[Documents menu]Bougainville independence movement
Date: Mon, 2 Feb 1998 14:56:18 +1000
From: MWatts@fisher.lab.usyd.edu.au
Subject: Re: 1129 BOUGAINVILLE: Chronology of Bougainville Civil War
Origin -- Niuswire
Source -- Pacific Islands Report, 23/1/98
Copyright -- PIR/AFP
Status -- Unabridged

Chronology of Bougainville Civil War

By Michael J. Field, AFP
30 January 1998

Publisher's note: Max Watts provided supplementary comments in upper case. I have changed them to italics for the sake of legibility.

Inspired by the precise (but of course limited) summary I have written my comments into it - [in italics] to distinguish. I have no files here; this is "memory only."

Welcome comments.

Max Watts

Port Moresby - Key dates in Papua New Guinea's Bougainville civil war:

  • 1768: French explorer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville visits the island which bears his name.
  • 1898: In the Berlin Conference Bougainville becomes part of German New Guinea.
  • 1914: Australia invades.
  • 1920: Australia wins a League of Nations mandate over what is now Papua New Guinea.
  • March 1942: Japan occupies Bougainville.
  • July - August 1942: Bougainville "coast watchers" play an important role in the decisive Battle of Guadalcanal, warning US forces of arriving Japanese aircraft
  • May 1943: Commander of the Pearl Harbor attack, Isoroku Yamamoto, is shot down and killed over Bougainville.
  • November 1943: U.S. Marines land on Bougainville. Tons of Japanese and American arms left, become crucial in the current civil war.
  • ? Month ? 1944: Australian forces take over from US troops and fight Japanese on Bvl till 15.8.45
  • June 1967: The Bougainville Copper Agreement gives Australia's CRA 53.6 percent ownership and most of the profits from the Panguna mine. In 1964 an Australian administrator tells local people they would get nothing from the mine. The Agreement is re-negotiated in November 1974.
  • September 11, 1975: Leo Hannet, then Premier of the North Solomons (which includes Bougainville), declares an independent Republic of the North Solomons.
  • September 16, 1975: PNG becomes independent.
  • ? Month ? 1976: Compromise between independence movement and PNG/Australia: provincial status (a form of autonomy)
  • November 1988: Land owners demand 11 billion kina (11.3 billion US dollars) from the Australian operated Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) and compensation for destruction and pollution.
  • November 22, 1988: Francis Ona leads a raid on BCL's armory, stealing explosives and destroying installations.
  • December 23, 1988: State of emergency in Bougainville declared. This provincial status was later abolished by vote of PNG parliament. The experience has made Bvlians wary of "autonomy" arrangement, which can be revoked by an outside vote.
  • May 15, 1989: Panguna mine closed. 20 July 1989: Australian government declares it to be "in the interests of the defense of Australia" that Australians can be recruited and can fight "in any capacity" in PNG, i.e., in Bougainville. Australians (and NZers) fly, service, etc., the 4-5 Huey/Iroquois helicopters which became the main attack weapon of the PNG military. PNG Captain Y. A. Liria states that these gunships are essential to the PNG military effort on BVL. Without them, "Ona would quickly win."
  • January 11, 1990: Prime Minister Rabbie Namaliu declares a military offensive on Bougainville
  • March 1990, PNG army, defeated and demoralized, withdraws from Bvl
  • April 1990: A "confidential" plan for the reconquest of Bvl is formulated by the PNG "NIO" (certainly with Australian input). Two main points are
    1. A total blockade and
    2. deliberate setting Bougainvillians against each other on geographic/ethnic lines.
    The planners assume that this combination will lead to the collapse ofthe BRA within some months.

    The blockade is immediately imposed and maintained till late 1997. The "division" leads to the creation of the so-called "resistance" forces, armed and financed by PNG/Australia.

    After the withdrawal of the PNG/Australian forces, the BRA extends its influence over all Bougainville and Buka.

    Ethnic and tribal conflict surface at some points, "skin" BRA utilise the interregnum to settle old scores and loot.

    The central BRA attempts to re-establish order, even shooting looters. Some of the distrungled "skins" form the core of the later pro-PNG "resistance."
  • May 17, 1990: Rebels have formed "Bougainville Interim Government" (BIG), which proclaims independence, initially calling the new state the "Republic of Megamui" -- a name since dropped.
  • [ January 11, 1990: Prime Minister Rabbie Namaliu declares a military offensive on Bougainville]
  • 1990 - 1994 war. Blockade. Reconquest of coastal towns, plains, by PNG "DF," financed and strongly supported by Australian pilots, technicians, advisers. Attempt by Australian "Labor" government to "isolate" conflict as an "internal PNG" problem (and of course, Australian). Blockade used to suppress news of conflict, atrocities committed by PNG military, from "getting out." Some Australians, in particular human rights lawyer Rosemarie Gillespie, run the blockade to bring in medicines and bring out news.
  • August 15-25 1994: PNG offensive to recapture Panguna Copper Mine. PNG Prime Minister Paias Wingti announces victory, end of war. But offensive ends in disaster for PNG forces, trapped at Panguna after losing ground commander. (Then) Ltc Singirok wounded in unsuccessful attempt to fly into Panguna.
  • 28 August 1994: Wingti Gogernment falls on technicality, de facto discredited by Wingti's boast, "War is won."
  • New Prime Minister Julius Chan flies to Honiara, asks BRA Commander Sam Kauona for "immediate" cease-fire (to relieve trapped PNG forces). Kauona agrees despite objections by his field commanders. Chan promises further negotiations and peace conference to be arranged between "equals."
  • 20.9.1994: Promises almost immediately broken. Sam Kauona sends numerous appeals to his "friend" Chan; these are ignored.
  • October 10-14, 1994: Completely one-sided Arawa Peace Conference, monitored by South Pacific peace keepers under Australian leadership. BRA/BIG leadership does not take part, offended by the complete ignoring of all the promises and arrangments made by Chan at Honiara. BRA/BIG also note that the PNG military has not withdrawn into its bases, as agreed to in Honiara. BRA Field Commander Ishmael Toroama speaks at conference, but is shot at by PNG soldiers.
  • 12 October 1994: Attempt by PNG military to murder Australian film maker Wayne Coles-Janess at Kobuan, South of Arawa; his assistant, Joachimn Mature, is badly wounded, but cared for on Australian Navy ship Tobruk and recovers.

    No outcome, although tentative cease-fire in place, which is never observed.

  • April 1995: PNG/Australiz establish a "Bougainville Transitional Government" (BTG) under leadership of ex-BIG official Theodore Miriung in Buka.
  • September - December 1995: A series of peace conferences take place in Cairns (Queensland) between members of the Bougainville Interim Government (BIG), BRA and BTG.
  • 3.1.96: The Bougainvillian delegation returning thru the blockade from the Solomons is ambushed by the PNG army. Delegation leader Kabui pleads with Chan to disavow ambush, save negotations. Chan replains: "Serves you right" for not passing thru "PNG Customs."
  • 25.1.96: PNG Army/resistance massacres village of [?] in South Bvl. As normal, Australian media cover massacre in three lines: "BRA camp overrun."
  • 1.2.96: Home and office of Martin Miriori (BIG Foreign Secretary) in Honiara (Solomons) is destroyed by firebombs; Miriori and family escape by Miracle, PNG agents responsible but are not detained.

    As response to these attacks, BRA undertakes highly successful "Northern Campaign" under leadership of their field commander Ishmael Toroama. BRA also attacks PNG military in "pacified" separate Buka Island, causing extensive panic.

  • 2.3.96: Australia: Conservatives defeat Labor Party. Gareth Evans, ALP foreign minister, "married" to the war against Bougainville, is replaced by Alexander Downer, who recognizes that war cannot be won by Australia/PNG.
  • March 23, 1996: PNG declares end to 18-month cease-fire - "Operation High Speed II" launched.
  • June-July 1996: PNG offensive in southern and central Bougainville defeated by BRA. BRA captures Korimia with stocks of mortar ammunition.
  • September 8, 1996: Ten PNG Defense Force soldiers and two others killed at Kangu Beach. 5 PNG soldiers captured, held as POWs.
  • October 12, 1996: Pro-PNG provincial Bougainville Premier Theodore Miriung assassinated by identified PNG soldiers who have never been punished.
  • February 24, 1997: Disclosures that Prime Minister Julius Chan's government has hired about 40 (or 75 or more) mercenaries through British military consultants Sandline International to mount a strike at Bougainville rebels brings protests from Australia, Britain and New Zealand. Chan says they are to train PNG forces.
  • February 25, 1997: Amnesty International publishes another (there have been several earlier ones) 50-page report saying that unlawful killings and "disappearances" continue in Bougainville.
  • March 17, 1997: Military commander Brigadier General Jerry Singirok calls on Chan to resign over the hiring of the mercenaries and suspended all operations with Sandline International. Chan responds by dismissing Singirok and says he could be charged with treason.
  • March 18, 1997: Singirok agrees to step down and calls on troops massing to support him for calm.
  • March 19, 1997: Several thousand people mass outside the main Port Moresby barracks to back Singirok[ and], condemn the mercenaries contract and call for peace on Bougainville. Police fire tear gas after several shops are looted.
  • March 16-March 26: A spontaneous alliance develops between "left" civilian groups such as Melsol and the anti-mercentary resister solders inside the army. The soldiers progect the civilian demonstrators from the police "loyal" to the Chan government.
  • On 26 March, Chan - faced with a blockade of parliament, agrees to "step aside" while charges of corruption are investigated. This is considered a major victory by the "left" in PNG.

    The war on Bougainville de facto ceases, as the PNG DF is no longer capable of offensive operations and the BRA - which strongly supported the anti-mercenary operataions led by Gen. Singirok and his Assistant Major Walter Enuma - observes a de facto cease fire.

    Chan - although de jure "stood aside," continues to exercise considerable power.
  • 5.5.97: Several civilian leaders of the March anti-Chan, anti-war demonstrations are arrested, charged with "illegal assembly;" apparently another 150 persons are on lists "to be arrested."
  • Late May - June 1997: Chan regains the Prime Ministership, appoints Leo Nuia, "Butcher of Bougainville," general and new commander of the PNG army. Nuia attempts to neutralize and disperse "left" elements in the military.
  • June, 14, 1997: Voting in PNG's two-week national elections begins.
  • July 1, 1997: Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan defeated in elections.
  • July 22, 1997 : Port Moresby Governor Bill Skate elected Prime Minister, heading a coalition government.
  • 28.July 1997: Left wing officers and soldiers free Major Walter Enuma frmo Boroka jail, place army Commander Gen Nuia under house arrest. Nuia is released when Bill Skate, who had previously met with left wing officers, promises an end to persecutions and a rather vague amnesty for the anti-Sandline actions in March. BRA quietly extends control to most of northern Bougainville. Establishes new bases on Buka.
  • August 22, 1997: Australia and New Zealand announce joint new bid to bring peace to Bougainville.
  • January 23, 1998: Government and rebels sign a declaration of peace.

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