Porgera villagers helpless, unsafe in their homes as ‘warlords’ kill freely

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Porgera valley villagers
Porgera valley villagers ... fearful for their lives. Image: PNG Post-Courier

By Melisha Yafoi of the PNG Post-Courier

“It’s okay, we’ll just sit here and they can come kill us.”

These chilling words are from a defenceless woman (name withheld) who has seen first-hand the continuous killings in Papua New Guinea’s Porgera Valley, Enga province and accepting what could be the ultimate fate for her and her family.

Women and children in villages in that part of the country literally have nowhere to run since the killing spree has continued unabated in the gold valley, now tainted bloody and with ashes.

Attacks on villages in more than a year between warring clans of Nomali and Aiyala — not election related — can happen anywhere between 2 and 3 in the morning, and even during broad daylight.

There is nowhere safe, not even churches.

Police are outnumbered as the self-acclaimed thugs walk freely into villages and start firing indiscriminately with military grade weapons killing men, women, and children.

The hired guns are said to be there to make the kill and move on to the next victims.

Scared for their lives
The woman who spoke to the PNG Post-Courier said she and a large group of women and children were scared for their lives and the worry that it could be their last day to live.

“These warlords will walk into our villages destroying and burning down houses as early as 2am or 3am, even at dawn,” she said.

“We don’t sleep at night. All we do is pray to God for help. We don’t know where to go, we are helpless,” she said.

How the PNG Post-Courier reported the Engan massacre today 210722
How the PNG Post-Courier reported the Wednesday massacre in yesterday’s front page report with photographs supplied by the Engan police. Image: Enga Police Command/PNG Post-Courier screenshot APR

“My people fled the village and ran away. This week we heard that men were coming to attack us in the night.

“I did not know what to do so I just walked out onto the road and met some youths from my village, who told me plainly that there is nowhere for us to run too.

“So I said, ‘it’s okay let’s just sit here and if they come and kill us so be it’.”

She said mothers with children would have to run for their lives at any moment during the night to find the nearest hiding place for a few hours until dawn so they could look for a new place to go to within the besieged area.

No help in sight
This has been happening with no help in sight to address the tribal conflicts that have raged on long before this month’s general elections even surfaced.

With resources and concentration focused on the current polls taking place in the country, the self-proclaimed warlords have taken over the valley, raping women, killing people and burning down government and business properties.

Porgera has now turned into a killing field as public servants and those working in businesses in the valley have fled for their safety.

She said they had lost count of how many people had died.

“With the closure of Paiam Hospital, those who are injured very badly just sleep here under our watch, those in a critical condition will not make it,” she said.

“The roads out have been blocked, many have left with some more leaving but this does not stop the killing, every day we have a target on our backs,” she said.

Another community leader (name withheld) on the ground said the district needed a state of emergency declared.

21 killed by warlords
“Just today [Wednesday, July 20], a total of 21 people have been killed by unknown warlords. The victims are from Porgera, Tari and Kandep.

“Eight people were killed at Kanamanda Church area just next to Kia Kona at Paiam and a further seven were ambushed at Upper Maipagi, located at upper parts of Porgera station while they were looking for firewood in the bush,” he said.

“A young girl was killed among that 21 and others are fighting for their lives.

“It’s no more tribal conflict but a sort of genocide. Warlords hunting innocent lives even if they are not their enemies.

“This should have been prevented if the Defence Force deployed last month were not withdrawn straight after polling at Porgera.

“This time the government has failed us,” he said, clearly wondering whether their cries were being heard at all.

Melisha Yafoi is a PNG Post-Courier reporter. Republished with permission.

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