February 17, 2015

West Papua freedom struggle reaches South Africa

The Nobel Peace Prize nominated West Papua independence leader Benny Wenda has this week embarked on his first ever official tour to South Africa, aimed at building support for the self-determination struggle in his homeland. His arrival comes only days after he and other members of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) resubmitted an application for West Papua to join the Melanesian Spearhead Group, a move which if accepted is seen by many observers as a major step towards West Papuan statehood.

The spirit of the people of Soweto continues in the struggle of the people of West Papua and around the world.

Benny Wenda pictured by a monument to the Soweto Uprising of June 1976

Day one of the visit saw Benny escorted on a tour of Soweto, Johannesburg by local commanders of the Pan African Congress (PAC). Here he visited the homes of many leaders of the revolution against apartheid in South Africa and survivors of the Soweto Uprising of June 1976, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of South African students.

Benny Wenda during his visit to Soweto in Johannesburg

Benny Wenda during his visit to Soweto township in Johannesburg

Organisers of the trip have announced plans for Benny to meet with a number of politicians and family members of South African legends including the late Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Oliver Reginald Tambo, Christ Hani and King Mandla Mandela General Bantu Holomisa. 

In Johannesburg, Benny will also be opening a new branch of the Free West Papua Campaign, the international lobby group that he founded in 2004, which has grown to include offices in Oxford, The Hague, Port Moresby and Perth.

The South African tour will also see Benny visit Cape Town, the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and Durban.

Granted political asylum in the UK, Wenda’s freedom of movement was restricted in 2011 when, at the behest of the Indonesian government, Interpol issued a ‘red notice’ putting him at extreme risk of extradition should he travel. The following year the ‘red notice’ was lifted after being deemed “predominantly political in nature”. Since then, Wenda has embarked on a worldwide “Freedom Tour” to build support and awareness for the West Papuan independence movement. To date Benny has visited Senegal, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Guyana, Vanuatu, Poland, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the United States of America.

The Road To Home is a feature-length documentary about Benny Wenda, providing a rare insight into the life and times of this modern day freedom fighter.