In brief

Bougainville seeks to declare independence on 1 September 2025

Papua New Guinea’s prime minister does not want to “dilute” outcome of 2019 referendum, warns unity of rest of country must be ensured

Ishmael Toroama.
Ishmael Toroama. Author: Autonomous Bougainville Government
Bougainville President Ishmael Toroama has set 1 September 2025 as the target date for declaring independence. This is the date Toroama has put on the table in talks with Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape, in which the two governments have also signed an agreement to grant Bougainville more room for manoeuvre in exercising its autonomy.

Bougainville, currently an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea, held a referendum on independence in November and December 2019. Almost 98% of voters supported secession.

The referendum was non-binding and the decision has to be validated by the PNG Parliament.

Marape has stated that he does not want to “dilute” the “overwhelming” result of the referendum, which will be “respected”, but has warned that the proposal that is finally voted in Parliament must be compatible with maintaining the unity of the rest of Papua New Guinea.

The prime minister wants Papua New Guinea-Bougainville talks to take into account the fact that the country is “the most diverse on earth”. “My responsibility is to preserve the union of the country,” Marape has said.

Autonomist tensions exist on other islands in Papua New Guinea, such as New Britain and New Ireland, as well as in the central region of Enga. Linguists estimate that more than 800 languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea.