Civilian Resistance and the Failure of the Indonesian Counterinsurgency Campaign in Nduga, West Papua

Hipolitus Wangge, Camellia Webb-Gannon

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    The indigenous people of West Papua have contested their controversial annexation by Indonesia since 1969. In response, the Indonesian military (TNI) has launched a series of counterinsurgency operations to defeat the National Liberation Army of West Papua (TPN-PB) while simultaneously trying to inculcate a sense of Indonesian nationalism among West Papuan civilians. To obtain legitimacy and achieve success, counterinsurgency operations must gain the support of civil society. This article examines the TNI's on-going counterinsurgency campaign in the West Papuan highlands regency of Nduga. Since late 2018, the TNI has been unsuccessful in winning over civil society to its objectives in Nduga. Instead of cultivating good relationships with Nduga civil society by respecting property and local culture, the military has used indiscriminate violence against Nduga citizens and added to their history of collective trauma. In this article, we argue that through acts of non-cooperation such as internal migration/ displacement, disobedience and resistance, the people of Nduga have defied the TNI and undermined its counterinsurgency efforts. We conclude that the counterinsurgency operation has created more harm than good in Nduga. And, counter to its aims, it has not only failed to win local support, it has also re-energized the West Papuan movement for independence in Nduga.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)276-301
    JournalContemporary Southeast Asia
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


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