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The Republic of Benin was one of the shortest-lived countries in history

Domagoj Valjak

There are empires, kingdoms, and republics that have been thriving for centuries. Some of them endured numerous wars and crises but managed to successfully protect (or restore) their integrity.

On the other hand, there were countries that were not so lucky, as their independence lasted only for a short while. One such country was the Republic of Benin, which was formed in 1967 amid the Nigerian Civil War, and lasted for less than a day. The Republic of Benin holds the record for the shortest-lived country in African history.

Flag of the Republic of Benin.

Flag of the Republic of Benin.

The Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Biafran War, was a bloody and violent conflict that started in 1967 and ended in 1970. The main cause of the war was the desire of the Igbo people to separate from Nigeria and form the independent Republic of Biafra in the east of the country. The Igbo people felt that their leadership could no longer coexist with the Northern-dominated federal government.

The region of Nigeria known as the Mid-Western attempted to stay neutral since it was a home to both the Igbo and the non-Igbo population. However, Biafran forces occupied the Mid-Western region only weeks after the beginning of the war.

The independent state of the Republic of Biafra in June 1967. Photo Credit

The independent state of the Republic of Biafra in June 1967. Photo Credit

Doctor Albert Okonkwo was appointed the leader of the occupied area and immediately started broadcasting Biafran propaganda. Things were quiet for a while, but soon the non-Igbo population started protesting Biafran occupation.

Children in Benin.Photo Credit

Children in Benin.Photo Credit

Nigerian federal forces started invading the Mid-Western region, and Okonkwo feared that the non-Igbo population might side with them and overthrow him.

Okonkwo needed to act quickly in order to stay in power, so he and his ministers chose a desperate course of action: on September 20th of 1967, they declared the Republic of Benin, named after the Nigerian coastal city of Benin.

Aerial view of Benin City- Photo Credit

Aerial view of Benin City. Photo Credit

The Republic of Benin was supposed to be a country of its own, separate from both Nigeria and Biafra. Still, Okonkwo and his officials declared that the newly founded country would assist Biafran separatists in their military actions. Also, the Republic of Benin was immediately supposed to apply for UN membership in order to gain international recognition.

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Okonkwo’s plan failed a little more than 12 hours after the Republic of Benin was officially declared: on the morning of September 21st, the Nigerian federal army aided by British forces entered Benin City and overthrew the newly established republic.