Free West Papua Solidarity Campaign

Update posted by Yonela Msongelwa On Nov 30, 2018

The Free West Papua Solidarity Campaign is a movement formed after artists and activists came together to support the struggle of freedom and self-determination for the West Papuans from the Indonesian illegal occupation. It started in 2015 when Benny Wenda , then the Spokesperson of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) first visited South Africa. Benny Wenda is currently in exile, he is based in Oxford London, where he went on to form the Free West Papua Campaign, when he escaped from the prison after serving 15 years.

In 2015, when Benny Wenda visited South Africa, he met internationally recognised leaders including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Uncle Ahmed Kathrada as he was affectionately known, may his soul continue to rest in peace, Mandla Mandela, the grandson of Dr Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically elected president. He also met with community and church leaders including Reverend Xola Skosana. Benny Wenda had a few public lectures in Cape Town and on the one that took place in the city centre on the 21st of November, he recounted very sad accounts of excruciating experiences he went through during his childhood. Once, he watched his aunt being raped by the heavily armed Indonesian soldiers. And while in school, a young light-skinned Indonesian girl spat on his face only because he is black. The colour of his skin was supposedly the crime he had committed. His was a wrong skin or is it? This school incident was his direct experience of the problem of apartheid and racism ,and later on fighting to free his people from the vices of racism and colonialism, he lamented ,” You think that because I am black, because I am Papuan, that I am dirty? I have eyes, I have hands, I am human- just like you. We are both human and we deserve to be treated the same. With respect.’

Benny Wenda’s experiences are not unique in any way but a microcosm of the grinding state of torture, humiliation and intimidation the West Papuans go through on daily basis. We can only imagine the degree of physical and psychological damage the women and children living under this constant state of terror, humiliation and intimidation. Only last week on Monday,104 KNPB activists were rounded up and arrested for celebrating the 10th anniversary of their movement and planning for the December 1st global flag raising event. This gripping and searingly painful story of conquest is not new on the African continent. Those who know the history of a genocide committed by King Leopold in the Democratic Republic Congo, in which approximately 8-10 million Africans were brutally killed. Until today, Congo has not recovered from this nightmare, there is gross human rights violations in the mineral rich Congo. Tim Butcher, a journalist shared a telling story about Congo on the event marking the remembrance of the Shikolowe nuclear disaster. He told a story when he went to Congo to cover a story, on his arrival, a villager asked him a question, ‘What are you here to take?’ He told the villager that he was there to cover a story, but the villager could not hear none of it. He went on to say,’ Everyone who comes here come to take, what are you here to take?’ This has been a typical relationship between Africa and Europe.

So, who are the Papuans? The West Papuans are Africans who emigrated from Africa ‘tens of thousands’ of years ago and they are the indigenous people of West Papua. They have a very rich culture and their country is rich in minerals. Did you know that that the gold mine with the largest gold reserves is in West Papua? And what about the mine with the second largest oil reserves or the largest rainforest in the world? Unfortunately like in many African countries these resources do filter to the common Papuan on the ground. Multinational companies such as BP are making staggering profits and ship huge profits to their mother countries. Indonesia, Australia, United Kingdom and USA are the major beneficiaries of the exploitation, oppression and dispossession of the West Papuans. However SouthAfrica have bilateral relations with Indonesia a country directly involved in committing mass murders in West Papua, to ensure the continuation of the plunder of West Papuan resources.

West Papua lies on the world’s second largest island, North of Australia, making up the western half of the island of Papua New Guinea. They got their independence in 1961 from the Dutch colonialists but unfortunately they were recolonized three months later by the Indonesian military government. And for the past fifty years they have been under Indonesian occupation. Student activists, journalists and political/cultural activists are behind bars for fighting for their rights, which they are currently denied by the Indonesian government. Some political activists including Filep Karma have been jailed for more than 15 years for daring to raise their independence flag (The Morning Star Flag).The world is turning a blind eye to this hidden genocide. Where is the United Nations? Where is the African Leadership? Where is African Union? Where is the African Intelligentsia? Only last year during the #UNGA, the West Papuan delegation led by Benny Wenda and other senior members from the United Liberation Movement of West Papua handed over to the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Gutires a petition with 1.8 million signatures collected from West Papua, 70% of the total indigenous population. However, this was not acted upon. Let us keep on pushing pressure on these relevant structures so that West Papua becomes part of their agenda.

We call upon organisations, movements, political parties, governments, student activists, community activists, artists to join in raising awareness and put pressure on Indonesia to stop committing ‘crimes against humanity’ in West Papua. The Indonesian must do the right thing and withdrew their military forces out of West Papua.

And to South Africa, we encourage the democratically elected government of South Africa to cut the trading ties with Indonesia until the Indonesian military stop committing mass murders in West Papua and withdrew totally their military forces from West Papua. Merdeka Papua.

Yours in solidarity

Free West Papua Solidarity Campaign- Cape Town

Oswald kucherera081 361 2043

Yonela Msongelwa074 528 5483



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Yonela Msongelwa

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