CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, an early warning tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace. Entries dating back to 2003 provide easily searchable conflict histories.
Papua New Guinea Bougainville govt and national govt of PNG pledged to conclude final political settlement by 2027. Following Dec 2019 non-binding referendum in which Bougainville electorate overwhelmingly voted for independence from PNG, PM Marape and president of Autonomous Region of Bougainville Ishmael Toroama 6 July reportedly agreed timetable for process related to transfer of powers to Bougainville authorities by 2023; in joint statement, both sides pledged support for final political settlement “no earlier than 2025 and no later than 2027”.
Tensions mid-month flared between police and military following deadly attack on senior police officer. In capital Port Moresby, hours after imposition of COVID-19 restrictions on sale and consumption of alcohol, off-duty military personnel 8 May attacked senior police inspector investigating illegal alcohol sale at black market; police officer next day died from injuries. Police 23 May arrested former PM Peter O’Neill following allegations of corruption and abuse of office during premiership. Supreme Court 29 May ratified Feb vote by Bougainville regional authorities rejecting proposed change to Bougainville constitution that would have allowed presidents to hold third term in office.
Following Dec non-binding referendum in which Bougainville electorate overwhelmingly voted for independence from Papua New Guinea (PNG), talks between Bougainville govt and national govt of PNG on what steps needed before referendum outcome negotiations can start progressed slowly. Talks on referendum consultation process took place in capital Port Moresby mid-March, resulting in decision for justice departments of both govts to work on clarification of term “ratification”. Meanwhile, at least nine people including three children reportedly killed in attack in Porgera valley on around 12 March; according to police, incident may be retaliatory attack for July 2019 deadly violence which resulted in dozens killed. UN in PNG 17 March condemned “massacre” and called “for immediate intervention to bring the perpetrators to justice”.
Bougainville Consultation Forum 23 Jan held first meeting following last month’s non-binding referendum in which 98% of electorate voted for independence from Papua New Guinea (PNG); forum set to decide on strategy of Autonomous Bougainville Govt (ABG) in negotiations with national govt of PNG. Bougainville parliament 17 Jan held debate over changes to constitution which would allow president of ABG to hold office for three terms and for three parliamentary seats to be reserved for veterans; negotiations to continue in March after return of parliament from adjournment.
Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC) 11 Dec announced result of non-binding referendum held in autonomous region Bougainville in late Nov/early Dec in which 98% of voters backed independence from PNG; turnout reported at 87%. Referendum, delayed twice in 2019 due to lack of funding, is part of 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement which ended decade of conflict on island over revenues from mining and its environmental impact. BRC 11 Dec issued statement declaring referendum process “informed, free of fear and accessible”. National govt and autonomous Bougainville govt set to begin post-referendum consultations prior to process of ratification in PNG parliament.
Voting began in long-delayed referendum on Bougainville island 23 Nov, where some 207,000 registered voters will choose between independence from PNG or greater autonomy, in line with 2001 Bougainville peace agreement; voting to continue until 7 Dec; result is non-binding and will go to national parliament.
Preparations underway for referendum in autonomous region Bougainville scheduled for 23 Nov-7 Dec, when some 300,000 voters will choose between greater autonomy and independence. Vote, outcome of which will need to be ratified in national parliament, is part of 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement which ended decade of conflict on island over revenues from mining and its environmental impact. Referendum delayed twice in 2019 due to lack of funding.
Inter-tribal violence in mountainous Hela Province early July left dozens dead. Following incidents of violence in June, tribesmen 6 July ambushed and killed six women and children near Peta village which prompted revenge attack by rival tribe 8 July, killing nine women and seven children in Karida village; in days following attacks, govt announced deployment of joint military-police taskforce to Hela province while PM Marape sent police minister to region to assess situation.
Political tensions continued amid opposition’s successful attempts to oust PM O’Neill. Opposition 6 May launched no confidence vote after finance minister James Marape and other senior ministers resigned from govt citing lack of trust in O’Neill, including alleged lack of consultation over controversial $16bn gas deal signed in April. Three days ahead of scheduled no confidence vote, O’Neill 26 May announced resignation citing “need for change”, but did not formally resign and next day appealed to Supreme Court to block vote. PM’s supporters and opponents physically clashed in parliament 28 May. O’Neill 29 May formally resigned in front of parliament; MPs elected Marape as new PM next day.
Riots broke out in capital Honiara 24 April after parliament appointed three-time PM Manasseh Sogavare, previously removed from office in 2017 no-confidence vote, for another term as PM following elections 3 April. Police used tear gas to disperse protesters and reportedly detained some 50 people, many in connection with looting and destruction of property.
Far-right terrorist 15 March shot dead 50 Muslim worshippers, including four women and four children, and wounded over 40 in attack on two mosques in Christchurch. During attack, which he live-streamed, and in anti-Muslim, anti-immigration “manifesto” posted online, attacker made references to other far-right extremists, white nationalists and ultranationalists in Europe and the U.S., and historical battles against Muslim armies in eastern Europe.
At 1 Nov meeting Australian and PNG PMs agreed on joint redevelopment plan for Lombrum Naval Base on Manus Island; U.S. 17 Nov said it will support redevelopment. On sidelines of 17-18 Nov APEC summit in Papua New Guinea, both Australian and Chinese leaders hosted meetings with Pacific Island nation leaders.
Supporters of defeated candidate in 2017 election for governor of Southern Highlands province (centre), set fire to commercial plane, government buildings and governor’s home 14 June in protests at failure of court challenge relating to election result. UN 14 June evacuated staff in Mendi, capital of Southern Highlands, same day. 300 to 400 armed protesters 16-17 June marched on Mendi, calling for resignation of PM O’Neill. O’Neill 15 June declared nine-month state of emergency in province, suspending provincial govt for duration. Govt 23 June deployed 440 soldiers to Southern Highlands and neighbouring Hela province to calm situation.
Five people reported killed in inter-tribal conflict in Hela Province (centre) late month. Fighting reportedly flared up after 7.5 magnitude earthquake late Feb displaced thousands; over a dozen reported killed in tribal clashes since then.
UN refugee agency 22 Dec accused Australia of abandoning some 800 refugees and asylum seekers following Nov closure of Manus Island detention centre. Court 15 Dec granted asylum seekers who were held at Australian detention centre on Manus Island right to sue govt.
Violence broke out as govt 9 Nov began dismantling Australian detention centre on Manus Island, and attempted to remove some 600 asylums seekers who refused to be transferred to other centres after its 31 Oct closure; Supreme Court had declared centre, part of migration deal with Australia whereby PNG intercepts boats attempting to reach Australia for cash, illegal in April ruling. Detainees cited fears of violent reprisals from local population and remained in camp despite water, electricity and food supply cut-off. PM O’Neill 8 Nov said govt will apprehend those “causing unnecessary anxiety and violence”. Police 24 Nov forcibly evicted remaining 450 asylum seekers, ending standoff; use of force widely sparked outcry in Australia and internationally, and UN said violence “both shocking and inexcusable”.
Authorities 4 Oct said 200 police and soldiers being deployed to Southern Highlands capital Mendi to address continuing post-election violence in province, including two policemen killed 30 Sept.
Several people injured in continuing election-related violence in Southern Highlands, last seat to be declared.
Following July elections marred by violence and irregularities, Peter O’Neill reappointed for second term as PM 2 Aug, day after supreme court threw out application to have his election declared void. O’Neill promised to conduct review of electoral process. Govt bolstered security in two highlands provinces affected by continuing violence during month; as of 22 Aug at least 21 people reported killed in election-related violence.
Voting in general election closed 8 July amid ongoing reports of irregularities and violence in some areas. PM O’Neill’s Ruling National Congress party won move votes but no outright majority; O’Neill invited late month to try and form coalition govt.
Two-week voting process began 24 June in general election amid reports of irregularities and violence in some areas; voting suspended in capital Port Moresby after police discovered evidence of bribery and fake ballot papers. Opposition called for electoral commissioner to resign; PM O’Neill called for calm, said election will go ahead.
Six leading opposition figures detained 10-11 Sept after criticising 2013 constitution at forum which police said lacked permit and breached public order decree. Govt rejected expressions of concern from New Zealand and Australia over freedom of speech as “interference”. National Federation party boycotted opening session of new Fijian parliament late month.
PM O’Neill, facing calls to resign over corruption allegations, 22 July survived no-confidence vote in parliament by 85 to 21 votes. Vote came amid strikes by airline pilots, transport workers and medics, with civil society groups pledging to continue protests.
Police opened fire on student demonstration in Port Moresby 8 June, leaving dozens wounded; protesters were calling for PM O’Neill to resign over corruption allegations. Court 9 June granted injunction barring students from protesting on campus; students 23 June clashed with security forces, burnt cars and trucks. Govt 28 June established inquiry into violence, imposed curfew on two university campuses.
Parliament 9 Feb endorsed suspension of three opposition National Federation Party MPs from legislature over auditing dispute. Opposition Sodelpa MPs walked out of parliament 11 Feb in protest over suspension and over proposed changes to parliament’s standing orders which it said ignored procedures. Govt declared state of emergency after worst recorded cyclone 20 Feb devastated parts of country, forced tens of thousands to flee homes; over 40 confirmed killed by end Feb.
Public prosecutor 24 Aug charged four people with sedition and urging political violence, bringing total number of people charged in separate cases to 70. Govt deployed military 19 Aug to assist police investigations regarding suspected rebel groups. PM Bainimarama late Aug vowed to arrest dissidents planning to overthrow govt.
Fiji hosted visits by Chinese President Xi and Indian PM Modi, following their attendance at G20 talks in Australia. Xi held talks with PM Bainimarama and other Pacific island leaders aimed at strengthening ties; announced additional $11.4m aid for Fiji, signed MoUs including on defence. Further normalisation of regional, international ties following Sept elections: Pacific Islands Forum regional bloc late Oct reinstated Fiji’s membership; New Zealand reinstated High Commissioner to Fiji late Nov.
Australian FM Julie Bishop 31 Oct commenced two day visit to Fiji, same day announced Australian govt lifted all sanctions; U.S. Ambassador to Fiji Frankie Reed announced U.S. also lifted sanctions late-Oct.
Fiji First Party led by military ruler Frank Bainimarama won 17 Sept general election, Bainimarama sworn in as PM 22 Sept; international monitors said results fair.
Regional leaders at Pacific Island Forum (PIF) held 29 July to 1 Aug agreed to lift Fiji’s ban from PIF if Fijian elections scheduled for Sept are free and fair.
Some 1,000 protestors 24 June gathered in Port Moresby in defiance of police protest ban, called for PM Peter O’Neill to answer corruption allegations and for reinstatement of anti-corruption task force chief Sam Koim.
Govt mid-May started resettlement of “genuine” asylum seekers from Australian-backed Manus Island detention centre; Australian report on mid-Feb riots in camp released 23 May, called for increased security; report criticized by PNG police as “cover-up”. Triumph Heritage Empowerment (THE) Party divided after dismissal of THE leader Don Polye from PNG Treasury and Polye’s move to opposition; 3 MPs resigned from party mid-May.
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