Former rebel leader Ishmael Toroama has been elected as president of Bougainville, an autonomous territory located in the remote east of Papua New Guinea, on Wednesday, 23 September.
The new president is set to lead independence talks with the PNG government. “I will stand up for independence in Bougainville […] It is now time to work together”, Toroama said, according to The Guardian.
Ishmael Toroama won against Simon Dumarinu, a former Papuan minister, in this first election held in the autonomous region since the referendum on self-determination, in November and December 2019 (98,31% of the population voted in favour of independence).
— Joseph Nobetau (@JosephNobetau) September 23, 2020
“We conducted a clean campaign, we did not give money to the voters and we did not intimidate any voters: people have used their God-given wisdom to vote for the right candidate”, Toroama added after his victory was announced.
Bougainville, a mineral-rich group of islands located near the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, has developed little since the 1988-1998 civil war which resulted in the deaths of up to 20,000 people.
The conflict was provoked by the the environmental damage wrought by the Rio Tinto’s massive Panguna gold and copper mine, as well as disputes over how the mine profits should be shared.
A peace agreement resulted in the creation of the Autonomous Buogainville Government, in 2011.
- Main photo > Ishmael Toroama, former rebel military commander, has been elected president of PNG’s autonomous Bougainville region. Credit : Ishmael Toroama Facebook.