Indonesia’s Papua, covering its two easternmost provinces, simmers with the highest levels of deadly violence — inter-ethnic, electoral, land-related and domestic — in the country. Home to a Melanesian and largely Christian indigenous population, it became part of Indonesia in 1969 after a highly contested referendum and has since been home to a low-level armed struggle for independence.
Papua’s diverse population, with more than 200 distinct indigenous ethnic groups (and a large population of migrants from elsewhere in Indonesia), struggles with some of the lowest development indicators in the country. Successive Indonesian administrations have failed to solve these problems or reduce the grievances that fuel the independence movement. This is despite the gradual ‘Papuanisation’ of the local government bureaucracy since 1999 and the implementation of limited special autonomy since 2001. Will Indonesia’s new President, Joko Widodo (Jokowi), who made the region a special focus of his 2014 election campaign, do any better?
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