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Conflict in Bougainville Islands
Although the people of Bougainville Island are culturally similar to the Solomon
Islanders, it is under the rule of Papua New Guinea (PNG).
the rest of the Solomon Islands became a British colony, Bougainville was handed
to Germany as part of German New Guinea, in the late 17th Century. After World
War One, Australia was given political authority to the area which was then named
Papua New Guinea. PNG gained independence from Australia in 1975.
Bougainville Islanders disagreed with its status as part of PNG, and wanted their
own independence. In 1988 a dispute over the Panguna copper and gold mine, which
was the principal source of income for Bouganville Island, led to civil unrest.
An uprising against PNG rule began. By the 1990s the rebellion had increased to
become a major armed conflict.
war continued until 1998, when a ceasefire was signed. An estimated 20,000 people
died in the uprising. An Australian-led peacekeeping force arrived in the area
in 1998 to supervise the ceasefire and help rebuild the country. A peace accord
was signed in 2001, which granted some autonomy to Bougainville.
Today, Papua New Guinea and Bougainville are working through the final stages of implementing autonomy. An international presence, including New Zealand peacekeepers, will help the region through the last stages of the peace process. A constitution for the autonomous Bougainville has been drafted. It is now being considered by the PNG government. Once a constitution is agreed, progress will begin towards an election in the region.
War in the region has left thousands of people homeless, and has led to the almost
total destruction of the Island's economic and social infrastructure.