As "Civil Peace" is set in the aftermath of the Nigerian Civil War, it is almost essential that a reader understand that context to truly appreciate the story.
Nigeria, a former British colony, won its independence in 1960, and began creating a parliamentary democracy. The political landscape revolved around three major ethnic groups: the Muslim Hausa and Fulani of the North, the Muslim and Christian Yoruba of the Southwest, and the Christian and Animist Igbo of the Southeast. The cultural distinctions were significant - and as is the case with many African nations, the boundaries of the country reflected only colonial interests, and not those of the people. In other words, people extremely different from one another had been forced to identify themselves as part of the same country.
Tension built between the populous North and the Southeast, where Nigeria’s most profitable export, oil, was located. In January of 1966, a group of Southeastern army officers overthrew the Nigerian parliament, abolished the constitution, and instated a military government. In July of the same year, a counter-coup installed a dictatorship of Northern military personnel who began to violently oppress the Igbo people. An estimated 30,000 Igbos were killed, and roughly 1 million living in the North and Southwest became refugees as they fled back to their ancestral homes in the Southeast (Philips).
On May 30, 1967 the Southeastern region declared independence and formed the short-lived country of Biafra. The resulting civil war between Nigeria and Biafra lead to three bloody years of fighting and famine which killed roughly 1 million civilians (Philips). The Civil War became notorious for the widespread starvation in Igbo territories in the Southeast. The conflict finally ended in 1970 when Nigeria, aided by British arms, defeated the Igbo and re-united the country.
"Civil Peace" begins as the war ends, following a man and his family as they attempt to rebuild their lives in Enugu, the former capital of Biafra. Chinua Achebe, who was of Igbo ancestry, was forced to flee his home in Lagos in the Southwest during the war. He wrote of the increasing ethnic tension and hostility, “I realized I had not been living in my home; I had been living in a strange place” (Rajat 225). Achebe also acted as a diplomat for the new Igbo nation of Biafra before it collapsed in 1970.