In January 1997 the South Pacific island of Bougainville was entering its ninth year of war. Thousands were dead, the island was internally divided and isolated by a blockade from the outside world, and the government of Papua New Guinea was about to deploy mercenaries to bring the rebellious province under control. By December of the same year a truce had been agreed upon, an unarmed multinational monitoring force had landed on the island, and the parties to the dispute were about to hold a leaders’ peace summit in New Zealand. This chapter outlines the events that brought the island from conflict to a fragile peace in less than a year. It considers some of the factors that allowed for successful intervention by New Zealand and other regional actors.
Bougainville, a province of the Melanesian nation of Papua New Guinea (PNG), is located at the northern end of the Solomon Islands group in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. Variously under German, British, Japanese, and Australian control since the mid-nineteenth century, Bougainville, together with mainland New Guinea, reverted to Australian governance after World War II. It became part of an independent PNG in 1975.