Update on security force operation in Nduga: Approximately 2000 indigenous Papuans displaced, 13 IDPs reported dead

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Ongoing security force operations in multiple districts of the Nduga regency have caused the displacement of thousands of indigenous people. Human rights defenders claim that the internally displaced people (IDPs) originate from thirteen districts in the Nduga Regency which have been affected by the military operation, namely the districts Mbuwa, Dal, Mbulmu Yalma, Mapenduma, Yigi, Nirkuri, Kageam, Paro, Mebarok, Gesekema, Jengelo, Amala and Kilimid. 407 IDPs had sought shelter in the neighboring district Kwiyawagi after the first security force attacks in early December. As the armed attacks continued, many IDPs fled towards the regencies Jayawijaya, Mimika and Lani Jaya. The media outlet BBC Indonesia reported in early March 2019, that approximately 2000 IDPs from Nduga are estimated to have sought refuge in the regency of Jayawijaya alone. The IDPs live with families from the Nduga Regency who have built temporary accommodations, mostly in the areas Wouma, Ilekma, Hom-Hom and Welesi.

IDP Children WamenaA group of teachers, volunteers and civil society organisations have formed a solidarity group to support IDPs in Wamena, Jayawijaya Regency. On 8 February 2019, the group established a temporary school (see images on top and right) for 613 internally displaced children from the Nduga Regency (YouTube Video of the school activities available here and here). The school also functions as a distribution point for lunch for internally displaced children. The Education Department of Nduga Regency is currently trying to arrange the permission for the temporary school. Representatives of the local government in the Jayawijaya regency have only visited the school, but have not taken any initiative to support the IDPs in Wamena. The solidarity movement stated that they need food, equipment for hygiene and water purification, medication and clothing.

Members of the solidarity group have been subjected to intimidation by security force personnel. Between 10 and 14 February 2019, members of the police and military repeatedly tried to access the temporary school premises. However, the volunteers were able to prevent the security force members from entering, arguing that the children were severely traumatized due to security force attacks in their home villages.

On 15 February 2019, the chief of the Jayawijaya 1702 Military Command called the members of the solidarity initiative and scolded them for having established the temporary school. He argued that the Nduga Regency is safe and that such a school would only draw public attention on the situation in the Nduga Regency. He suggested that the children should be brought to the Kenyam District of Nduga regency or attend existing schools in the Jayawijaya District.

Members of an ecumenical delegation coordinated by the World Council of Churches (WCC) visited IDPs from the Nduga Regency in Wamena, the main city of the Jayawijaya Regency, on 18 February 2019. The Foundation for Justice and Integrity of the Papuan People took the initiative to meet with affected villagers from the Nduga Regency. A petition, signed by 906 villagers and IDPs was handed over to the WCC delegation during their visit to Wamena.

IDPs from Nduga regency have stated that many displaced villagers continue to hide in the jungle, where they live in small groups in improvised huts. The men leave the shelter during the night and walk far distances to the gardens to collect sweet potatoes and taro. The harsh climate and food scarcity in the central Papuan highlands have particularly affected women and children. According to local human rights defenders, at least thirteen IDPs died due to exhaustion, starvation and hypothermia after fleeing their villages. Among them were women and at least seven children under the age of nine years. A mother and her two newborn babies reportedly died, as the woman gave birth in the jungle. Human rights defenders reported that the military occupied a clinic in the Mapenduma district to establish a military outpost, after the military expanded its operations on 19 December 2018. The presence of military in health facilities prevent sick and injured indigenous people from accessing urgently needed health services – many IDPs are traumatized and afraid of security forces

Table with names of IDPs from Nduga Regency who died shortly after fleeing their villages

No Name of victim District of Origin Description
1 Yarion Pokneangge Dal Died after her family had to flee while being sick
2 Abinus Gwijangge Mugi Died in the refugee camp after getting sick
3 Selfina Lokbere Mbua Died while delivering twin babies
4 Newborn babies of Selfina Lokbere Mbua Died during birth
5 Newborn babies of Selfina Lokbere Mbua Died shortly after birth
6 Demince Kurungga N/A Died from a high fever after being in the forest for a long time
7 Bugun Unue N/A Died of starvation and hypothermia
8 Deswana Uburuangge Mapenduma Died in the refugee camp in Timika 
9 Raina Kogeya Mapenduma Died of starvation and hypothermia
10 Baby of Ubigina Unue N/A Died of starvation and hypothermia
11 Arem Kogoya Wouma Died with the age of 55 years on 19 January 2019 in Wamena, shortly after she fled Pipitmo village
12 Rev. Pirion Gwijangge Mbulmuyalma Died with the age of 60 years in Pelepaga Village
13 Rev. Genworak Wasinage Mbulmuyalma Died with the age of 65 years on 15 January 2019 in Jelekama Village