Autonomous Region of Bougainville

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Autonomous Region of Bougainville

Motto: Peace, Unity, Prosperity
6°0′S 155°0′E / 6.000°S 155.000°E / -6.000; 155.000
and largest city
6.3754° S, 155.3807° E
Official languages English
Government Autonomous Region
• President
John Momis
Raymond Masono
Legislature House of Representatives
• Autonomy
25 June 2002
• Total
9,384 km2 (3,623 sq mi)
• 2011 estimate
Currency Papua New Guinean kina (PGK)
Time zone UTC+11 (Bougainville Standard Time)
Driving side left
Calling code +675
Today part of  Papua New Guinea

Bougainville (/ˈbɡənˌvɪl/ BOO-gən-VIL),[2][3] officially the Autonomous Region of Bougainville and previously known as North Solomons, is an autonomous region in Papua New Guinea. The largest island is Bougainville Island (also the largest of the Solomon Islands archipelago). The region also includes Buka Island and assorted outlying nearby islands including the Carterets. The interim capital is Buka, though it is expected that Arawa will become the permanent capital in the future. The population of the region is 249,358 (2011 census).

Bougainville Island is ecologically and geographically part of the Solomon Islands archipelago but is not politically part of the nation of Solomon Islands. Buka, Bougainville, and most of the Solomons are part of the Solomon Islands rain forests ecoregion. The region's biodiversity is heavily threatened by mining activities, mostly conducted by foreign investors.[4]


White Island, Bougainville

The island was named after the French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville, who made expeditions to the Pacific. He is also the namesake of the tropical flowering vines of the genus Bougainvillea. In 1885, the island was taken over by a German administration as part of German New Guinea. Australia occupied it in 1914 during World War I. After the war the League of Nations designated it as a mandatory power and administered the island from 1918 until the Japanese invaded it in 1942 during World War II.

During World War II, the island was occupied by Australian, American and Japanese forces. It was an important base for the RAAF, RNZAF and USAAF. On 8 March 1944, during the Pacific War, American forces were attacked by Japanese troops on Hill 700 on this island. The battle lasted five days, ending with a Japanese retreat.

Australia took over administration of the island when that war ended in 1945, managing it until Papua New Guinea independence in 1975. Bougainville was appointed as a United Nations mandatory power, Australia having accepted dominion sovereignty under the Statute of Westminster 1931 in the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942 and therefore being formally empowered to do so. It administered British and German New Guinea, but was not the official colonial power.

Independence of Papua New Guinea (1975 to present)

The island is rich in copper and gold. A large mine was established at Panguna in the early 1970s by Bougainville Copper Limited, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto. Disputes by regional residents with the company over adverse environmental impacts, failure to share financial benefits, and negative social changes brought by the mine resulted in a local revival for a secessionist movement that had been dormant. Activists proclaimed the independence of Bougainville (Republic of North Solomons) in 1975 and in 1990, but both times government forces suppressed the separatists.

In 1988, the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) increased their activity significantly. Prime Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu ordered the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) to put down the rebellion, and the conflict escalated into a civil war. The PNGDF retreated from permanent positions on Bougainville in 1990, but continued military action. The conflict involved pro-independence and loyalist Bougainvillean groups as well as the PNGDF. The war claimed an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 lives.[5][6]

In 1996, Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan hired Sandline International, a private military company previously involved in supplying mercenaries in the civil war in Sierra Leone, to put down the rebellion. The Sandline affair was a controversial incident that resulted from use of these mercenary troops.

Peace agreement and autonomy

The Bougainville conflict ended in 1997, after negotiations brokered by New Zealand. A peace agreement was completed in 2000 and, together with disarmament, provided for the establishment of an Autonomous Bougainville Government. The parties agreed to have a referendum in the future on whether the island should become politically independent.[7]

On 25 July 2005 rebel leader Francis Ona died after a short illness. A former surveyor with Bougainville Copper, Ona was a key figure in the secessionist conflict and had refused to formally join the island's peace process.

In 2015 Australia announced it would establish a diplomatic post in Bougainville for the first time.[8] In 2016, it cancelled those plans acknowledging that it had not obtained the PNG government's approval.

A non-binding independence referendum will be held in Bougainville on 23 November 2019.[9][10]

Government and politics

Flag of Bougainville.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

Elections for the first autonomous government were held in May and June 2005; Joseph Kabui, an independence leader, was elected President. He died in office on 6 June 2008. After interim elections to fill the remainder of his term, John Momis was elected as president in 2010 for a five-year term. He supports autonomy within a relationship with the national government of Papua New Guinea.

The Constitution of Bougainville specifies that the Autonomous Bougainville Government shall consist of three branches:[11]

2019 independence referendum

President John Momis confirmed that Bougainville will hold an independence referendum in 2019.[12] The governments of both Bougainville and Papua New Guinea have set a tentative date of 23 November 2019 for the vote, which is the final step in the Bougainville Peace Agreement.[13] However, certain criteria on Bougainville's part must be met before any vote can occur, including having a viable economy and controlling the flow of illegal weapons.[14] Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst Karl Claxton said there is a wide expectation Bougainville will vote to become independent.[15]

Districts and Local Level Government Areas

Map of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville
District map of Bougainville

The region is divided into three districts, which are further divided into Local Level Government (LLGs) areas. For census purposes, the LLGAs are subdivided into wards, and those into census units.[16]

District District Capital LLGA Name
Central Bougainville District Arawa-Kieta Arawa Rural
Wakunai Rural
North Bougainville District Buka Atolls Rural
Buka Rural
Kunua Rural
Nissan Rural
Selau-Suir Rural
Tinputz Rural
South Bougainville District Buin Bana Rural
Buin Rural
Siwai Rural
Torokina Rural



The majority of people on Bougainville are Christian, an estimated 70% being Roman Catholic and a substantial minority United Church of Papua New Guinea since 1968.


There are many indigenous languages in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, belonging to three language families. The languages of the northern end of Bougainville Island, and some scattered around the coast, belong to the Austronesian family. The languages of the north-central and southern lobes of the island belong to the North and South Bougainville families.[citation needed]

The most widely spoken Austronesian language is Halia and its dialects, spoken in the island of Buka and the Selau peninsula of Northern Bougainville. Other Austronesian languages include Nehan, Petats, Solos, Saposa (Taiof), Hahon and Tinputz, all spoken in the northern quarter of Bougainville, Buka and surrounding islands. These languages are closely related. Bannoni and Torau are Austronesian languages not closely related to the former, which are spoken in the coastal areas of central and south Bougainville. On the nearby Takuu Atoll a Polynesian language is spoken, Takuu.[17]

The Papuan languages are confined to the main island of Bougainville. These include Rotokas, a language with a very small inventory of phonemes, Eivo, Terei, Keriaka, Nasioi (Kieta), Nagovisi, Siwai (Motuna), Baitsi (sometimes considered a dialect of Siwai), Uisai and several others. These constitute two language families, North Bougainville and South Bougainville.[citation needed]

None of the languages are spoken by more than 20% of the population, and the larger languages such as Nasioi, Korokoro Motuna, Telei, and Halia are split into dialects that are not always mutually understandable. For general communication most Bougainvilleans use Tok Pisin as a lingua franca, and at least in the coastal areas Tok Pisin is often learned by children in a bilingual environment. English and Tok Pisin are the languages of official business and government.[citation needed]


A small percentage of the region's economy is from mining. The majority of economic growth comes from agriculture and aquaculture. The region's biodiversity, which is one of the most important in Oceania, is heavily threatened by mining activities, mostly conducted by the rich bracket of society. Mining activities have caused civil unrest in the region many times. In January 2018, a moratorium on one mine was imposed by the Papua New Guinea government, in a bid to calm civil unrest against mining in the region.[4]

See also


  1. ^ "AUTONOMOUS REGION OF BOUGAINVILLE : Bougainville Flag, Emblem and Anthem (Protection) Bill 2018" (PDF). Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  2. ^ "Definition of BOUGAINVILLE". Retrieved 2019-08-28.
  3. ^ "Bougainville definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary". Retrieved 2019-08-28.
  4. ^ a b Davidson, Helen (10 January 2018). "Bougainville imposes moratorium on Panguna mine over fears of civil unrest". the Guardian.
  5. ^ Saovana-Spriggs, Ruth (2000). "Christianity and women in Bougainville" (PDF). Development Bulletin (51): 58–60. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-08-29. Retrieved 2007-10-11.
  6. ^ "EU Relations with Papua New Guinea". European Commission. Archived from the original on 9 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-11.
  7. ^ Will Marshall, "Papua New Guinea government obtains shaky weapons disposal pact in Bougainville", World Socialist Web Site, May 23, 2001. Accessed on line March 4, 2008.
  8. ^ Medhora, Shalailah. "Papua New Guinea not told of Australia's plans for new diplomatic post there". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  9. ^ Kenneth, Gorethy (5 August 2019). "B'ville Referendum Dates Changed". Papua New Guinea Post-Courier. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  10. ^ "Bougainville referendum not binding - PM". Radio New Zealand. 11 March 2019. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  11. ^ "The Constitution of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville" (PDF). Autonomous Bougainville Government. p. 28, S41.
  12. ^ "Bougainville confirms independence referendum before 2020 | Pacific Beat". Retrieved 2016-03-08.
  13. ^ "Ball rolling on Bougainville referendum". Radio New Zealand. 2016-05-22. Retrieved 2016-05-30.
  14. ^ "Bougainville MP confident of ongoing international help". Radio New Zealand. 2016-05-30. Retrieved 2016-05-30.
  15. ^ "PNG leader apologises to Bougainville for bloody 1990s civil war". 29 January 2014. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  16. ^ "Pacific Regional Statistics - Secretariat of the Pacific Community".
  17. ^ Irwin, H. (1980). Takuu Dictionary. : A Polynesian language of the South Pacific. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. 428pp. ISBN 978-0858836372.

Further reading

  • Oliver, Douglas (1973). Bougainville: A Personal History. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.
  • Oliver, Douglas (1991). Black Islanders: A Personal Perspective of Bougainville, 1937–1991. Melbourne: Hyland House. Repeats text from previous 1973 reference and updates with summaries of Papua New Guinea press reports on the Bougainville Crisis
  • Quodling, Paul. Bougainville: The Mine And The People.
  • Regan, Anthony; Griffin, Helga, eds. (2005). Bougainville Before the Crisis. Canberra: Pandanus Books.
  • Pelton, Robert Young (2002). Hunter Hammer and Heaven, Journeys to Three World's Gone Mad. Guilford, Conn.: Lyons Press. ISBN 1-58574-416-6.
  • Gillespie, Waratah Rosemarie (2009). Running with Rebels: Behind the Lies in Bougainville's hidden war. Australia: Ginibi Productions. ISBN 978-0-646-51047-7.

External links

Bougainville travel guide from Wikivoyage

  • Autonomous Bougainville Government
  • Autonomous Bougainville Government – Facebook feed
  • Bougainville Inward Investment Bureau
  • Full text of the Peace Agreement for Bougainville
  • Constitution of Bougainville
  • UN Map #4089United Nations map of the vicinity of Bougainville Island, PDF format
  • Conciliation Resources – Bougainville Project
  • The Coconut Revolution, a documentary film about the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.
  • Bougainville – Our Island, Our Fight(1998) by the multi-award-winning director Wayne Coles-Janess. The first footage of the war from behind the blockade. The critically acclaimed and internationally award-winning documentary is shown around the world. Produced and directed by Wayne Coles-Janess. Production company: ipso-facto Productions
  • ABC Foreign Correspondent- World in Focus – Lead Story (1997) Exclusive interview with Francis Ona. Interviewed by Wayne Coles-Janess.
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