Being a student of African history, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, has sent me all over the world. The knowledge that I’ve received so far has been beneficial to my progression, but it’s regressive at the same time. Why? Because African people, globally, are still facing systemic oppression. Disenfranchised would be an understatement when it comes to describing the current conditions of the indigenous people of West Papua (Melanesian African descendants living on the islands of the South Pacific).
According to AfricanAmerica.org, Indonesia has been carrying out a systemic genocide against the people of West Papua for over 50 years. The West Papuans have been suffering under Indonesian occupation since 1963, with over 500,000 civilians being killed and thousands more being tortured, raped, and imprisoned. Many of us are unfamiliar with this indigenous group and their conditions because foreign media, as well as human rights groups, are banned from operating there. So I dug a little deeper and found some important history, by way of Juliet Lopez London and The Free West Papua Campaign.
- West Papua is the western half of the island of New Guinea, lying 200km north of Australia.
- The island is still largely covered in virgin rainforest, second to The Amazon, being the home of over 250 diverse tribes that speak their own languages.
- It was originally populated by Melanesians (African descendants) over 50,000 years ago.
- Living in total peace, they were then invaded and colonized by the Dutch in 1858.
- Many were enslaved in Australia; the English colonized Papua New Guinea and handed over administrative control to the Australia government.
- A geological survey conducted just before the end of World War II uncovered an abundance of rich minerals and resources such as gold, silver, copper, oil, and natural liquid gas; which sealed the deal for colonization.
- After WWII, the Indonesians declared independence and felt their new territory should include West Papua.
- A conflict between Indonesians and The Dutch ensued over the region until then United States Senator, Robert Kennedy, got both to agree to negotiations.
- The Dutch (Netherlands) handed the region over to the United Nations, with the agreement that West Papua would be under Indonesian rule.
- In 1969, hand-picked Papuans were forced (at gunpoint) to vote to remain under Indonesian rule. And since then, the West Papuan people have fought to have their land and freedom returned—suffering immense trauma in the process.
If you’re like me, you may be questioning how you can help. Well, founder of the 2004 West Papua Campaign, West Papuan Independence Leader Benny Wenda, has advised a few ways. You can find out by clicking here. Please spread the word and stay connected with all updates by following the campaign on Facebook and Twitter.
Feel free to comment below if you’d like to discuss or have any additional information that I might’ve missed.
Until Next Time…
Free West Papua 2016. (2016, July 01). Retrieved July 13, 2018, from http://waronthehorizon.com/site/?p=6343
West Papua: The Genocide That The World Is Ignoring. (2017, January 18). Retrieved July 13, 2018, from https://www.africanamerica.org/topic/west-papua-the-genocide-that-the-world-is-ignoring