BY A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
CALLS for a quick end to the Nigerian war came from Bishop Butler, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, and a number of other speakers at a public meeting at St. Pancras Town Hall last Friday, held to express concern at the fighting.
The meeting was sponsored jointly by the Social Morality Council, of which Bishop Butler is chairman, the British Humanist Association. the United Nations Association and the British Committee for Peace in Nigeria.
Bishop Butler said that if conditions for a just war were ever fulfilled in the Nigerian conflict, they were no longer being fulfilled. The casualties there now equalled those sustained by Russia during the whole of World War IL Declining to pass any political judgment on the issues. he said the Biafrans claimed that surrender would lead to their gradual elimination. Federal Nigeria contended that to allow Biafran secession to succeed would lead to the eventual disintegration of Africa along tribalistic lines. which would entail even more bloodshed.
The introduction of an antiRussian theme. that of containing undoubted Soviet influence, was an indication. Bishop Butler considered, that we were moving towards a Vietnam situation. Every day a ceasefire was delayed the population in the Eastern region was being eroded by slaughter and famine.
GENOCIDE FEAR The Government and Foreign Office should get away from the rather conventional thinking about the situation, which was no longer adequate to the human realities. Pressure should he brought to bear on Russia through the United Nations. Why could not Britain and France in a joint action on an issue which could be important?
Mr. Auberon Waugh, political correspondent of the Spectator, said: "This war is going to he fought to the finish unless something is done." He stressed how real to Biafrans was their fear of genocide if they surrendered. Practically everybody in the breakaway province had lost someone behind the Nigerian lines.
If there was to be a settlement something would have to be clone to allay the real fears of the Biafrans. Yet the political situation in Lagos was such that it was impossible for Gen. Gowon. the Federal leader. to make the necessary gesture.
To talk of Col. Ojukwu, the Biafran leader, surrendering was just wishful thinking. For him to accept less than some measure of independence from Lagos would lead him into conflict with his own people.
Mr. Waugh said he was sure Biafra would accept some form of compromise, yet all the Nigerians would offer was a return to full federation. He suggested that the Biafran people, through their suffering. might well have earned the right to exist as a nation.
"Everyone in Britain bears some of the blame, unless he is satisfied that he has done all he can to get a reverse of policy."
Mr. Peter Draper, denying that there had been a secret deal behind the scenes between the Vatican and the British Humanist Association, of which he is chairman, said the end-the-war campaign was not merely anti-Labour.
He stressed the moral basis of the campaign and suggested raising the issue at the United Nations, joint action by Britain with France and Russia and the mobilisation of a Cornmonwealth peace keeping force.
GRIM PICTURE Lord Fenner Brockway, who recently visited Nigeria with former Colonial Secretary James Griffiths, painted a grim picture of the deliberate bombing of civilians in Biafra.
A humanist, he paid tribute to the work of both Catholics and Protestants in the wartorn country.
He said he was convinced Gen. Gowon was not responsible for the civilian bombings and that he did not have full control over his field commanders. The Federal Nigerian leader must he careful he did not become victim of a military coup which might completely replace the doves in Lagos with hawks.
Among the measures he advocated were a ceasefire, followed by a considerable cooling-off period during which negotiations could take place. Emperor Haile Selassie should invite Col. Ojukwu to Addis Ababa for talks.
Lord Brockway also appealed for a complete arms embargo to both sides and said evidence existed of a highly organised arms black market supplying each side.
Lord Brockway did not consider Mr. Wilson the villain of the piece as regards current political policy so much as certain traditional minded members of the Foreign Office.
The audience included a large number of nuns, as well as a smaller. more vocal, group of Biafrans.