Death of Papuan Governor Enembe followed by civil unrest and outbreaks of ethnic tensions

The Papua Governor, Mr Lukas Enembe, passed away in the Gatot Subroto Military Hospital (RSPAD) in Jakarta on 26 December 2023 during detention after being sentenced to eight years imprisonment in a corruption trial. Many Papuans believe that the trial was highly political, as Governor Enembe was commonly perceived as highly committed to protecting the interests of indigenous Papuans against the central government. Mr Enembe’s health condition repeatedly dropped during the trial process while Indonesian authorities did not allow him to undergo intense medical treatment in Singapore as requested by his lawyers.

Mr Enembe’s body was brought to the Jayapura Regency on 28 December 2023. Thousands of Papuans gathered in the Jayapura Regency to pay their last respect to the governor. The public assemblies were accompanied by spontaneous civil unrest in various locations across the city (see videos below, source: independent HRDs). Protesters raised Morning Star Flags and called for West Papua’s political independence. Following the unrest, human rights observers documented ethnic tensions between indigenous Papuans and non-Papuans in areas like Entrop (see videos below, source: independent HRDs). Lukas Enembe’s body was buried in his house in Koya on 29 December 2023.

According to the Papuan Police Chief, Commissioner Matius Fakhiri, at least 14 persons were injured during riots in the city of Jayapura, including the Governor of Papua Province, Dr Muhammad Ridwan Rumasukun, eight security force members, a journalist, and five protesters. One car was reportedly set on fire, five other vehicles were severely damaged, and about 28 buildings, including small stores and residential houses, were damaged, most of them set on fire.

The commander of Kodam XVII/Cenderawasih Military command area, Major General Izak Pangemanan, claimed in an interview with CNN Indonesia that the riots had been masterminded by members of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) and the United Liberation Movement for West Papua ( ULMWP). The KNPB denied any involvement in the civil unrest.

The KNPB has been organising West Papua-wide mass protests for self-determination through a political referendum for more than ten years. Their members have committed to non-violent protest by organising peaceful demonstrations and political discussions. Human rights organisations observe that their leaders have been subjected to intimidation and criminalisation by Indonesian authorities over the past decade.

Videos: Civil unrest in Jayapura on 28 December 2023

Videos: Racial tensions in Entrop, Jayapura, following the civil unrest in Jayapura on 28 December 2023