Residents of the Pacific Island of Bougainville voted for independence from Papua New Guinea. According to the official results released today, 176,928 people and thus 86 percent of the participants voted for independence during a referendum; only 3,043 wanted to stay with Papua New Guinea. This could make Bougainville the youngest state in the world.
The parliament of Papua New Guinea still has to ratify the outcome of the referendum. The magnitude of the victory of the Independence camp should increase the pressure on the government in Port Moresby not to obstruct the separation of the previously autonomous island of Papua New Guinea.
The head of the Referendum Commission, former Irish head of government Bertie Ahern, called on all parties to recognize the outcome. This shows „the power of the pen over the weapons“. The referendum is a step on the way to a peaceful future for the island.
Conflict demanded 20,000 lives
The independence referendum was pledged in 2001 as part of a peace agreement that ended a clash between rebels and the Papua New Guinea security apparatus. In the decade-long conflict, up to 20,000 people have been killed and thousands more displaced. The referendum in the former German colonial area started in November and lasted more than two weeks.