Header Ads

Bougainville : A sad story of poor statesmanship

Commentary by David Lepi 

Whilst the euphoria is high on Bougainville soon being an independent nation joining South Sudan probably as the 196th or 198th newest member of the United Nations or so, sadly not all, share that ecstasy. These are those patriots who like many others in the country see anything Papua New Guinean statesmanship is always half-backed, ham-fisted and prone to problem.
Primarily because the Bougainville question precipitated out from a poorly handled law and order problem and was never a ‘secessionist cause.’ It is the culmination of bad decisions by successive governments and a poorly led military that left a bloody trail of mistakes in their wake ultimately awakening a secessionist uprising. Only prompting the intention to secede to draw considerable strength from the shared experience and was determined and better coordinated than the one in 1975 just before PNG’s independence.
On the PNG part everything was mishandled right from the beginning from when the disputes started, right to addressing the crises and to the peace process and the referendum.
The South Sudan’s case presents an interesting point of reference. Straight after its independence in 2011 South Sudan plunged into a civil war with no end in sight in the disputes over controlling natural resources coupled with ethnic tension and payback for disloyalty and siding with the Sudan government in the earlier conflicts putting the country is in a far worse state than it was under Sudan. It started with a referendum to determine whether South Sudan should become an independent country and separate from Sudan. 98.83% of the population voted for independence.
There are two inherent facts potentially can repeat South Sudan’s case in the South Pacific.
First, Bougainville is made up of various factions who took different roles during the conflict. The first two begins with the most widely known, the Bougainville Revolutionary Army and its infamous leader Francis Ona who broke away from the traditional umbrella landowner group, the Panguna Landowners Association (PLA) criticizing for being too conciliatory towards BCL, mismanaging the distribution of benefits, and for failing to represent the majority of residents who were not land title-holders. With acquired equipment and the new prestige it enjoyed the undisciplined BRA turned their attention to local populations, and sought to settle old grudges and local land disputes. Atrocities committed by the BRA against the Bougainvilleans were so many and most times go unreported.
Amidst the banditry, rape and pillaging, another rebel group emerged in an attempt to cap the growing chaos: the Bougainville Resistance Force (BRF). Soon armed rebel groups were fighting amongst themselves as the conflict morphed into hundreds of localized conflicts.
According to Sean Lee a consultant chronicling The Burnham I and II Dialogues observed that,
‘Two layers to the conflict emerged: 1) a secessionist struggle between the BRA and PNG and; 2) a violent contest between two rival Bougainville groups, BRA and BRF. The BRF increasingly drew its logistical support and supply of arms from the PNGDF.’
Secondly, Bougainville will still need the infrastructure backbone to pick itself up and drive its economy. Bougainville like PNG is still reeling from the mistakes of a lazy colonizer who failed to better prepare its colony for both political and economic independence.
Retrospectively, Papua New Guinea governments failed to take control of the mines operation after independence and to seriously take heed of the landowner’s plight and amicably address the issues over compensation payments and the environmental impact of the mine with Bougainville Copper Limited – operated mainly by mining giant the Rio Tinto Group.
No one saw the likely security implications and threats coming until the disputes escalated out of proportion. And again no one is seeing the political and socio-economic implications on the decision to allow Bougainville to secede from Papua New Guinea.
Now, will this experience earnestly prompts Papua New Guinea to re-look or if there is none develop its internal security arrangements and align its foreign policy towards fulfilling the country’s best interest?

next :

PNG calls on International Community to refrain from interfering in Bougainville affairs

No comments

Thank you for visiting this web page. We would like to hear from you, feel free to comment below.

Powered by Blogger.