Bougainville: Independence Referendum

On November 23, an Independence referendum that was 20 years in the making began on the island of Bougainville, an autonomous part of Papua New Guinea. The referendum was a part of the settlement of brutal civil war that raged at the end of the 90s for the control of the lucrative mine on the island. The referendum was originally scheduled for July of this year and I booked my tickets to arrive after the referendum happened. But it was later postponed exactly to the date of my arrival. Pure coincidence! As I got off the plane, the very first stop was the central polling station were crowds of jubilant people stood in line to cast their vote for Box 2: Complete Independence. Everybody was ecstatic and the flags of Bougainville were everywhere including in everybody’s heads and T-shirts – the result is most certainly going to be a near 100%. And so I witnessed the birth of a new nation (the last nation to go independent was South Sudan in 2011). Observers from five pacific states – New Zealand, Salomons, Fiji, Vanuatu, and Australia – were present to certify the vote.