were back, when people were back, people were realizing how many people had died, what had happened. Â What kind of effect did all of this have on the community? Â How did the community start to recover, or get back together?
CM: It took a long time before theythey were still afraid of the soldiers. Â Thats when they found out that peace has returned and the soldiers, they didnt touch anybody. Â We were afraid. Â Why some kill, you know? Â (inaudible). Â But along the line, things started changing again. Â That was second operation. Â They did another second one. Â That should be sixty-eight .
EB: When the soldiers were back?
CM: They were still there. Â So, along the line, after the firstI call this onethats October 7I call it first operation.
CM: That is when they killed and killed and killed, uh-huh. Â But this second one, they now startedyou know, first of all, they started bombarding. Â They started burning houses. Â So that second one, I didnt wait. Â I didnt wait. Â I knew I have to leave Asaba.
EB: So that was the next year, 1968?
CM: Nineteen sixty-eight.
EB: When in 1968?
CM: It should be around November.
EB: So the soldiers have been there all the time.
CM: Theyve been there.
EB: But they haventtheyve been quiet.
CM: Yeah, they were quiet. Â But suddenly, they started that one; they say the Biafrans, you know, shooting in the night, they were coming. Â They used guerillas and (inaudible). Â We are the people telling them their locations and (inaudible) when they fire, they get them. Â (inaudible) Â So some people left beforehand that time, because that onethey were burning houses; they threw (inaudible) on the houses.
EB: For what reason? Â People they thought were Biafran?
CM: Uh-huh, we are no longer friends again (inaudible). Â Some people didnt want to take timejust like the first one, when we believed that they will not kill, they will not kill. Â And eventually, they killed. Â So this second one, most of us left. Â Immediately started bombardment, shooting, and all those things, and killing people as they escaped.
EB: So people were killed again in 1968?
CM: Yeah, they were killed again, and houses were burnt. Â Houses were burnt here, more than the first one. Â They burnt houses and killed, killed so many people.
EB: But you left in
CM: I left during that second one. Â I have to.
EB: When did you come back after that?
CM: I came back in seventy-one seventy , seventy . Â I came back in seventy . Â I crossed over to the other side.
EB: Were some of your family still in Asaba then?
CM: In Asaba?
CM: Yes, some were still in Asaba.
FO: Liz, I have a question, if you dont mind.
EB: Yeah, go ahead.
FO: The question isIve sequenced what youve described, but could you go back towe started in August of sixty-seven . Â Could you go back to before then? Â Could you describe your family, your family life, what normal was for you and your family before these events take place?
CM: Yes. Â Everything was normal. Â There was no problem before that time.
FO: Could you describe your
FO: How many members in your family, where you lived, howyou know, kind of give us a sense of
EB: Who was in your house at that time, before they?
CM: Before this. Â As of that time, my father had been killed.
CM: My mother was still in Asaba. Â I was still in Asaba. Â And my other four brothers, one in Lagos; the other two were in the other side, as of that time.
EB: On the other side?
CM: That is the Eastern side. Â They were at Enugu there. Â They were doing their own business there. Â See, but me, my mother, and then other cousins, we are in Asaba.
EB: And your grandmother?
CM: With my mother.
EB: Your father had been killed in Jos?
CM: In Jos, yeah.
EB: What did he do? Â What was his profession?
CM: He was an accountant of foreign mines.
EB: So he was killed when many Igbo people were killed in the North?
CM: In the North, yeah. Â Thats sixty-six , after the coup.
EB: Uh-huh. Â A lot of people have been talking about, you know, that it would be a good thing to memorialize what happened, to have some kind of permanent remembrance. Â Do you think thats a good idea? Â And if so, what kind of thing should be done, do you think, to memorialize what happened?
CM: Like I told my brother, I said, All this while, Ive been thinking, and Ive been jotting down whatever I remember. Â I jot it down. Â I will then try to publish something so that my people will know. Â The future generation will know that something like this happened. Â So, I want something documentary to be done with it, a book, so that we know at leastbecause as of now, during the time they did this operation, [Yakubu] Gowon was the president of the country. Â But the person that led the operation in Asaba, you know, we are told, is Murtala Mohammed; he is late [dead] now. Â So when you look at it, even when he was alive, once he mentioned this Asaba thing waiting (inaudible) Murtala (inaudible). Â What happened in Asaba? Â He didnt [answer]. Â So, we still continue to have that mind of not forgetting. Â I dont think that anybody will forget that.
EB: Who do you hold responsible for what happened?
CM: I hold the president, President Gowon. Â He was in charge. Â I hold him responsible.
EB: (to FO) Other questions?
EB: Is there anything else you would like to say to either elaborate on what you said, or to tell us moresomething we didnt ask that is important for you to say?
CM: What I will say is this: What happened in Asaba, there are so many other places, recently, that all those kind of thing happened. Â And they were being compensated and all those kind of thing. Â Every day, you hear people talking about, like Odi, where the soldiers went and destroyed. The Odi Massacre, November 20, 1999. Â Nigerian soldiers attacked the town of Odi after twelve policemen were killed there, shooting an unknown number of civilians and burning most of the buildings. Â But this particular one, we dont hear about it. Â Nobody has said anything about it. Â Even the book they wrote about it, it was called the Biafran Warthe Nigerian Civil War. Â There was one written by former head of state, Obasanjo Obasanjo, Olusegun. Â My Command: An Account of the Nigerian Civil War, 1967-1970. Â Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 1980.; if you would read, you would see that there is nothing about Asaba. Â There is another one. Â That is the only one I can see telling about what happenedthe killing was not mentioned there. Â There is one by [Frederick] Forsyth The Biafra Story, first published in 1969. Â Forsyth was a BBC correspondent in Nigeria during the civil war..
CM: Uh-huh. Â That one, he mentions how the soldiers, the movement and everything, but the killing in Asaba was not mentioned. Â So, people dont even remember. Â Like that place now. Â If I would have the power to excavate that place, you will see a lot of things. Â You see bones and the dead; the skulls would be there. Â So that people will really know somethingthere was something there.
EB: So you think its important to excavate the
EB: And to see
CM: It is important.
EB: And then do what? Â What should people do after that?
CM: Yes. Â It is important.
EB: And if the excavation is done, which is possible, what shouldwhat is the appropriate or the correct thing to do if you find the remains of people? Â What should be done after that?
CM: That one, I will say, will be decided by the Asaba elders, in council. Â It would be decided by them.
EB: Do you go back to Asaba? Â Do you travel back to Asaba often?
CM: Yeah, I go to Asaba. Â I visit my home.
EB: Well, thank you. Â Dr. Uraih, is there anything that you would like to?
Ify Uraih: Uh, I just want to refresh his memory about the second operation. Â It happenedbecause then I was in school with him in St. Patricks College, Asaba. Â It was during the first time (inaudible) that it happened. Â What happened was that the Biafran troops came
EB: This is the second
CM: The second one, yes.
IU: The second one. Â In 1968it was around this time, in 1968. Â And the principal of the school we attended at that time was killed.
CM: Was killed, yes. Â Roman Wicinski.
IU: An American. Â An American
CM: A Russian American.
IU: Russian American.
CM: Roman Wicinski.
IU: Uh, Polish.
CM: Hes Polish, hes Polish.
EB: If I could just have you talk just so we get this on record. Â So this is the second, were talking again about the
CM: Second operation.
EB: second operation in 1968, which we think is around Easter time.
EB: And you were still at St. Patricks College at that time?
CM: No. Â I wasnt there then.
IU: I was.
CM: He was there then.
EB: And this was the time when the principal of St. Patricks
CM: Was killed.
EB: was killed. Â How was he killed?
CM: He was killed at Ogwashi Ukwu, but they said he was federalthey accused the federalthe federal accused the Biafrans, so we dont know. Â It wasthey say crossfire, but who knows? Â We just knew that our principal had been killed.
EB: What was the principals name?
CM: Roman Wicinski.
CM: Roman. Â Brother Roman Wicinski.
EB: Okay. Â So, do you have any sense of how many people died in 1968? Â Does anybody really know that?
CM: Dr. Uraih might remember. Â I dont know.
IU: The 1968 thing did not happen mostly in Asaba.
EB: (moves microphone) Let me put that back over here.
FO: Or you could just hold it.
IU: Its well documented in Blood on the Niger. Okocha, Emma. Blood on the Niger: The First Black on Black Genocide. New York: Triatlantic Books International, 2006. Â It didnt happenthe bulk of the operation happened in a place called Ishiagu.
IU: A few kilometers from Asaba, where even the chief of the town was buried alive by the federal troops. Â The Biafrans cameits by the side of the River Niger. Â The Biafrans came by boat, infiltrated into the federal territory. Â And our principal was on holiday, he was driving past when they caught him, and they said he was a mercenary. Â And they shot him. Â He was shot
EB: The federal troops
IU: He was shot. Â The principal was shot, according to the federal troops, by the Biafrans, because the Biafrans thought he was a mercenary for the federal troops. Â So, because of that infiltration, they now killed so many people between Ogwashi Ukwu and Ishiagu. Â So, what they did in Asaba: they just took the rest of us they could find, because a lot of people, including him, now escaped to Biafra when they had the option. Â The rest of us who didnt run away, we are taken and camped in St. Patricks College. Â We are camped for about three weeks, and then we are told the operation is over. Â The killing at that time was minimal; it was not like the first time. Â People werestray bullets killed a few people. Â When that was over, the town became quiet and many of us left town. Â I left town after that.
EB: I wanted to justwe want to try and make sure that we know all the people who remained and some of the people that died. Â You had mentioned that at the beginning of the October 7that you
FO: Liz, you do need this [the microphone].
EB: Right. (laughs)
EB: You had mentioned that, at the beginning of October 7, that you had gone looking for your friend, Joseph?
CM: Joseph Molokwu.
EB: Could you just spell his name? Â Joseph I can do, but
CM: Okay, Molokwu, M-o-l-o-k-w-u.
EB: And he was a student also with you at
CM: Was a student, yes.
EB: St. Patricks. Â So you went looking for him and you found him dead
EB: by his house.
CM: In front of the house, yes.
EB: Nobody else there?
CM: Outside of that, just another one, Michael. Â I think its Kpalobi or something, Michael, Michael. Â That one was shot before I went in the house. Â And its a cousin to this very one.
EB: Michael, and what was his last name?
CM: Michael Kpalobi.
CM: Kpalobi. K
EB: Michael Kpalobi.
EB: So he was killed at around the same time as
CM: Around the same time, uh-huh. Â When I went tothe same day.
EB: So they
CM: Then the Nwanukus. Â I mentioned Donald.
EB: Can you spell that?
CM: N-w-a-n-u-k-u, Nwanuku.
EB: And he?
CM: And his brotherthere were two. Â Obi.
EB: Obi? Â O-b-i?
CM: O-b-i, uh-huh, the same, Nwanuku.
EB: And they were killed, again, before the mainwere they killed?
CM: It was after the Joseph killing that they killed those ones.
EB: So things were justtroops were probably just going around?
CM: They were going around the corner, killing people, killing.
FO: Were these targeted? Â Do you think they knew who they were killing, or just because they looked the right age?
CM: Um, I dont knowmaybe some are justmaybe they took it upon themselves to be killing, you know, and going into the places to kill. Â Thats before they nowwe started a procession. Â Thats when they were doing all this.
EB: So, it didnt seem as if there was a single person giving orders? Â It seemed like the soldiers were just doing what they wanted?
CM: Uh, yes, soldiers were doing whatat that time, theyre shooting individuals. Â Even at that time we are in that procession, I dont think anybody gave them order. Â They shoot at us. Â They took it upon themselves to, you know. Â That means they have, you know, a hidden agenda within them. Â Because after that killing, we now saw some of the officers who were evenwhy, they didnt know something like this happened somewhere. Â And its not only there; there are some other villages with other people killed. Â They keep on going from one place to the other. Â So, it happened like that. Â NobodyI dont thinkthey took it upon themselves.
EB: Did peopleI mean, people knew that some individuals had been killed in these ways, and yet people still joined this procession. Â What were people thinking was happening? Â Were people afraid? Â Did they feel obliged to join the procession? Â How did that happen?
CM: What happened was, the information they give us, we should go and welcome them; that after the welcome, they would now receive us. Â We feel, okay, nothing more will happen. Â So thats why people were joining. Â Thinking we are even going to that verywhere theyI think its SPC where theyall of them, you know, they had us; we call it the attack they put us on, or something like that. Â So that iseverybodythats why people were joining. Â At least when you get there, you come by them, you know (inaudible). Â They have welcomed them.
EB: So they thought that was a way to calm, get everything calm.
CM: Uh-huh. Â Not knowing it will lead to killing.
EB: Yeah. Â Do you have anyin your own estimate, how many people do you think died around October 7? Â Do you have any idea?
CM: As a whole?
EB: Everybody there, people who were killed before.
CM: More than two thousand.
EB: You think?
CM: Uh-huh, because [in] that heap were many. Â That heap was more than seven hundred. Â And if you nowthose were the ones we see. Â And the ones we didnt even see. Â It would be up to two thousand.
EB: Well, thank you very much.
(to FO) Do you have anything more? Â No?
(to CM) Thank you. Â I know this must be very hard, but we very much appreciate you doing this, and we hope that well be able to piece together the whole story and hopefully do something with it.
CM: Thank you very much.
EB: Thank you.
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