WELCOME TO COUNTRY: The West Papuan community felt particularly honoured by the presence of Yorta Yorta Elder Marice Henare-Gleeson.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF COUNTRY: Diana Omabak, West Papua Community in Melbourne. “… we are grateful to these Traditional Owners and thank them for allowing our liberation work to continue, and really hope and pray that both of our struggles for self-determination succeed.”
Dr Jacob Rumbiak, West Papua Transitional Government
Recording of Jacob’s speech (15-min video)
Transcript of Jacob’s speech (2 x A4 PDF)
Clovis Mwamba and his book of poetry and essays
THE METEORITE MEMOS is a collection of poems written by Clovis Mwamba as memory codes for the visceral accounts of torture and desecrations he observed and were whispered to him by fellow prisoners in a secret military prison in his homeland between 1998 and 1999. Many were smuggled out of the prison by Maggie Kiembe, Clovis courageous wife. The essays, written later, illuminate elements of Congo indigenous cultures by which the people of this resource rich nation survive the deceit and corruption of western extractive companies and the Congo politicians they influence and manipulate. Written in French and translated to English by Timothy Mathieson, Clovis’ memoir is …
” … a story of blood and filth, of months spent in prison, a witness to dozens of people beaten and killed. Mwamba smuggled this tale out one piece at a time, in chapters of violence scrawled on tiny scraps of paper. His handwriting covers a chewing gum wrapper, another note fills a wrapper stripped from a tin of pilchards. More often, flattened cigarette packs acted as parchment.
Had the prison guards discovered these little missives, carried home after visits by his wife and friends, they would have been no wiser to his intention. He disguised the stories as poems or literary musings, indecipherable to anyone but him. Free again, Mwamba gathered his tiny notes and compiled a dossier of official atrocities. It was 1999 and this was supposed to be a new Congo, a country he had spent his life fighting to free.” (Sydney Morning Herald, 5 January 2010)
Clovis Mwamba in 2017, with Cathy Guinness and Tim Mathieson, at the launch of ‘Rubber Justice: Dr Harry Guinness and the Congo Reform Campaign’ by Cathy Guinness, an account of her grandfather’s political and religious life in the Congo.
CLOVIS-ALIDOR MWAMBA N KAYEMBE was a teacher, politician and political prisoner in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has lived in Melbourne since 2007, is an active member of the West Papua Womens Office in Docklands, and was a keynote speaker at our seminar West Papua’s return to the UN: fulfilling Hammarskjöld’s legacy in 2020 (below for link).
Clovis was born in 1946 in the Congo’s mineral-rich province of Katanga. In the early 1980s he joined his nation’s underground opposition movement advocating non-violence and respect for human rights. As the Cold War ended, and superpower-patronage of African strong-man-rulers was evaporating, he was elected to parliament and offered a ministerial position. However President Mobutu, a foremost example of kleptocracy, cruelty and nepotism, soon reverted to hunting down dissenters, blowing up newspaper offices, and killing opposition figures. His murderous career arced back to 1961 when as Army Chief-of-Staff he organised the murder of Congo’s first Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. Clovis was forced back underground where he continued to publish critical reviews. In 1997 Mobutu was finally overthrown, during an armed rebellion led by Laurent Kabila (with the assistance of Congo’s neighbours, principally President Yuveni’s Uganda, and Paul Kagame’s Rwanda). But little changed when the Congo rebels became the Congo government, and the Congo River again overflowed with floating corpses. When Clovis rejected President Kabila’s offer of a lucrative commercial opportunity he was accused of spying for the United Nations and the United States, and incarcerated in a secret military prison (below for link to Clovis’ full biography).
Launch, The Meteorite Memos
We introduced The Meteorite Memos with a Cabaret Burlesque ‘West Papua and the Congo’, a satirical glimpse at the men and corporations that manipulate and manoeuvre the politics and resources of ‘two nations both alike in their dignity where we lay our scene’. The script exposes the masked but influential generators of war and genocide in West Papua and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the catastrophic effect of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold’s death in the Congo in 1961 on West Papua’s registration on the UN Decolonisation List.
The burlesque characters included America’s National Security Act (1947), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the notorious CIA Director Allen Dulles. Written by Barbara Hall and directed by award-winning film director Charlie Hill-Smith, it includes a reading of two poems from The Meteorite Memos by Clovis Mwamba and the Rev. Dr Robert Stringer, and a video-interview with Siddarth Kara, author of Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives (link below). Cobalt Red is the first investigation of human rights and environmental abuses involving the mining of cobalt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (The DR Congo supplies almost 75 percent of the world’s supply of cobalt, which is used in the manufacture of lithium-ion rechargeable batteries found in smartphones, tablets, laptops, and electric vehicles).
The cabaret cast included Francis Mwamba (newsreader); Sarah Muwemba Muyunga (introduction based on Shakespeare’s Prologue to Romeo and Juliet); Jacob Rumbiak and Kevin Bracken (the American 1947 National Security Act, to the tune of a popular 1954 tango ‘Hernando’s Hideaway); Charlie Hill-Smith (The Allen Dulles Monologue); Barbara Hall (a word performance of ‘The Evil Twins’: the World Bank and International Monetary Fund).
West Papua and The Congo: introduction, two poems, prologue (13-min video)
Script: Cabaret Burlesque: West Papua and the Congo (PDF)
Allen Dulles! What the evil bastard did to Congo & West Papua (6-min video of the facts)
Until recently it was not widely accepted that Allen Dulles, CIA Director (1953-1961), was a primary architect of the scarification of decolonisation in the Congo and then West Papua. He organised the murder of Congo’s first prime minister Patrice Lumumba in January 1961, and the assassination of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld nine months later, three days before the 1961 General Assembly where the Sec-General planned to present a Decolonisation Program for West Papua. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpzyyWL1DlA&t=3s
A rare public performance by the West Papua Community Choir (11-min video)
Electronic links to recommended texts
The Disturbing Reality of Cobalt Mining for Rechargeable Batteries (interview with Siddarth Kara) www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIWvk3gJ_7E
Clovis Mwamba’s Biography Clovis Mwamba, Biography
Clovis Mwamba’s presentation for West Papua’s return to the UN: fulfilling Dag Hammarskjöld’s legacy https://dfait.federalrepublicofwestpapua.org/document/west-papuas-return-to-the-united-nations-fulfilling-dag-hammarskjolds-legacy/
Patience and longing, the gift and the burden of the exile (Daniel Flitton, Sydney Morning Herald, 5 January 2010) https://www.smh.com.au/national/patience-and-longing-the-gift-and-the-burden-of-the-exile-20100104-lq66.html
Notes and Reviews of Strange Birds in Paradise: a West Papuan story, by Charlie Hill-Smith, which won the SBS IF Award for Best Documentary and the Samsung Mobile AFI Award for Best Feature Documentary https://strangebirdsdocop.wordpress.com/
Blood River: a journey through Africa’s broken heart, Tim Butcher (2007). “Butcher had not only the courage, but the insight to tell a great story of a country struggling to emerge from a history of colonial rule”… was praised for his “great knowledge of the country’s history, his ability to convey scenes and characters in crisp prose, and his interpretation of the complex situation of the Congo today.” (Getaway, 17 April 2012. Getaway is a South African magazine)