‘Building a Nation’: Will Bougainville’s Referendum Lead to Independence?

Rusting mine machinery at the Panguna mine, central Bougainville, Oct. 2019 (Photo by Catherine Wilson).
Rusting mine machinery at the Panguna mine, central Bougainville, Oct. 2019 (Photo by Catherine Wilson).
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ARAWA, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea—In late October, under overcast skies, a reggae band played to a crowd of several hundred people of all ages at an outdoor stage in Arawa, an old mining town framed by rainforest-covered mountains in the center of Bougainville Island. The crowd gradually grew as people, laden with bags of fresh produce, walked over from the large fruit and vegetable market situated directly opposite. The scene could have been confused for a music festival, but the band was only a warm-up act for the day’s main event: a political rally in favor of independence for Bougainville, […]

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