Updated: July 24, 2019 05:14 AM GMT
Children attend a class in a makeshift school run by church activists and local education officials at a refugee camp in Wamena in Papua. (Photo by Flori Geong)
A church group in Papua has called on the Indonesian government to actively seek an end to clashes between the military and rebel groups in Papua that have displaced thousands and left at least a hundred people dead in the last eight months.
The violence flared after the rebels killed 20 workers constructing a road in Nduga district on Dec. 2, 2018.
The Solidarity Team for Nduga, which helps care for the refugees, said last week that about 5,000 people from about dozens of villages have yet to return to their homes.
It also said 139 refugees — mostly children under five years of age — have died due to disease and a lack of healthcare in refugee camps in Jayawijaya and Lanny districts, while sporadic clashes have left a number of troops and rebels dead.
Hipolitus Wangge, a Solidarity Team for Nduga volunteer, said at least 17 soldiers have been killed in clashes since December.
Yuliana Langowuyo, deputy director of Franciscan’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation said the regional and national governments must cooperate to end the conflict.
"The government needs to form an investigation team to find out the current situation in Nduga,” Langowuyo told ucanews.com.
“The government must take necessary steps to end the conflict between the military and Free Papua Movement, because in the end, it is the civilians that suffer most,” she said.
The Indonesian president must withdraw troops to bring peace back to Nduga so that civilians can return home, she said.
"However, whether they return or remain in camps, the government must preserve their rights to education and health care,” Langowuyo said.
Arim Tabuni, a Nduga refugee in Wamena, in Jayawijaya district said there are no health teams to handle sick refugees.
"What we have to do is contact nurses or doctors who work with us if someone gets sick,” he said.
Emus Gwiyangge, a local legislator bemoaned what he called half-hearted aid for the displaced people.
"Initially, the provincial government provided help in the form of food," said Gwiyangge.
"But later, assistance was discontinued. Discussions to try and build peace were also stopped," he said.
Another local lawmaker, Aman Jikwa, called on the government to immediately re-evaluate the presence of security forces in Nduga, because a strong military presence was deterring people from going home.
"When the soldiers come, people are scared,” he said.
Saur Tumiur Situmorang of the National Commission on Violence Against Women, echoed Jikwa’s comments.
"Sometimes they damage homes left by residents and open fire on livestock,” Papuan news portal Jubi.co.id quoted Situmorang as saying.
Military spokesman Muhamad Aidi, denied claims the military were a threat to people.
"Refugees yet to return to their homes are being threatened and intimidated by rebel groups, not the military," he said.
“Many refugees who have returned to their homes have received assistance from the military,” he said.