Despite the fact that Bougainville is officially at least supposed to get independence anytime between the 2025 and 2027, the current chances of this happening without conflict are limited.
What though are the problems with Bougainville independence and what can the global community do to help with things?
The Bougainville Story
Traditionally a part of the British and Australian colonies that would become Papua New Guinea in 1975, the people of Bougainville have not only felt themselves different, but also more culturally linked to the Solomon Islands.
This led to the area declaring independence back in 1975 as the Republic of North Solomons, before they were reintegrated under a “federal system”.
One o the biggest copper mines was duly opened and the wealth of the area was slowly plundered by both Papua New Guinea and evil-corp Rio Tinto.
This would eventually lead to a civil war, which was eventually ended with a plebiscite for independence. The vote was won with a 98 percent majority with the 2025 to 2027 set as the end dates. The current problem though is that while the people of Bougainville want to declare independence, the government of Papua New Guinea merely see this as the timeframe for making an “agreement”, with many hoping they can again get away with offering autonomy.
How prepared in Bougainville for independence?
Sadly not very at all, with the roads being not only some of the worst in Papua New Guinea, but also perhaps the world. And there is a general lack of other integral infrastructure needed to run a sovereign state.
These include an airport, with Buka Airport far from fitting the bill, as well as even government ministries and the potential for foreign relations. Currently Papua New Guinea are far from likely to grant independence and as a key ally of the west this is likely to mean the west follow suit.
This leaves the potential for only states such as the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu o recognize them, as well as the threat of a further blockade as well as war and the death and destruction that it brings.
The potential for a Bougainville Republic
That is not to say though that the state lacks potential if things are done the right way on the island, with the nascent nation not only boasting natural resources, but also huge tourism potential.
The islands of Bougainville are without doubt some of the most picture perfect in the world, with chances also for diving and the like, should investment come there way.
Papua New Guinea despite its dangers already has a fairly successful tourism industry and this is something that Bougainville could not just emulate, but indeed surpass.
The other pure resource that they have is their people, a people very different from those of mainland PNG and a people desperate for independence. Said desire is seem every day when you visit the country, through the cultural shows, how the people talk and indeed their hopes and desires,
The people of Bougainville are not filled with hate over the civil war that they were forced to go through, they have forgiven Papua New Guinea. This though does mean that they will back down in their fight, nor put up with the status quo.
As one former resistance fighter named Stephen told me “We do not want war and we will do anything to avoid it, but if we are forced to take up arms again then we will do so if we have to”.
And while no one wants this to happen, people are prepared. One can only hope the west and their allies in papua New Guinea put the wishes of the people of Bougainville above their own selfish needs.