On the Pacific island of Bougainville, residents vote for their independence. Currently, the island belongs to Papua New Guinea as an autonomous province. According to the referendum commission, over 200,000 people are eligible to vote. The result is not expected before mid-December.
In addition to independence, the vote also offers greater autonomy. If a majority opts for complete secession from Papua New Guinea, Bougainville could become the youngest state in the world. The parliament of Papua New Guinea would then still have to agree.
The independence referendum was already pledged in 2001 as part of a peace agreement that ended a conflict between rebels in Bougainville on the one hand and the security apparatus of Papua New Guinea and foreign mercenaries on the other. The conflict killed up to 20,000 people and displaced thousands more.
Bougainville is nearly 9,000 square kilometers. It consists of the main island of Bougainville, the northern island of Buka and several smaller archipelagos. Many communities are difficult to reach. The province is named after the French navigator Louis Antoine de Bougainville. From the 1880s to the First World War she was part of German New Guinea. Then she was occupied by Australia, until she finally became part of Papua New Guinea in 1975.