Pope Francis greeted a group of activists from the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group, who are campaigning for secession from Nigeria, after they gathered at the Vatican on Sunday.
IPOB is led by Nnamdi Kanu, a U.K.-Nigerian dual citizen who is currently detained in Nigeria, facing trial for treasonable felony. Kanu is the director of Radio Biafra, an underground media outlet that broadcasts material in favour of an independent state of Biafra in southeast Nigeria.
Nigerian military officer Odumegwu Ojukwu declared Biafran independence in 1967, sparking a three-year civil war that resulted in more than one million deaths and ended in 1970 with Biafra being reintegrated into Nigeria. Agitation for a separate state of Biafra has been rejected by the Nigerian government, with President Muhammadu Buhari affirming that the West African country is “one indivisible entity.”
During his weekly Angelus address—where the Pope addresses crowds of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square from the balcony of the Apostolic Palace—Francis extended a word of welcome to the indigenous people of Biafra. The Pope’s statement was greeted with cheers and celebration by the Biafran group, who were waving flags during the address.