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Through the Imperial Lens: The Role of Portugal in the Nigeria-Biafra War

Arua Oko Omaka


Although Portugal played a prominent but controversial role in the Nigeria-Biafra War, its interest remains largely neglected in the historiography of the war. Portugal and some of its colonies in Africa—Guinea-Bissau and São Tomé—provided the principal channels through which Biafra imported arms and supplies. The Nigerian government and its British ally believed that Portugal not only provided access routes to Biafra but also facilitated the recruitment of mercenaries and the provision of military equipment for Biafra. This article aims to fill the gap in the historiography of the Nigeria-Biafra War by arguing that Portugal’s imperial interests in Africa informed its roles in the war. Portugal’s assistance to Biafra helped sustain the conflict, thereby diverting the attention of the world community away from its unpopular policies in Africa. This research is based on archival documents in the UK, Canada, and the United States that have not been adequately explored in studies of the war.


Nigeria-Biafra War; Portugal; colonialism;

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Published by the University of Florida Press on behalf of the Association of Global South Studies.