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In the name of the fathers: a documentary narrative of the Biafra airlift

posted on 30.01.2017, 22:16 by Uko, Ndaeyo
In the Name of the Fathers is an account of three men who breached a total blockade enforced by two superpowers, the United kingdom and Russia and their military client, Nigeria, to deliver food—and arms—to the rebel republic of Biafra, where millions of children were starving. The daring nocturnal airlift known as the Biafra Airlift or Jesus Christ Airlines and pulled off under heavy gunfire by an Irish priest, an American gunrunner and a Swedish nobleman, kept Biafra and millions of its children alive until 1970 when Nigeria finally defeated Biafra after 30 months of war. Jesus Christ Airlines remains one of the longest and biggest civilian airlifts in history—in “tonnage proportions … second only to the 1948-49 Berlin Airlift” (Draper, Shadows: Airlift and Airwar in Biafra and Nigeria 4). My goal in reconstructing the Biafra airlift is to explore the nature and impact (as well as the side effects) of that crucial but illegal—and unconventional—humanitarian intervention. The literary form I have adopted for the dissemination of my findings is the documentary narrative, which uses a combination of historical and journalistic research with the imaginative techniques of fiction to make accounts of the past accessible to a global audience. In my exegesis, In the Name of the Fathers: A Documentary Narrative of the Biafra Airlift, I use literary, historiographical and new journalistic theories to examine the documentary narrative as a literary form that aspires to the aesthetic grace of fiction on one hand, and the authenticity of historical record, on the other. I also engage with the methodological and ethical principles that underpin the use of techniques of fiction in the reconstruction of historical events.


Principal supervisor

Chandani Lokuge

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts