Africa United Beyond Borders: Africa Day an opportunity to reunite descendants of Africa
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Global Pan Africanism Network is hosting a virtual Pan African conference on 25th May-26th May on Africa day and will be broadcasted via our official United States of Africa page on Facebook.
The event theme is : Africa United Beyond Borders-Reunification of all people of African descent and political unification of Africa based on the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of Africa’s renaissance.
This conference will also celebrate the decade of people of African descent and advocate for the realization of the United States of Africa. The International Decade for People of African Descent, 2015–2024,which was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in a Resolution (68/237) adopted on 23 December 2013. The theme of the International Decade is “People of African descent: recognition, justice and development.
Former AU Ambassador H.E Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao will be the keynote speaker.
Other speakers include: Professor Kehinde Andrews ,an academic activist and an author,Marsha Garratt a researcher and lecturer who will be speaking on Racism,Police brutality,tribalism,xenophobia and self hate.
Dr. Mehari Taddelle Maru will speak on the quest for new causes of Pan African Solidarity : Redefining Pan Africanism for the 21st century.
Mehari Taddele Maru is Part-time Professor at Migration Policy Centre of the European University Institute, and he is also a member of the Centre’s Advisory Board.
He is a Member of the Technical Committee of the Tana High-Level Security Forum (modelled on, and uniquely related to the Munich Security Forum for Africa). At Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), he is the Lead Migration Expert and Legal Drafter in addition to his service as Chief Strategist on geopolitical, peace and security issues.
Kehinde Andrews is a British academic, professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University, director of the Centre for Critical Social Research, founder of the Organisation of Black Unity, and co-chair of the Black Studies Association. According to The Guardian, he is “the UK’s first professor of black studies.”
Andrews earned a PhD in Sociology and Cultural Studies from the University of Birmingham in 2011. His thesis was entitled “Back to Black: Black Radicalism and the Supplementary School Movement”. He is of African-Caribbean heritage.
Professor Andrews has been a firm critic of non-white members of the Conservative Party, saying that a “cabinet packed with ministers with brown skin wearing Tory masks represents the opposition of racial progress.
Professor Runoko Rashidi will be the keynote speaker on day two of the event and will speak on Global African Presence.
Runoko Rashidi (born 1954) is an African-American historian, essayist, author and public lecturer based in Los Angeles, California, and Paris, France. He is the author of Introduction to the Study of African Classical Civilizations (1993) and the editor of Unchained African Voices, a collection of poetry and prose by Death Row inmates at California’s San Quentin maximum-security prison. He is a member of the editorial board of Africology: The Journal of Pan African Studies (www.jpanafrican.org), and he holds an honorary doctorate of divinity from Amen-Ra Theological Seminary (Los Angeles, California). He is also part of an Afrocentric movement where he supports the work of people like Ivan Van Sertima
Rashidi is a writer and speaker who lectures on topics including ancient Egypt, his belief in an African presence in prehistoric America, Africans in antiquity, and the African presence in Asia and other parts of the world.
He is the author or editor of 18 books, including The African Presence in Early Asia (1985, 1988, 1995), with Ivan Van Sertima, Black Star: The African Presence in Early Europe (2012) and African Star over Asia: The Black Presence in the East (2013).
This first ever online Pan African conference has attracted over 31 speakers from more than 20 countries.
The Unfinished Decolonization of West Papua:
The indigenous people in West Papua will be represented by Raki Api,the spokesperson for Free West Papua campaign and Lewis Prai who is the diplomat for OPM-TPNPB which is leading the armed struggles against Indonesian colonialism.
West Papua is the western half of the island of New Guinea, formerly known as Dutch New Guinea. A 13-year dispute with the Netherlands over whether the former Dutch colony would become an independent state or an Indonesian province culminated in 1962 in its occupation and annexation by force by he Indonesian military and the denial of the right of self-determination to its people. Following Indonesia’s farcical Act of “Free” Choice, carried out in 1969 under conditions of extreme duress, West Papua was proclaimed an Indonesian province and renamed Irian Jaya. Through their acquiescence, Western nations assisted in these actions and have continued to support Indonesia’s repressive military rule with arms, military support, and World Bank funding.
The United Nations has given diplomatic support to Indonesia, particularly in the case of the West Papuan takeover, and neighboring countries Papua New Guinea and Australia have followed a policy of appeasement even in the face of the military’s worst excesses. Papua New Guinea has been thrust into the role of unwilling participant in an international problem by becoming the recipient of the first refugees in the Melanesian Pacific.
“We Are All OPM”
From 1973 until 1975, the year of Papua New Guinea’s independence, the Indonesian military stepped up its activity against the West Papuan people Many dispossessed West Papuans joined the Organisasi Papua Merdeka, or Free Papua Movement (OPM), the fighting wing of the resistance. Although Indonesia has consistently maintained that the OPM is not a threat, the might of its army has been deployed since the occupation in a vain attempt to destroy the movement. Villages were destroyed as the army hunted for OPM members and the whole population turned against the invading forces. It became impossible to separate activists from the community; all people, whether villagers of refugees, proclaimed their solidarity: We are all OPM.
In 1984, after Indonesia deployed widespread military action and seized traditionally owned land for transmigration sites, more than 10,000 West Papuans crossed the border to seek refuge in Papua New Guinea. Indonesia’s 1984-1989 transmigration plan called for 5 million people from Java, Madura, and Bali to be moved to the provinces that continue to resist its military occupation (i.e., West Papua, East Timor, Kalimantan, South Moluccas, Sulawesi, and Sumatra). (This policy, along with a more comprehensive history of the conflict, has been widely documented and is summarized most recently by Gault-Williams .)
Indonesia’s deliberate cover-up of events in West Papua continued as the Papua New Guinea government tried to ignore the more than 10,000 refugees camped inside its border. The intense secrecy, the closed access to the two colonial territories. East Timor and Irian Jaya, and the complicity of world powers in Indonesia’s state-endorsed terrorism have succeeded in ensuring that the outside world remains ignorant of the Indonesian policy of genocide. Every Australian newspaper has been banned in Indonesia at one time or another and the eminent and conservative Australian was banned for many years. Radio Australia has also been silenced and international media representatives and writers banned for reporting factual events.
The Battle over Resources
West Papua promised land space for over-populated Java, but the newly acquired province also contained exploitable material wealth – minerals and forests. The island of New Guinea and the surrounding seas, too, are resource rich. On both sides of the international border, destruction of the environment – the ancestral homelands of the indigenous people – continues unabated as international consortiums plunder and pillage. On the Papua New Guinea side, a few politicians and businesspeople share in the spoils, as the Barnett Inquiry (known as the Forest Inquiry) into the Forests Industry Council found: “A thoroughly corrupt industry was completely out of control. Many political leaders – from village `big men’ to former prime ministers – were involved” (Murphy 1989).
Sustainable development, the buzzword of the late 1980s, means nothing to villagers who are see the hand clearing of forest trees as their most onerous task over the millennia. To them, the permanent loss of the forest is unimaginable, and selling logging rights is a quick and effortless way to join the cash economy. Villagers have no way to knowing that such schemes will destroy their birthright, nor that ruthless foreign companies will not honor agreements. The levels of deception and thievery unearthed by the Forest Inquiry in Papua New Guinea equaled that of the loggers of the Amazon’s rain forests.
On the other side of the border, in West Papua, Indonesia makes no pretense of negotiating with traditional landowners; they are thrown off the land, destined to become refugees or to be shot or forced, like the Asmat, into slave labor for the Indonesians. Canadian and Australian logging companies have joined the Malaysians and the Japanese in the race to destroy New Guinea’s tropical forests. Concurrent with Australia token gesture of giving the rock star Sting US $205,000 to support the protection of Brazilian rain forests, an Australian company announced plans to log a massive area of pristine rain forest in the Mamberamo River area – 600,000 hectares – in partnership with an Indonesian company (Sun Herald 5/28/89). Refugees from this area are exiled in Papua New Guinea camps along with people from every region of West Papua.
Mining, by its very nature the epitome of unsustainability, is entrenched in the economy of the New Guinea region. The total shut down and closure of the giant Bougainville copper mine in 1989 after an armed insurrection supported by the traditional landowners has crippled the Papua New Guinea economy. The income from the mine was the major local input (more than US $250 million per annum is supplied as united aid from Australia) for supporting the infrastructures of the parliamentary system, the civil service, and a small, educated elite; little of the wealth flowed down to the local people.
In West Papua, the US transnational company Freeport waited until the Dutch withdrew and then commenced negotiations with the Indonesians in 1963 to construct and operate the giant Freeport copper mine. The massive Indonesian police and military actions that accompanied the buildup of the mining operation, and the state and transnational collusion to mine the gold and copper, was described by Hyndman (1988) as “nothing short of economic development by invasion.”
The ruthless exploitation of resources and destruction of indigenous homelands continues all over West Papua, creating refugees whose credentials are still questioned by a largely ignorant outside world and whose claims are dismissed as irrelevant by the international business consortiums.
A Mass Exodus
The first refugees who crossed into Papua New Guinea in the 1984 influx were educated urban dwellers fleeing for their lives during the extensive military operations of that year. Together with larger numbers of village people – refugees from the transmigration sites and from appropriated forest areas – they camped near villages inside the Papua New Guinea border. Although villagers welcomed the refugees, gardens could not supply food for their growing numbers. Despite both governments’ attempts to blame the exodus on the OPM, the refugees consistently attributed it to transmigration, to the loss of their land and the violence of the Indonesian military.
The mass exodus of 1984 could not be hidden from the outside world; the Papua New Guinea government’s initial response had been to offer some assistance to refugees, but to charge them with criminal offenses and repatriate them. Government policy was influenced by fear – fear that Indonesia would regard its granting of asylum to refugees and the establishment of rebel camps along the common border as hostile acts. The sheer number of refugees made repatriation difficult; the physical task of feeding them was assumed by church organizations, which warned that the situation was becoming desperate. It was not until 54 deaths were reported in the Western Province, however, that the Papua New Guinea government ventured a comment on the conditions, telling Parliament that the OPM was to blame and accusing OPM members of sacrificing their own women and children for political gain.
The public reaction to these statements forced politicians and policy makers to reconsider the depth of pan-Melanesian sympathies. Denying assistance to the refugees did not make them return home, and in 1985 reports of malnutrition, disease, and deaths by starvation (about 100) forced a policy change. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) established a branch office in Papua New Guinea in 1986; in that same year, Papua New Guinea became a signatory of the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, both administered by the UN.
What Fate for Border Dwellers?
Papua New Guinea’s policy of minimal publicity on the refugees and on border incidents in general meant that very few outsiders gained permission to visit the refugee camps. The geographical isolation and the rough terrain helped to hide their presence from the outside world, and caused many logistical difficulties for visiting medical and welfare teams. Conditions in camps were crowded and unhygienic, and the refugees were often in poor health after months spent hiding in the bust during their flights from persecution. Many were suffering from diseases that had been under control in Papua New Guinea, and others carried diseases brought in by Indonesians and never before known on the New Guinea mainland.
Accepting that they were to remain indefinitely, the Papua New Guinea government enforced a policy of moving all the West Papuans to a single site away from the border. During 1987-1988 nearly 3,000 persons were transferred from the border camps to a site further east, at East Awin. Some refugees refused to move. Police supervised airlifts from the northern camps; official statements stressed that all refugees would be relocated – by force, if necessary.
Realistically, it is widely agreed that reaction to such violent removal is counterproductive: it attracts outside media attention, revitalizes Papua New Guinea’s public support and mobilizes activists, either to prevent refugees from leaving or to launch new attacks within West Papua. Officially, most of the border camps are closed, but some services established by aid workers are maintained.
The West Papuan refugees are Christians who believe their faith and prayers will result in a positive resolution to their predicament. As Nonie Sharp concluded in a passionate plea for the West Papuan people in her 1977 book, The Rule of the Sword: For the delicately balanced, fragile and repressive Indonesian state, time is now on the side of East Timor and West Irian… for West Irian, the form which exploitation has taken has created a social basis for the spread of resistance.”
More than a decade later, David Robie, in his book Blood on Their Banner (1989), supported the hope of the dispossessed West Papuans:
The further prospect of a free West Papua may yet emerge. It could, however, take several years. But an independent state, or a province with considerably more autonomy than at present, would depend on political pressure on Jakarta rather than any hope of an OPM victory in the “forgotten war.”
The prospect remains of a long stay in the forest, but the internal breakdown of the Indonesian state, like the supernatural powers attributed to the West Papuan Morning Star flat (Osborne 1985a:99), is an article of faith among those who resist the Indonesians. Some of the refugees, severely traumatized by events in their own country, wish for Permissive Residential status and a new life in Papua New Guinea.
Ever since the invasion of West Papua over fifty years ago, the Indonesian security forces have committed a never ending catalogue of extreme human rights violations.
Over 500,000 civilians have been killed in a genocide against the indigenous population. Thousands more have been raped, tortured, imprisoned or ‘disappeared’ after being detained. Basic human rights such as freedom of speech are denied and Papuans live in a constant state of fear and intimidation.