50 Years Ago: Biafra-Inspired Deaths Abroad

— Biafra led to two prominent killings abroad.One was in Uganda and another in America.Let us examine both killings individually.

1.Johnson Banjo

Banjo was a secretary to the Nigerian delegation to the Commonwealth Peace Conference in Kampala,Uganda in May 1968.The Nigerian delegation was led by Chief Anthony Enahoro while Justice Mbanefo led the Biafra delegates.

Ironically,Justice Mbanefo was also the Appeal Court judge who reduced Enahoro’s sentence to 10 years from 15 just five years earlier in 1963.Judge and convict came face to face again,this time to represent their country.

Banjo was abducted from his Kampala hotel on 23 May 1968 and later found dead in another part of the city.

The Nigerian press blamed his killing on “rebel agents” but a section of the foreign media said he may have been killed by South Sudanese immigrants sympathetic to Biafra.

I have been trying to find out if the deceased was related to Col Victor Banjo,himself executed in Biafra eight months earlier in September 1967.

2.Bruce Mayrock

The 20 year old American student doused himself with flammable liquid and set himself on fire in front of the UN building in New York on 30 May 1969.

Columbia Daily Spectator Volume CXIII, Number 118 of 3 June 1969 reported that:

” United Nations guards spotted the flames and chased the youth across the lawn with fire extinguisher. But Mayrock eluded the guards, racing in front of the North Lounge of the building before several hundred horrified delegates and onlookers. The student finally fell to his knees beside a statue bearing the Biblical inscription “Let us beat our swords into plowshares” and the guards extinguished the flames. 

Mayrock was rushed to Bellevue Hospital where he was listed in critical condition with burns over most of his body and was pronounced dead shortly after midnight. At the U.N., guards found a large cardboard sign on the front lawn which said, “You must stop the genocide-please save 9 million Biafrans” At the bottom of the sign, a quotation read, “Peace is where there is an absence of fear of any kind.”

Mayrock, who lived in Westbury, L.1., enrolled in GS and the Jewish Theological Seminary in September, 1967, but dropped out after one year and studied briefly at Hofstra University. He re-enrolled at GS last January. While at Columbia, Mayrock worked as a photographer for the Spectator sports department. Members of the youth’s family stated Friday that he had worked actively to protest the war in Biafra, writing letters about the war to the President and leading government figures.

However, according to one rabbi,who said he was close to the family, the student believed that “no one was listening.” “He was an idealistic young man deeply upset by the events in Biafra,” the rabbi said. “People were being killed and he felt no one was doing anything. That’s why he did what he did.”