The study analyzes how the government of the Republic of Biafra used international norms to win foreign support during its 1967–1970 campaign to secede from Nigeria. Secession conflicts occur at the intersection of international and domestic politics. For independence movements, support from outside is crucial. But, as Bridget Coggins has asked, how can secession movements find “friends in high places”? International support for unilateral secession attempts is strictly prohibited. Domestic and international asymmetry are limiting secessionist foreign policy instruments to intangible means. Legitimacy is a central concept to illuminate the phenomenon. In international politics, legitimacy depends on the external perception of compliance with a canonical set of normative criteria. The international order prioritizes (1) territorial integrity, (2) nonintervention, and (3) uti possidetis over (4) national self-determination, (5) human rights, and (6) good governance. All six principles are contested. Secession movements can make use of this normative ambivalence to justify their claim in relation to the international community. They can use international norms strategically to influence the perceptions of foreign actors about the legitimacy of the secession claim to win external support. This concept is used to analyze the Biafran campaign for independence from Nigeria from 1967 to 1970. The inquiry rests on a combination of inductive and deductive research techniques and analyzes original documents such as official publications from the government of Biafra and press releases issued by its public relations agency, Markpress.



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