In brief

Bougainville calls on Papua New Guinea to pave the way for independence

President proposes participatory process involving both governments and civil society organizations, leading to an agreement in 2022

John Momis speaks after having voted in the referendum.
John Momis speaks after having voted in the referendum. Author: Autonomous Bougainville Government
The President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, John Momis, has called on the Papua New Guinea government to start preparing the way for the territory’s independence. Momis has proposed the establishment of a commission bringing together the two governments and civil society representatives from Bougainville to oversee the consultation process that should take place after an independence referendum has been held this November and December.

At the referendum, 98 per cent of voters supported Bougainville’s independence. The vote was non-binding. The peace agreement on which it was based gives the Papua New Guinea Parliament ultimate power to decide whether or not Bougainville becomes independent.

Momis has said that the consultation process should lead to an agreement, to be signed in 2022, on the way forward. The president of Bougainville has said that, following the clarity of the referendum result, he would only talk about the scenario of independence.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape has been ambiguous. He has acknowledged the results and, prior to the referendum, he had assured that he would honour “the spirit” of the peace agreements. But after the vote, Marape has also proposed that a “solution” be found “where Bougainville’s desire for self rule is not harmed and PNG’s desire for national unity is embraced.”

These words have been interpreted as a sign that Marape may be thinking of negotiating a final settlement that does not grant full independence to Bougainville.