The Oxford City Council is awarding Mr. Benny Wenda, West Papuan activist the Honorary Freedom of the City accolade for his tireless fight for West Papuan self-determination.
Wenda, whom the United Kingdom granted political asylum in 2002, lives in Oxford with his family and it serves as the headquarters of his campaign to liberate the people of West Papua.
According to the Oxford City Council, the Freedom Award is the highest honour the City of Oxford can bestow and is one of the oldest surviving traditional ceremonies still in existence.
Benny Wenda was elected as the Secretary-General of The Koteka Tribal Assembly (In Indonesia it is called Dewan Musyawarah Masyarakat Adat (DeMMAK)) in April 2000, and began to publicly speak for his people’s rights and freedom.
Wenda was facing a 25-year jail sentence if found guilty and he was also allegedly subjected to death threats whilst being held in custody. Indonesian government charged him for a violent demonstration took place in 2002. His fellow founder of DeMMAK, Sem Karoba who was in England at that time, organised a rescue operation. He was then rescued by the DeMMAK’s Special Command persons, taken out from Abepura prison in West Papua to Vanimo, Papua New Guinea, then flown directly to London, the United Kingdom.
Since 2004 he has been organising Free West Papua Campaign based in Oxoford.
In October 2008, attended by British parliamentarians including Lembit Öpik and Baron Avebury, as well as politicians from Papua New Guinea, Benny Wenda established International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP).
In April 2009, Benny Wenda launched the International Lawyers for West Papua (ILWP).
An award-winning documentary about Benny Wenda, The Road to Home, was released in 2015.
In 2017 he was appointed Chairman for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), a new organisation uniting the three main political organisations struggling for the independence of West Papua.
In July 1st, 2019, under his Chairmanship of the ULMWP, the ULMWP Spokesperson announced the May 1st Declaration of the West Papua Army (WPA) that unites three different military commands to get organised under the ULMWP political campaigns.
Soon afterwards, it was publicised that Benny Wenda is to be awarded the “Honorary Freedom of Oxford City”.
Benny Wenda promotes a Free and Independent West Papua where indigenous peoples’ rights, indigenous laws and indigenous systems of governance become the bases and the government will upload “Tribal Democracy” as the model of modern West Papua democracy, promoting the Idea of Nelson Mandela’s Tribal Model of Democracy. According to a West Papuan academic, Sem Karoba, Tribal Demoracy is the “democracy for all communities of beings”, and democracy for a balanced life for harmonious simple and sustainable life as already existing in Melanesia today, a model of democracy that is most needed today and tomorrow.