Bougainville – The Newest Country to Join the World


Bougainville, The Newest Country

There might be a question about which country is the newest to join the world; however, most experts would say it is Bougainville. After voting was completed, it became the latest country in the world on December 11, 2019. It is a small archipelago of islands. It lies off the coast of Papua NThe isles lie 700 kilometers off the Solomon Sea. Aside from Bougainville being the newest country in the world, it is also the smallest. During the independence vote, 98 percent of the people favored this following a decade-long civil war for peace. The conflict involved the new country in dispute with Papua New Guinea (PNG). The fight was over control of the resource-rich island. The battle for independence is still not settled, and it looks like a long winding road until it reaches its destination. The referendum is not yet binding.  

Present Status Of Bougainville

The region is now known as the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. Before this, it was known as the Northern Solomons Province. During recent times Buka Island has become the administrative capital of Bougainville. The new country is 8,646 square kilometers, and the new capital is 598 kilometers. A small narrow passage separates the two islands as well as many other smaller islands. Approximately 200,000 people live in the new country. Together they speak 21 different distinct languages along with 39 dialects. 

Presidential Election In Bougainville

After a delay in the elections, due to the pandemic, the country has set a date for the presidential election to run from August 12 to September 1. It is hoped the results will be announced by the middle of September. The lengthy time of the election is to allow people who live in remote areas of the country every opportunity to vote. Many of the villages are only accessible by helicopter. This makes the election very difficult logistically for the electoral commission. The election is somewhat complicated as there are 25 candidates on the ballot. When the voting started, there was no clear favorite. John Momis, the outgoing president, has served two terms, and he cannot run again due to the constitution. Momis did try to challenge this provision; however, his appeal was rejected by the PNG Supreme Court. The newly elected president will be responsible for negotiations with Port Moresby to establish an independent state. The new president will also be responsible for putting in place the necessary components to make the country viable. The new president will also face the task of forming an effective working partnership with the PNG prime minister.

It is interesting, in this day and age, that we still have new countries being established. Hopefully, Bougainville will create a stable government and prosper under the new president.