President Joko Widodo has again visited West Papua, in the same week that five of our people were murdered and mutilated by Indonesian soldiers.

Since being elected in 2014, Widodo has visited West Papua thirteen times. He became President on a promise to reform and solve the human rights situation in West Papua, but the situation for my people has only become worse during his reign. While we are tortured and killed by his soldiers, he treats our land like a holiday destination. As we mourn our dead he dances on their graves.

Every December, we remember the Paniai massacre of 2014, when five West Papuan schoolchildren were murdered by Indonesian troops while protesting their military occupation. The Indonesian human rights commission, Komnas HAM, foundthat the soldiers had committed ‘crimes against humanity’ by torturing and murdering children.

President Widodo promised justice for the Paniai massacre, which happened only a few months into his Presidency. But in the eight years since, what has changed? This week, six Special Forces massacred four indigenous Papuans in Timika, cutting off their heads and legs and dumping their bodies in a local river. Then, Indonesian soldiers tortured three West Papuans in Merauke, killing one, a man named Bruno Kimko. In a video, one of Kimko’s family members cries to a soldier, saying ‘we are not animals’. We are not animals, but that is how they treat us. 

The deaths of the five West Papuans this week are only single drops in a storm of Indonesian violence. Every month, we are forced to mourn more of our people. September 19th will mark two years since the murder of Pastor Yeremia Zanambani and his two brothers. Meanwhile, military operations from Nduga to Oksibil to Intan Jaya have displaced up to 100,000 West Papuans, forcing them to live in the bush, without adequate food or medical care. Mass arrests are the punishment whenever we demand our right to self-determination.

These are crimes against humanity, democracy, and international law: organised, systematic killings, happening in full view of the world. The big Western powers rightly condemn Russia’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine. But the soldiers who occupy my country and mutilate my people are trained and supplied by Western states – by Australia, New Zealand, the US and UK. Instead of more visits from President Widodo, we urgently need the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit West Papua. The events of this week show why the call for a UN visit has been supported by over eighty countries. The world must finally confront the reality of what is happening in West Papua.

To President Widodo, I repeat the same demands the ULMWP have made many times. Withdraw your murderous military. Release all political prisoners. Lift all restrictions on entry to West Papua for international media and NGOs. Stop stealing our resources through exploitative economic developments. Honour your promise to allow a UN visit. Finally, you must fulfill our right to self-determination through an internationally-monitored referendum on independence. Our will to liberate ourselves has never been stronger: a referendum is the only pathway to peace.

The struggles against racism and colonialism never ended; my people fight them every day. We will never give up until we have won our freedom. To all West Papuans, God bless you.

Benny Wenda
Interim President
ULMWP Provisional Government