Solomon Islands History

Solomon Islands History

European discovery

Archaeological finds point to the settlement of the Solomon Islands as early as the 2nd millennium BC. there. Presumably it was dark-skinned hunter-gatherers who originally came from New Guinea.

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In 1568 the Spanish seafarer Álvaro de Mendaña de Neyra discovered the archipelago east of New Guinea and named it “Solomon Islands” after the biblical figure of King Solomon after the wealth of gold and silver he hoped for. When these hopes were not fulfilled and the local tribes proved to be warlike, the Spaniards withdrew from the islands. Their exact exploration took place only in the 18th century by the French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville, who came to the islands in 1768. It was followed by European merchants and settlers. Missionaries started Christianizing the tribes.

The Europeans started to cut down valuable precious trees. From the middle of the 19th century, countless natives were abducted to Australia by slave traders, an estimated 30,000 people by the beginning of the 20th century.

At the end of the 19th century, the two colonial powers Great Britain and Germany tried to dominate the Solomon Islands. The islands were divided between 1890 and 1899: Buka and Bougainville in the north were annexed to the German colony of German New Guinea, the rest of the islands became a British protectorate.

After the First World War and the defeat of Germany, the islands of Buka and Bougainville as well as the other German South Pacific colonies (northeastern New Guinea, Bismarck Archipelago, Nauru) were placed under the supervision of the League of Nations. Australia took over the administration of the mandate area.

The Second World War and the aftermath

During World War II, Japanese troops occupied some of the Solomon Islands, including the largest island, Guadalcanal. From August 1942 fierce fighting broke out between the Japanese and the United States armed forces, which ended with the conquest of the islands by the United States. Britain took over administration again with Honiara as the new center (the previous capital Tulaghi had been completely destroyed by the fighting). The islands of Buka and Bougainville remained Australian mandates before they were annexed to Papua New Guinea in 1975.

According to AbbreviationFinder, the Solomon Islands were gradually granted independence from Great Britain: their own constitution entered into force in 1960, internal autonomy was granted in 1976, and on July 7, 1978 the Solomon Islands achieved their independence as a constitutional monarchy within the British Commonwealth of Nations. The British monarch Elizabeth II thus remained the head of state of the islands and was represented on the spot by a governor general. The country’s prime minister and thus head of government was Peter Kenilorea (until 1981, 1984-86).

The development since 1990

In the 1990s, conflicts arose with Papua New Guinea, which accused the Solomon Islands government of supporting the struggle for independence on the island of Bougainville. The population there still refused to join Papua New Guinea in 1975, and the resistance was mainly borne by the “Bougainville Revolutionary Party” and its supporters.

In 1997 Bartholomew Ulufa’alu became the new Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands. He succeeded in reducing the high level of foreign government debt. However, the island nation remains dependent on foreign development aid.

In the late 1990s, there were armed conflicts between the indigenous people on the main island of Guadalcanal and immigrants from the overpopulated neighboring island of Malaita. These had settled in many places on Guadalcanal, without taking into account the traditional land rights of the Melanesians. Thereupon a separate militia had formed on the island (Isatabu Freedom Movement, IFM), which the Malaitans wanted to drive out again. The “Malaita Eagle Force” (MEF) was founded by the immigrants. Due to the ongoing fighting, Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa’alu declared a state of emergency and asked for support from Australia, which was refused by the Australian government. A peace agreement was signed between the two parties to the conflict in July 1999, but the fighting continued. In June 2000, Ulufa’alu was taken hostage by supporters of the “Malaita Eagle Force” and only released after he agreed to resign. New riots between armed groups from Guadalcanal and Malaita led to New Zealand and Australia trying to reach a peace agreement in October 2000, which the parties to the conflict also signed (Townsville Agreement). In doing so, they committed to surrendering their weapons and returning to their home provinces. In return, the Solomon Islands government promised amnesty and health and education reforms. However, the peace agreement was not implemented and the arms tax failed. The foreign surveillance forces were finally withdrawn in 2002. At the request of Prime Minister Kemakeza, the multinational force RAMSI intervened under the leadership of Australia. Now the militias were disarmed. Many judiciary and administrative positions have been filled with Australians to make the state that has been corroded by corruption functional again. Numerous corruption processes followed.

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Prime Minister Sogavare, who was elected in May 2006 and was extremely tough in relations with Australia (he was very critical of the RAMSI deployment; he also refused to extradite Attorney General Julian Moti, who was accused of rape in Australia) in December 2007 overturned by a vote of no confidence. He was succeeded by David Derek Sikua. Under his government, relations with Australia relaxed, among other things through the extradition of Julian Motis to Australia in December 2007. In order to curb tensions between the ethnic groups, a commission to deal with the civil war conflict was established in 2009. After the 2010 general election, Parliament appointed Danny Philip to head the government. To avoid a vote of no confidence he resigned in November 2011. His successor in office was Gordon Darcy Lilo. In December 2014, Manasseh Sogavare was elected Prime Minister for the third time.

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