Bougainville, now autonomous after a decade of secessionist fighting against Papua New Guinea, has destroyed at least half of its weapons, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today.
Under the supervision of the UN Observer Mission in Bougainville (UNOMB), the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) and the Bougainville Resistance Force (BRF) have destroyed 1,588 weapons, or 81 per cent of their arsenals, while five out of 10 Bougainville districts have completed the weapons disposal programme, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Danilo Türk said in an open briefing.
In the area still controlled by former separatist leader Francis Ona, Me-ekamui (Holy Land), some progress had been made, but Mr. Ona continued to avoid dialogue with Bougainville's leaders and the National Government, Mr. Türk said. The dominant force in Mr. Ona's Me-ekamui Defence Force (MDF), the "A" Company, had completed the destruction of its weapons, but other MDF elements had not, he added.
That position could impact the pace and timing of the weapons destruction programme, he said, but Mr. Ona's influence was steadily declining.
The Bougainville Interim Provincial Government had started preparations for the next steps in the electoral process for the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), by establishing a Ministry for Peace and Autonomy, but the earliest possible time for the election would probably be the end of November or the beginning of December, Mr. Türk said.
UNOMB's mandate ends on 30 June and some speakers in the Council's ensuing discussion argued in favour of extending it, while others suggested ending it then.
A "natural exit point" for UNOMB would be after the elections, when the autonomous government would assume responsibility as the legitimate representative of the people of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea's representative, Robert Aisi, told the Council.
Video of the Council meeting [1hr 32mins]