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Intelligence Analysis

Between 1988 and 1999, the worst conflict in Oceania since the Second World War manifested in form of the Bougainville conflict. The course of this conflict can be traced back to the late 60s when copper and gold deposits were discovered in the region and an Australian mining began mining operations. However, they experienced backlash due to importing foreigners, mainly from Papua New Guinea (PNG) into the island as workers at the expense of the native population. This culminated in the decade-long civil war between the PNG forces and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, which was fighting for independence from PNG. A truce was announced towards the turn of the millennium and finally a peace agreement signed in 2002. One of its provisions was for a referendum to be held by 2020 on whether or not Bougainville should secede from PNG (Grey, 2008).

This date is fast approaching and all the economic and political climate in the region indicate that the citizens are likely to vote in favor of secession. This is due to a number of factors including the 2015 reelection of President Mommis who is firmly pro-independence. In addition to this, the PNG government has indicated that it is preparing to grant the semi-autonomous island full independence by actions such as reducing the funds it sends there. Most of the island’s citizens are of the view that they can only be able to fully benefit from their resources if they gain independence. Secession is therefore the most likely route they will take.

However, such an action is directly poised to have implications on Australia. Being one of the region’s major powers, certain diplomatic rearrangements will have to be made in case of the ‘yes’ vote. These include the recognition of Bougainville as a sovereign state and hence the Australian government will have to set up an embassy there. Since the new country might have diplomatic differences with PNG, Australia will have to strike a balance so as to maintain a good relation with both. Another major implication of such a move would be the economic ones. Top among these might be the re-opening of the Panguna mine which has been closed since the war began. Australian companies are the most likely to take up the mining contracts and hence yield numerous economic benefits. Military interests around the island are also expected to shift if it becomes fully independent. Whereas previous the Australian army negotiated with the PNG government on military affairs in the region, it will now have to deal with the two different governments. This might prove to be a tricky affair considering that the two nations might have different interests.

All of these possible implications reveal an unanswered question, is Australia ready for an independent Bougainville? If not, then there are some actions that the government should make in order to ready itself for the eventuality. One of these should be preparing new agreements to be negotiated with both governments to enable harmonious diplomatic relations. Another thing that must be done is to develop plans on re-opening of the mine. This is because the budgetary cuts will make the new nation heavily dependent on the mineral exports, which can be exploited through Australian assistance. This should, however, be done in a way that will not cause any further conflict. The Australian government has a military presence in the island and hence it should prepare on how to remove the soldiers and equipment or renegotiate the terms of their stay upon the establishment of a new government. Only by taking such actions can Australia be comfortable with the formation of a new neighboring state.


Grey, J. (2008). A Military History of Australia (Third edition). Port Melbourne: Cambridge