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Bouganville civil unrest, 1990s

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See Bouganville independence and peace process

Bougainville is a province of Papua New Guinea named after the French navigator Louis Antoine de Bougainville. Bougainville was occupied as a base by the Japanese, and the United States during WWII. Rich in copper, and possibly gold,[1] and a strategic part of an area similarly rich in resources (particularly the oil in Indonesia) it was held by Australia after 1945, when the Australian Army took over occupation from the Americans, and Australia resumed control of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea as a United Nations (WP) trusteeship.

Background to the conflict[edit]

This article contains content from Wikipedia. Current versions of the GNU FDL article History of Bougainville on WP may contain information useful to the improvement of this article WP

Bougainville has been inhabited for at least 33,000 years. Its people speak languages belonging to three language families, the northern and southern Bougainville families, whose origins are unknown and presumably ancient, and languages of the Austronesian family, which arrived with the more recent Wikipedia:Lapita culture from the west three millennia ago.

European colonisation[edit]

The Wikipedia:German New Guinea Company established control over Bougainville and Buka, Choiseul, Shortland and Treasury Islands in 1885 but did not extend its farther control southwards in the Solomons, whose southern islands came under a British protectorate in 1893 with the eastern islands being added in 1899. In 1900, Germany transferred all of its claims in the Solomons other than Bougainville and Wikipedia:Buka Island to Great Britain while Britain, in return, withdrew from Western Samoa. During Wikipedia:World War I Wikipedia:Australia occupied Bougainville together with the rest of German New Guinea; the Wikipedia:League of Nations placed the territory under Australian mandate in 1920.

Second World War[edit]

See also: Wikipedia:Bougainville campaign (1943–45)

In 1942, Bougainville was occupied by the Japanese, and was used as a base to attack Wikipedia:Guadalcanal and other Allied territory. The 3rd Marine Division landed on the west coast of Bougainville in November 1943, and shortly afterwards the Wikipedia:Battle of Empress Augusta Bay was fought between cruisers and destroyers of the U.S. Navy and the Wikipedia:Imperial Japanese Navy. The Americans routed the Japanese and were never bothered again in this area by the I.J.N. It took a concerted Allied land offensive between November 1943 and April 1944 to occupy and hold the part of the island along the western shore in an area called "Torokina". The Americans set about establishing a wide defensive perimeter, draining swamps, and building multiple airfields for defense, and for attacking the Japanese on Wikipedia:New Britain Island. The Marines were replaced by US Army troops. The Japanese infiltrated the mountains and jungles of Bougainville, and launched a counteroffensive against the Americans in 1944. The critical focus of their attack was at a place called by the Americans "Hellsapoppin Ridge". In repulsing this attack, the American soldiers and airmen broke the back of the Japanese Army on Bougainville. The survivors retreated to their bases on northern and southern Bougainville, and the Americans left them to "wither on the vine" for the remainder of the war. During the 1943-45 period, more than 17,500 Japanese soldiers were either killed in combat, died of disease, or died of malnutrition. In 1945, the Australian Army took over occupation from the Americans, and Australia resumed control of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea, which became a United Nations (WP) trusteeship. The remaining Japanese on Bougainville refused to surrender, but rather held out until the surrender of the Wikipedia:Japanese Empire on 2 September 1945. They were then commanded by the Emperor to surrender to the Allied Australians, Americans, and New Zealanders, and they were then repatriated to Japan.

Beginnings of the independence movement[edit]

Bougainville is rich in Wikipedia:copper, and possibly Wikipedia:gold.[1] The mining of copper has been the cause of considerable tensions over the last fifty years, and has been related to both attempts at secession. In 1964, the first attempts were made to explore the island's resources, when Wikipedia:CRA Exploration, a subsidiary of Australian company Rio Tinto Zinc, began drilling in the Panguna area. The Wikipedia:Panguna mine, under their subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Ltd. opened in 1969.

The first independence movement began to arise in the late 1960s, as people began to air their grievances against the Wikipedia:Australian colonial government over the handling of the Panguna mine. Australian External Territories Minister Wikipedia:Charles Barnes was accused of telling the Bougainvillean people they would "get nothing". The issue of compensation went to the High Court of Australia, where it was found that the compensation was inadequate under ordinary federal Australian law, but that as an external territory, Papua New Guinea was not guaranteed the same standards that applied to mainland Australia.[2]

In 1972, Bougainville was granted some degree of autonomy, but this did not end the secessionist movement. Relations between Bougainville and the mainland were not helped when, in December, 1972, two senior Bougainvillean public servants were murdered as payback for a road accident in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. This caused outrage on the island, and helped to consolidate the independence movement. As a result, the Bougainville Special Political Committee (BSPC) was set up to negotiate with the Papuan government on the future of Bougainville within PNG.

By 1974, they had reached a compromise with a Special Committee of the Papuan Parliament, which would have given them even greater autonomy, although not another key demand of the Bougainvillean negotiating team, which would have seen a share of the profits from the Panguna mine go to the people of Bougainville. However, the conservative Papuan government declined to follow key sections of the Committee's report, and in May, 1975, negotiations between the two collapsed completely.

Factors for conflict in Bougainville[edit]

There is not one single factor that should be isolated as a sole cause of the conflict. Instead, there is a series of predominant causes which can trace their roots directly to the Panguna Mine. Pan-Bougainvillean ethnicity should not be discounted as an important factor but should be seen as an external projection of economic and inter-ethnic grievances.[3]

Secession in Bougainville is based primarily upon a separate ethnic identity from the rest of Papua New Guinea. This is not peculiar in Papua New Guinea where over 800 different languages are spoken and there remains little cohesiveness of regional let alone national identity. However, the idiosyncratic aspect of the Bougainvillean identity is its association with the Solomon Islands. Directly prior to Papua New Guinean independence, Bougainville had pursued the possibility of a political union with the British Protectorate of the Solomon Islands. This association with the Solomon Islands – an outside, distinctive identity – is a transcending force not found anywhere else in Papua New Guinea. As Anere describes it:

’’A Constitutional Planning Committee (CPC), which was set up in 1972 toured the country to gather the views of the people on independence. There was no resistance from any group except for Bougainville who wanted to secede from the rest of the country.[4]

Republic of North Solomons[edit]

On 28 May 1975, the Interim Provincial Government in Bougainville agreed to secede from Papua New Guinea. This caused a three-way impasse between the Government of PNG, the legislature in PNG, and the authorities in Bougainville. The PNG government made attempts to resolve the situation through June and July, but these failed, and the interim government announced that they would declare independence on 1 September, ahead of Papua New Guinea's own independence on 16 September. On 1 September, they issued the 'Unilateral Declaration of Independence of the Wikipedia:Republic of North Solomons'.

They sought international recognition through the United Nations (WP), but were unsuccessful. They also failed in an attempt to be united with the Wikipedia:Solomon Islands. In early 1976, the Bougainvillean government realised that they would have to accept Papua New Guinean sovereignty. This was supported by the 'Bougainville Agreement', signed later that year, which gave Bougainville widespread autonomy within Papua New Guinea. Independence was promised in 5 years, but was never granted.[5] For the remainder of the 1970s, and into the early 1980s, relations between the two remained tense, but relatively peaceful. However, in 1981, disputes re-emerged over the status of the mine, and this would form the basis of the conflict which would turn violent in 1988.

Panguna mine conflict[edit]

The mine at Panguna had been perhaps the most major sticking point between Bougainville and the mainland. The mine was the largest non-aid revenue stream of the Government of Papua New Guinea from the nation’s independence in 1975 to the mine’s closure. The national government received a 20% share of profit from the mine of which the Bougainvilleans received 0.5–1.25% share of the total profit.[6] It was vitally important to the economy of Papua New Guinea, but the people of Bougainville were seeing little benefit from it. Bougainvillean leaders alleged that the mine had devastating environmental consequences for the island. They also claimed that Bougainville Copper had set up a system of apartheid on the island, with one set of facilities for white workers, and one set for the locals. They accused Bougainville Copper Ltd., of being responsible for poisoning the entire length of the Jaba River, and causing birth defects, as well as the extinction of the Wikipedia:flying fox on the island.

These grievances led to the decision in late 1988 of two cousins and local leaders, Francis Ona (WP) and Wikipedia:Pepetua Serero, to take up arms against the Papuan government. Ona himself had worked for Bougainville Copper, and had witnessed the effects the mine was having on the landscape of the island.

In 1987, Ona and Serero called a meeting of landowners at Panguna, and as a result, the Panguna Landowners' Association was formed, with Serero as 'chairlady', and Ona as General Secretary. They demanded billions in compensation from CRA — a total of half the mine's profits since it began in 1969.

A report on the SBS Dateline program, broadcast on 26 June 2011, states that Sir Wikipedia:Michael Somare, at the time Papua New Guinea's Wikipedia:Opposition Leader, had signed an affidavit in 2001 specifying that the PNG government was acting under instruction from mining giant Wikipedia:Rio Tinto.[7][8] SBS reported on 27 June 2011 that the claim is vigorously rejected by Bougainville Copper Limited and Rio Tinto.[9]


In November 1988 Ona stormed out of a meeting with the company after a report by a New Zealand company claimed that the Jaba River was not poisoned. He resigned his job, went into the jungle, and formed the Wikipedia:Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA). They held up the mine's magazine, stole explosives, and committed numerous acts of arson and sabotage. They also cut the power supply to the entire mine by blowing up power pylons. These were carried out under the command of an Australian-trained soldier, Wikipedia:Sam Kauona, who had defected from the Papuan defence forces to become Ona's right hand man. Kauona also became the spokesperson for the group. He continued to conduct hit-and-run raids on mine property and government installations. The campaign was successful, when the mine was shut down on 15 May 1989, after terrorist attacks on mine employees. Serero was to die of an asthma attack soon afterwards, and Francis Ona continued to lead the uprising alone.

The Papuan police, and then the army (under Wikipedia:Jerry Singirok, who was later to be an important player in the Wikipedia:Sandline affair) made several arrests, but Ona proved to be elusive, and they failed to catch him. Attempts to resolve the standoff continued, and Bougainville Copper continued to deny responsibility for any of the grievances of Ona and his supporters. The company suggested that the death of the flying foxes was due to a virus brought in from Wikipedia:East New Britain, and that the river was unaffected by the mine. Nevertheless, the PNG government and Bougainville Copper initially made attempts to resolve some of the outstanding issues, and offered an expensive compromise deal, which was rejected outright by Ona and Kauona.

One further sticking point between the company and the Landholders' Association focused around the rights of landholders around the mine. The company claimed that there were only 850 titleholders, who did have some rights, and 5000 were beneficiaries, who had few rights at all. Francis Ona was one of the latter. In response, Bougainville Copper refused to accept the 1987 meeting as legitimate, and kept dealing with the original executive - a group of old men that they maintained a good working relationship with.

The Premier of Bougainville, Wikipedia:Joseph Kabui, and the Member for Bougainville in the national parliament, Father Wikipedia:John Momis, a former leader of the 1975 secession attempt, supported the new executive, and demanded the company recognise them as legitimate. Both were later to play an important role in the movement. Both were also beaten by riot police during 1989. They were not the only ones, as allegations of human rights abuses by the PNG army began to arise. These embarrassed the PNG government, and more than twenty arrests were made as a result.

However, the BRA was also involved in violence against the provincial government, being responsible for the murder of Wikipedia:John Bika, Kabui's Commerce and Liquor Licensing Minister, who had supported the compromise agreement between the Bougainvilleans and the Government.

As a response to the continuing violence, the national government called a state of emergency, and placed the island under the administration of the Police Commissioner, who was based in Wikipedia:Port Moresby. The allegations of human rights abuses continued, and a survey in late 1989 indicated that at least 1600 homes had been destroyed. The conflict showed no signs of ending, and in January, 1990, Bougainville Copper announced the mothballing of the Panguna mine.

In 1990, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea agreed to pull Papuan troops out, and for international observers to witness the disarmament of the BRA. The agreement was signed, on the Bougainvillean side, by Sam Kauona. The police, fearing that they would be slaughtered without military support, also fled, and the island was left to the BRA. Back in Port Moresby, the decision to withdraw from Bougainville led to an attempted military coup, which was subsequently defeated.

Bougainville Revolutionary Army[edit]

This article contains content from Wikipedia. Current versions of the GNU FDL article Bougainville Revolutionary Army on WP may contain information useful to the improvement of this article WP

The Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) was formed in 1988 by Bougainvilleans seeking independence from Wikipedia:Papua New Guinea (PNG).

BRA leaders argue that Bougainville is ethnically part of the Wikipedia:Solomon Islands and has not profited from the extensive mining that has occurred on the island. In 1989, BRA leaders proclaimed Bougainville independent from PNG and established the Wikipedia:Bougainville Interim Government (BIG). As a result, the fighting between BRA and the PNG military, with support from Wikipedia:Australia, escalated.

In January 1991, the Wikipedia:Honiara Declaration was signed under which both sides agreed to a ceasefire. This ceasefire was soon broken and fighting continued. In 1997, Wikipedia:Bill Skate of the National Congress Party was elected Prime Minister of PNG and promised that peace in Bougainville would be his highest priority. This led to the signing of a ceasefire agreement, the Wikipedia:Rotokas Record, and a movement towards peace and the autonomy of Bougainville. As a result, the BRA is no longer actively engaged in fighting, although some of its leaders are involved in the BIG.

A documentary about the struggle of the indigenous population to save their island from environmental destruction and gain independence, was made in 1999, called Wikipedia:The Coconut Revolution. [10][11]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Wikipedia:ja:ブーゲンビル革命軍 Wikipedia:zh:布干维尔革命军

Civil war[edit]

In May 1990, Papua New Guinea imposed a blockade on Bougainville. Francis Ona responded by unilaterally declaring independence. He set up the Bougainville Interim Government (BIG), but it had little power, and the island began to descend into disarray. The command structure set up by the BRA seldom had any real control over the various groups throughout the island that claimed to be part of the BRA. A number of raskol (criminal) gangs that were affiliated with the BRA, equipped largely with weapons salvaged from the fighting in World War II, terrorized villages, engaging in murder, rape and pillage. Bougainville split into several factions, and a civil war began.

Much of the division in this fighting were largely along clan-lines; the BIG/BRA was dominated by the Nasioi clan, causing other islanders to view it with suspicion. On the island of Buka, north of Bougainville a local militia was formed which succeeded in driving out the BRA with the help of Papuan troops, during a bloody offensive in September. Multiple agreements were signed and not honored by any side. The BRA leadership of Ona and Kauona fell out with some of the political leaders, such as Kabui. Several other village militias, which together became known as the resistance, armed by the PNG defence forces, forced the BRA out of their areas.

Papua New Guinea's policy towards Bougainville hardened after the defeat of the incumbent government at the 1992 elections. New Prime Minister Wikipedia:Paias Wingti took a considerably more hardline stance, and angered the Wikipedia:Solomon Islands, after a bloody raid on one island that was alleged to be supporting the Bougainvilleans. The Papuan army, in alliance with the resistance, succeeded in retaking Arawa, the provincial capital, in January 1993. Papuan Foreign Minister Sir Julius Chan attempted to gather a peacekeeping force from the nations of the Pacific, but Wingti quashed the idea. He subsequently ordered the army to retake the Panguna mine, and was initially successful. However, his government was short-lived, and in August 1994 was replaced as Prime Minister by Chan.

Chan announced his intention to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, meeting with Kauona in the Wikipedia:Solomon Islands and arranging for a peace conference to be held in Arawa that October, with security provided by an Wikipedia:Australia-led Wikipedia:South Pacific Peacekeeping Force. However, the BIG leaders boycotted the conference, claiming that their safety could not be guaranteed. In their absence, Chan's government entered into negotiations with a group of chiefs from the Nasioi clan, headed by Theodore Miriung, a former lawyer for the Panguna Landowners Association. This resulted in the establishment of a Bougainville Transitional Government in April 1995, with its capital in Buka. Miriung was named Prime Minister of the new government, but frequently clashed with Chan by criticizing abuses committed by Papuan soldiers.

By 1996, Chan was beginning to get frustrated at the lack of progress. In January, following a round of negotiations in Cairns, Wikipedia:Australia, between the BRA, BTG and the PNG government, a PNG defense force patrol boat fired upon Kabui and the other delegates when they returned to Bougainville. The next month, the home of the BIG's representative in the Solomon Islands, Martin Mirori, was firebombed. Chan decided to abandon attempts at peace, and on 21 March 1996, he gave the go-ahead for an invasion of Bougainville, under new commander of the PNG defence forces, Wikipedia:Jerry Singirok.

Media coverage of civil war[edit]

Media coverage and attempts to control raise fundamental western liberal democratic values (inherited from Australia) which are reflected in Papua New Guinea as a democratic country. Australian press coverage of PNG even in peacetime tends towards being paternalistic and often emphasises the negative side of PNG society.

As reporting from the front line became more dependent upon physical security, coverage tended to follow increasingly Wikipedia:Bougainville Revolutionary Army lines with growing military excesses against the population. Wikipedia:The Times tended to have more sympathetic coverage frequently printing BRA letters and often disclaiming government charges, like the claim that Francis Ona was dead.

The Government did not seem to realise that its attempts at censorship and gently compelling of the nationalistic rhetoric on the media caused much of its own loss of credibility. Censorship forced the media to go physically to Bougainville to research their stories as well as antagonising them perhaps into antigovernment sentiment. Internally the Government seems to be gaining the upper hand even though 'Radio Free Bougainville' provides a rebel voice and the Catholic owned press initially held BRA sympathies. Additionally, due to institutional influences like the majority of the press being based in the capital, Port Moresby, the crisis was portrayed 'through Papua New Guinean, not Bougainvillean eyes'. In addition to that, it is now becoming technically more difficult to isolate totally any area from the press with the proliferation of modem communications systems like satellite telephones able to send digital data and therefore video images.

Perhaps the greatest risk associated with the press from an official and military point of view, is its influence upon morale. It is a military principal that one should as far as possible maintain high morale, so that both the public and the military are set on the same path of achieving a clear political and strategic direction without hindrance. Both parties increasingly realise that morale is highly dependent upon media portrayal and therefore the fiercely contested information battle. However the fundamental truth of the relationship between the media and the military remains unchanged. The essence of successful warfare is on the other hand the essence of successful journalism is publicity. [12]

Cass (1992) argued that The Australian newspaper in its coverage of the Bougainville conflict lacked depth and focused on the crisis from Australia‟s own interests and a conviction that the former colony could not really look after itself. Other researchers pointed out that even though journalists got into Bougainville during the crisis, the coverage was uneven (Cronau, 1994; Denoon & Spriggs, 1992). Dorney argues that, with few exceptions, the Australian media pays scant attention to Australia‟s former colony unless there is high drama, such as during the Sandline crisis in March 1997, or a disaster relief effort, such as when the Australian Defence Force played a high-profile role during the drought induced famine of 1997-98 (1998, p15). He adds that the rest of the time it is the bizarre and tragic, especially violent crime involving expatriates, that fill the limited agenda. According to Patience (2005), PNG has a public relations problem in terms of its image abroad. [13]

Wikipedia:Bougainville - Our Island Our Fight - This film is notable for its unique subject matter, as most Western media has not reported upon the Bougainville conflict. [14]

Sandline and ceasefire[edit]

Under pressure from human rights groups, the governments of Wikipedia:Australia and Wikipedia:New Zealand declined to provide military support, forcing Chan to begin to look elsewhere. Thus began the Wikipedia:Sandline affair, where the government of Papua New Guinea attempted to hire mercenaries from Wikipedia:Sandline International, a London-based Wikipedia:private military company, composed primarily of former British and Wikipedia:South African special forces soldiers, which had been involved in the civil wars in Wikipedia:Angola and Wikipedia:Sierra Leone. With negotiations with Sandline ongoing and incomplete Chan ordered the military to invade anyway. In July the PNG defense forces attempted to seize Aropa airport, the island's principal airfield. However, the attack was a disaster, suffering from poor logistical planning and determined resistance by BRA fighters. In September, BRA militants attacked a PNG army camp at Kangu Beach with the help of members of a local militia group, killing twelve PNGDF soldiers and taking five hostage. The following month, Theodore Miriung was assassinated. Although Chan's government attempted to blame the BRA, a subsequent independent investigation implicated members of the PNG defense force and the resistance militias. Discipline and morale was rapidly deteriorating within the ranks of the PNG military, which had been unable to make any substantial progress in pentrating the mountainous interior of the island and reopening the Panguna mine. Chan decided that his best chance lay to recapture the Panguna mine was with the Sandline mercenaries.

However, this too turned out to be a disaster. News of his intention to hire mercenaries was leaked to the Australian press, and international condemnation followed. Furthermore, when Wikipedia:Jerry Singirok heard of the news, he ordered the detaining of all the mercenaries on arrival. In the resulting saga, Prime Minister Chan was forced to resign, and Papua New Guinea came very close to a military coup. Indeed, the officers in charge had the parliament surrounded, but steadfastly refused to go any further. In the end, however, they got their way, with Chan's resignation and the removal of the mercenaries from Papua New Guinean territory.

Sandline sparked a lowpoint in the Bougainvillean war. Since 1997, a ceasefire has largely held on the island. Breaking with Ona, Kauona and Kabui entered into peace talks with the government of Wikipedia:Bill Skate in Wikipedia:Christchurch, Wikipedia:New Zealand, which culminated in the signing of the Lincoln Agreement in January 1998. Under the terms of the agreement, PNG began to withdraw its soldiers from the island and a multinational Peace Monitoring Group was deployed. Legislation to establish a Bougainville Reconciliation Government failed to win approval in the PNG Parliament. A Bougainville provincial government of the same status as the other eighteen provinces of Papua New Guinea, with Wikipedia:John Momis as Governor, was established in January 1999. However, this government was suspended after facing opposition from both the BIA/BRA and BTG. Arrangements were made for the creation of a modified government, to be established in two phases-the first being the Bougainville Constituent Assembly and the second being the elections for the Bougainville People's Congress. Elections were held in May, and Kabui was named President. However, the legality of this was contested by Momis, with the support of a number of tribal chiefs and Resistance leaders. In November, a new body, the Bougainville Interim Provincial Government, was established, headed by Wikipedia:Momis. Rapprochment between Kauona and Wikipedia:Momis led to an agreement in which the two bodies would act in consultation. An organised reconciliation process began at the tribal level in the early 2000.

Francis Ona (WP) refused to play any part in the peace process, and, with a small minority of fighters, continued to occupy the area around Panguna mine Template:Citation needed. Throughout the decade, Ona continued to resist overtures to participate in the new government, declaring himself 'king' of Bougainville before dying of malaria in 2005. In March 2005, Dr Wikipedia:Shaista Shameem of the United Nations (WP) working group on mercenaries asked Wikipedia:Fiji and Papua New Guinea for permission to send a team to investigate the presence of former Fijian soldiers in Bougainville. (UNPO) As part of the current peace settlement, a referendum on independence will be held sometime in the 2010s, with an apparent small minority of fighters left in the centre of the island, and enough instability to ensure that the mine remains closed.

Further information[edit]


See also[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Conflict in Bougainville - Part 2. Interview with Sam Kauona Sirivi