The island was explored in 1768 by the French navigator Louis de Bougainville. Unlike the rest of the Solomon Islands, which became British territory, Bougainville and Buka became part of German New Guinea in 1884. Occupied by Australian forces during World War I, Bougainville was mandated to Australia by the League of Nations in 1920. During World War II the island was the last Japanese stronghold in the Solomons. It became part of Papua New Guinea in 1973, despite strong secessionist sentiment. A bloody secessionist uprising, begun in the late 1980s and sparked by copper mining, persisted through much of the 1990s; in 1998 a cease-fire, monitored by Australian-led forces, went into effect. A peace accord granting Bougainville broad autonomy and promising a referendum on independence by 2020 was signed in 2001. Peacekeeping forces were replaced by a smaller transition team in 2003, a constitution was adopted in 2004, and a government was elected in 2005. The autonomous government faced challenges from former fighters on both sides of the uprising, but negotiations led to a number of peace agreements. In the referendum in Dec., 2020, the autonomous region voted overwhelmingly for independence.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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