On the pacific island of bougainville, a former german colonial territory, the inhabitants have been voting on their independence since saturday. The island currently belongs to papua new guinea as an autonomous province.
Despite its abundance of natural resources, this is one of the poorest countries in the world. According to the referendum commission, a good 200 people are eligible to vote.000 people. If a majority in the referendum decides in favor of a complete detachment from papua new guinea, bougainville could become the youngest state in the world. The result is not expected before mid december.
Because of its geographic peculiarities, the referendum is expected to last more than two weeks. The autonomous region of bougainville is almost 9000 square kilometers in size. It consists of the main island of bougainville, the island of buka to the north, and several smaller island groups. Many communities are difficult to reach. The province is named after the french adventurer louis antoine de bougainville. From the 1880s until the first world war it was part of german new guinea. Then it was occupied by australia until it finally became part of papua new guinea in 1975.
On bougainville there are major copper and gold deposits. However, the population is very poor. In addition, the island suffers from environmental problems due to the mining of the raw materials.
The referendum was called after a decade-long civil war involving more than 15.000 dead agreed, which ended in 1998. In the vote, in addition to independence, there is also a choice of greater autonomy. Most experts expect a majority to vote for independence. The parliament had the last word.