Brussels, novembre 2007
Character and goals: Peace monitoring in Bougainville
Background to the Peace Monitoring Mission in Bougainville.
A ten-years civil war
Since 1988 Bougainville (1), an island that belonged to Papua New Guinea through colonial times, has gone through a serious civil war between the “Bougainville Revolutionary Army” fighting for independence of the island from Papua New Guinea (PNG), and the PNG defence forces. Papua New Guinea was supported by Australia through training, equipment, and for some time even through “military counsellors” allegedly spending their “holidays” flying four Australian army helicopters (2). In the course of the war so-called « resistance forces » established themselves in Bougainville that fought on the side of PNG against the Revolutionary Army. The war had been triggered by intensive economic exploitation (copper mining) of the island by PNG. The 10 years of war cost the lives of about 20,000 people–more then 10 % of the population of 180,000. More than 50 % became displaced. The infrastructure broke down completely; whole villages were burned to the ground. Massive human rights violations – murder, torture, rape, disappearances, etc.– became daily occurrences. (3)
The war was brought to an end by two agreements concluded in October 1997 (Burnham II Agreement), and the “Agreement on Peace, Security and Development on Bougainville” (Lincoln Agreement) in January 1998. The negotiations started when both sides realised that they could not win the war, and were made possible by the arrangement of a neutral location (Burnham, a New Zealand military base), covered travel and transport, and guaranteed security of the participants.(4) In the negotiations political and military leaders of Bougainville were joined by civil society leaders (clan chiefs, leaders of women’s organisations, etc…).(5)
An unarmed Truce Monitoring Group(TMG) was established in Bougainville as part of these cease-fire agreements. Under the leadership of the New Zealand military, in 1997 approximately 370 (6) soldiers and civilians from New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Vanuatu were sent to Bougainville to monitor the cease-fire and the implementation of the agreement. All members of the TMG had to be unarmed and wear civilian clothes, because an armed peacekeeping force would have been refused by the parties in conflict (7). The operation was set up according to military standards and rules, using a military infrastructure and approach. Most of the staff today is based in one location, in a tent camp set up in a building in Loloho. Headquarters staff is quartered in a number of houses in another town (Arawa). From there they go out to patrols in the villages.
After a third round of negotiations – this time in Canberra in March 1998 – and with the beginning of the permanent cease-fire at the end of April, the character of TMG changed. New Zealand stepped back from its role as co-ordinator of the peacekeeping force and reduced its staff from 220 to 30 (8) in what was then called the “Peace Monitoring Group.” Australia took over the leadership, with the agreement of all parties, in spite of the reservations against Australia that still existed because of its role in the war. In addition to monitoring the cease-fire, the mandate of PMG now includes facilitation of the peace process. The PMG still operates, although its numbers were reduced in the year 2000. (9)
In addition, the United Nations has sent a small Monitoring Mission consisting of five persons. Their mandate includes monitoring and verification of the agreement, but their real worth is seen in the symbolic inclusion of the United Nations in the peace process, a sign that the world cares about what happens in Bougainville. (10)
(1) : The sources of information on the mission in Bougainville are Böge 1999, Ramsbotham/Woodhouse 1999, and the report of a seminar “Monitoring Peace in Bougainville” that was hold at the Australian National University on the 8th of September 1999. The talks of different participants of the monitoring mission can be found in the report that is available on Internet (rspas.anu.edu.au/melanesia).
(2) : Böge 1999:12 p.
(3) : Böge 1999:4 p.
(4) : Böge 1999:8 p.(http/rspas.anu.edu.au/melanesia). Böge 1999:12. Böge 1999:4.
(5) : Because of elections in PNG, the PNG government joined the negotiation process only after the first round. (Böge 1999:10)
(6) : According to Ramsbotham/Woodhouse (1999:196) the forces consisted of 260 persons that were to be rotated so that 150 monitors were on the island at any time. I follow here the numbers of Böge (1999:12) who speaks of 370 persons in the original TMG: New Zealand 220, Australia 100, and the rest from the other participating nations.
(7) : Böge 1999:12 p.
(8) : The PMG consisted of 306 women and men: 247 from Australia, 30 from New Zealand, 15 from Fiji and 14 from Vanuatu. (Böge 1999:17) Later, it was reduced. Currently there are 15 civilians (all Australians), 156 Australians soldiers, 20 New Zealanders, 6 Fijians and 6 Ni Vans. This Information was taken from the Australian Ministry of Defence, www.defence.gov.au/bougainville/news.htm.
(9) : Brigadier Bruce Osborn, “Role of the Military Commander”, contribution to the Seminar Monitoring Peace in Bougainville, rspas.anu.edu.au/melanesia/osborn.htm.
(10) : Böge 1999:17 p.