It is a vote that has been 20 years in the making. On Saturday, residents of the remote archipelago in the Solomon Sea will start to decide their future
On Saturday, the people of Bougainville – a small archipelago of islands flung 700km off the coast of Papua New Guinea in the Solomon Sea – will begin voting in a referendum that will determine if their beloved homeland will become the world’s newest nation.
It is a vote that has been nearly 20 years in the making. In 2001, as part of a peace agreement to end a devastating decade-long civil war, the government of Papua New Guinea promised the population of Bougainville, then about 200,000 people, that they would one day be able to cast a vote to decide their future.
The results will be announced in December. It is expected to be overwhelmingly in favour of independence, with some observers anticipating a “yes” vote of more than 90%. But the road to this point has been long and tortured and the path ahead could be just as problematic, even if the result is as emphatic as predicted. Continue Reading →