Over the weekend, Eritrea’s dictatorial government passed a new decree that threatens men with life imprisonment if they dare to marry less than two wives. Part of a programme to address the growing gap between the number of women available compared with their male counterparts the measure was introduced to address the paucity of men caused by Eritrea’s recent war with Ethiopia.
Like many countries that have endured long wars, Eritrea lost a lot of men on the battlefield, so its female population has outstripped that of the men. Worried about the number of unmarried women this has left in society, the government has decided to act by ordering men to marry more than one wife.
Campaigning for a revival for the revival of the defunct Republic of Biafra that briefly existed between July 1967 and 1970, secessionists have printed new Biafran passports. Issued by the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (Massob), the Biafran passports cost N5,000 (£17.31) while its renewal costs N2,000 (£7).
However, the passports are not recognised by any country and over the weekend, both the UK and US said they would not honour them as legal travel documents. This is despite Sunny Okereafor, Massob’s director of information, saying two weeks ago that the passport was valid worldwide as a legitimate travel document.
In a bid to get their passport recognised and take advantage of the Eritrean offer, several Massob officials are believed to have contacted the east African’s Abuja mission to see if it will allow. It is not yet clear what response they got but it is unlikely the request would be accepted as Eritrea would not want to damage its relations with Nigeria.
One Massob campaigner said: "We understand that Eritrea is looking for people to come and marry its women, so we have asked if they will accept our passport as legal document to travel there. This will be tantamount to us killing two birds with one stones as it will get a nation to recognise our Biafran passport and will also allow Igbo men in search of wives to go to Eritrea and make their pick."
Traditionally, Igbo bride prices have always been the highest in Nigeria, with grooms asked to cough up large sums by the bride’s family. This makes many Igbo men to baulk at marrying from within the region and may just prompt many of them to take up the Eritrean offer.