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E. II.2.d. West Papua: Civil mobilization supersedes guerrilla struggle

Indonesia invaded West Papua in 1961, obliging the Dutch to accept that the territory be placed under UN transitional administration. However, in 1963, it was handed over to Indonesia subject to a consultation with the population. This ‘Act of Free Choice’ took place in 1969, and consisted of 1,022 Papuan men handpicked by the Indonesian military raising their hands to agree that they would rather be Indonesian citizens than have independence. Indonesian forces have been responsible for the death of more than 100,000 Papuans since the 1961 invasion – their lethal violence ranging from aerial bombardment to extra-judicial execution. The guerrilla resistance remains, but lacks coordination and today guerrilla forces are estimated as around 1,000. At the same time, continued Indonesian settlement in Papua means that the proportion of non-Papuans in the population has risen to 48%.

Since the fall of Suharto in 1998, armed struggle has been rather supplanted by civil mobilization. Dissent took the form of raising the Morning Star flag (the banned symbol symbol of national and cultural identity), large demonstrations, and the formation of human rights and pro-independence organisations. In 2001, Indonesia conceded a nominal ‘special autonomy’ (Otsus), which served to protect Indonesian interests in Papua – including access to forests, minerals and offshore natural resources but did not satisfy Papuan grievances. For a period, Papuans mounted campaigns around more limited objectives than full ‘independence’ – for instance, against logging and palm planting, and also against the Freeport McMoran/Rio Tinto gold and copper mine where, in 2006, indigenous workers organised a trade union (and subsequently strikes in 2007 and 2011).

In 2009-10, a popular campaign began against ‘Special Autonomy’ – a symbolic coffin headed one demonstration, and in June 2010 protesters occupied parliament for two days demanding that their representatives open new negotiations and demand a referendum on independence. In October 2011, the third Papuan People’s Congress – a three-day gathering of extra-parliamentary groups – declared independence. Subsequently this declaration has been read at various demonstrations in Papua, while the Indonesian repression has been especially targeted at the KNPB (the West Papua National Committee, a nonviolent pro-independence group) which has been driven underground. is a campaigning site which lists resources.

Budiardjo, Carmel ; Liong, Liem Soei, West Papua: The obliteration of a people, [1983], Thornton Heath, TAPOL, 1988, pp. 142

TAPOL has campaigned against Indonesian human rights abuses for 40 years, for which in 1995 Budiardjo won the Right Livelihood Award.

Chauvel, Richard, Constructing Papuan Nationalism: History, Ethnicity, and Adaptation, Washington DC, East-West Center, 2005, pp. 140

Farhadian, Charles E., The Testimony Project: Papua – a collection of personal histories in West Papua, Jayapura, Deiyai Press, 2007, pp. 179

Narratives based on interviews with 12 Papuans.

Glazebrook, Diana, Teaching Performance Art is like Sharpening the Blade of a Knife, Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, Vol. 5, issue 1, 2004, pp. 1-14

Describes the cultural project of musician Arnold Ap in the 10 years before he was killed by Indonesian troops, how at first it exploited the limited radio space granted by Indonesia and later became a more open challenge to Indonesian repression.

Hedman, Eva-Lotta E., Dynamics of Conflict and Displacement in Papua, Indonesia, Working Paper No. 42, Oxford, Refugee Studies Paper, 2007, pp. 75

King, Peter, West Papua and Indonesia Since Suharto: Independence, Autonomy or Chaos?, Sydney, University of New South Wales Press, 2004, pp. 240

King, Peter ; Elmslie, Jim ; Webb-Gannon, Camellia, Comprehending West Papua, Sydney, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS), 2011, pp. 392

The most substantial publication from CPACS’ ongoing West Papua Project – 25 chapters, including human rights surveys, discussions on strategic possibilities, and other commentaries, plus Katrina Rae’s West Papua 2010: A Literature Survey. All online at

Kirksey, Eben, Freedom in Entangled Worlds: West Papua and the Architecture of Global Power, Durham NC, Duke University Press, 2012, pp. 344

MacLeod, Jason, The Role of Strategy in Advancing Nonviolent Resistance in West Papua, In Reychler, Luc ; Deckard, Julianne Funk; Villanueva, Kevin H.R., Building Sustainable Futures: Enacting Peace and Development Bilbao, University of Deusto, , 2009, pp. 215-237

MacLeod has a chapter on dialogue in King; Elmslie; Webb-Gannon, Comprehending West Papua (E. II.2.d. West Papua: Civil mobilization supersedes guerrilla struggle) , above, and a historical chapter, ‘West Papua: Civil Resistance, Framing, and Identity, 1910s-2010s’, in Bartkowski, Recovering Nonviolent History: Civil Resistance in Liberation Struggles (A. 1.b. Strategic Theory, Dynamics, Methods and Movements) , Chapter 12, pp. 217-237. He also contributes on Papua for

Singh, Bilveer, Papua: Geopolitics and the Quest for Nationhood, Brunswick, Transaction Publishers, 2008, pp. 224

Tebay, Neles, West Papua: The Struggle for Peace and Justice, London, Catholic Institute for International Relations, 2005, pp. 32

Tebay has a chapter in King; Elmslie; Webb-Gannon, Comprehending West Papua (E. II.2.d. West Papua: Civil mobilization supersedes guerrilla struggle) .