Read any new country list (including our own) posted online and you will see the Republic of Bougainville as the most likely next newest country. This has not come from nowhere with region officially doing so between 2025 and 2027, but how likely is to happen?
A background to Bougainville
In case you have not heard of Bougainville it is technically a part of Papua New Guinea, but that is not a place they want to be for a number of reasons from geographic to ethnic and perhaps most importantly financially.
They found themselves in this situation due t good old fashioned colonialism which saw them lumped into PNG, rather than their neighbors the Solomon Islands, Bougainville and the Solomon Islands are pretty much linked by.land as well as looking so similar as to even have the same hair.
This in part led to the formation of the Republic of North Solomons a short lived state that achieved neither union with the Solomon Islands nor an enduring independence.
Instead it got autonomy….
Where’s there’s resources there’s war
Bougainville is rich in both copper an gold, but instead of reaping the rewards was essentially screwed over by the very definition of EvilCorp, Rio Tinto. Said company with the support of PNG not only destroyed the environment, but gave very little money to the people of Bougainville.
This is evidenced by the socking state of most roads not linked to the mine, how underdeveloped the region is, as well as the war that was to follow.
From 1989 to 2001 up to 15,000 local people lost their live fighting for independence in a war that did not put PNG, the west, or Rio Tinto in the best of lights. Not only this, but the country was further pushed back developmentally and was even blockaded for a number of years, something our local partner Bosco told us about “The kids here didn’t even know what soft-drink was and we had to survive off of the land, while hotting from machine gun fire in the jungle. It was a crazy time”.
Bougainville managed to fight their way through though and as well as largely beating an ineffective PNG forces that tried to recruit mercenaries, more importantly was given the ability to hold a “non-binding” referendum on independence. This was approved by a resounding 98 percent of people, but yet independence did not follow.
Why is Bougainville not independent yet
The terms of the referendum were that independence would happen between 2025 and 2027, with the 6-8 year gap being so an agreement with Papua New Guinea could be made, but also so that the country could avoid the fate of South Sudan and be ready for independence.
Yet while they have given themselves this gap without independence they have not been able to develop their economy, which has meant not being able to set up what is needed for a new state. Even the national airport is not exactly ready for international travel.
They are though adamant that independence will happen by 2027, which brings in the next post of contention – Papua New Guinea have a very different interpretation of things.
According to PNG the referendum was non-binding and thus does not mean independence, with 2/3rds of the legislature having to agree to such an action and the government seeing 2027 as the date an “agreement is made”, rather than a new country os born.
So, with this in mind we might not get to see Bougainville as the worlds newest country by 2027, we can though hope it does not go the way of West Papua and that war on the islands is avoided.
Join us in a tour to Bougainville.