The Autonomous Region of Bougainville, also known as North Solomons, is an autonomous region in Papua New Guinea and is the largest of the Solomon Islands group. The largest island is Bougainville Island, and the province also includes the adjacent island of Buka and assorted outlying islands including the Carterets. The capital is temporarily Buka, though it is expected that Arawa will once again become the provincial capital. The population of the province is 175,160 (2000 census).
Bougainville Island is ecologically and geographically, although not politically, part of Solomon Islands. Buka, Bougainville, and most of the Solomons are part of the Solomon Islands rain forests ecoregion.
The island was named after the French navigator Louis Antoine de Bougainville (whose name has also been lent to the creeping tropical flowering vines of the genus Bougainvillea ). In 1885 it came under German administration as part of German New Guinea. Australia occupied it in 1914 and, as a League of Nations mandatory power, administered it from 1918 until the Japanese invaded in 1942 and then again from 1945 until PNG independence in 1975, as a United Nations mandatory power.
The island was occupied by Australian, American and Japanese forces in World War II. It was an important base for the USAAF, RAAF and RNZAF. On March 8, 1944 during World War II, American forces were attacked by Japanese troops on Hill 700 on this island. The battle lasted five days, ending with a Japanese retreat.
Disputes over the environmental impact, financial benefits, and social change brought by the mine renewed a secessionist movement that had been dormant since the 1970s. The independence of Bougainville (Republic of North Solomons) was unsuccessfully proclaimed in 1975 and in 1990.
In 1988 the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) increased their activity significantly. Prime Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu ordered the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) to put down the rebellion, and the conflict escalated into a civil war. The PNGDF retreated from permanent positions on Bougainville in 1990, but continued military action. The conflict involved pro-independence and loyalist Bougainvillean groups as well as the PNGDF. The war claimed an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 lives. In 1996 Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan requested the help of Sandline International, a private military company previously involved in supplying mercenaries in the civil war in Sierra Leone, to put down the rebellion. This resulted in the Sandline scandal.
Elections for the first Autonomous Government were held in May and June 2005, Joseph Kabui was elected President.He died on 6 June 2008.
On July 25, 2005 rebel leader Francis Ona died after a short illness. A former surveyor with Bougainville Copper Limited, Ona was a key figure in the secessionist conflict and had refused to formally join the island's peace process.