Weapons Disposal is the second pillar of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. The Agreement states that the agreed weapons disposal plan will proceed in stages, area by area, around Bougainville as soon as possible.
WEAPONS DISPOSAL PLAN:
The weapons disposal plan involved three stages:
- Storage of weapons in single locked containers
- Concentration of stored weapons in fewer and double locked containers, with one key held by the United Nations Observer Mission on Bougainville (UNOMB)
- Destruction of the stored weapons
UNOMG'S STANCE ON WEAPONS DISPOSAL:
In July 2003, UNOMB certified that stage two of the plan was complete. In doing that the UNOMB acknowledged that not all weapons had been contained. In particular, Me’ekamui Defence Force had not been included because they weren’t signatories to the BPA. In May 2005, the UNOMB declared that implementation of the weapons disposal plan in the BPA had been completed. In 2013 the UN reported on weapons disposal to the Bougainville Referendum Committee (2013 UN Weapons Report) which was also endorsed by the JSB. The report also noted a general:
"…lack of awareness in Bougainville of the link between weapons disposal and the conduct of a referendum on the future political status of Bougainville. A broader understanding of this linkage could lead to broader popular support for completing the weapons disposal process in order to clear a path to a referendum."
CHALLENGES FACED BY ABG:
(A presentation by the Vice President for the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Hon. Patrick Nisira)
"The Peace Agreement contained a plan for the BRA, BRF and Me'ekamui groups to disarm, but as we've seen, the Me'ekmui people did not join the process and retained their weapons. The agreed plan was implemented under UN supervision, resulting in destruction of about 2,000 weapons. BRA and BRF members were give strong incentives to dispose of weapons by provisions linking UN certification of adequate completion of particular stages in the disposal process to the coming into operation of the constitutional laws giving effect to the Peace Agreement, and the holding of the first ABG elections.
But some weapons contained by BRA commanders were not destroyed, and were later put to use in localised armed conflict in Konnou, 2006 to 2011, in which scores of people were killed. In addition, some BRA and BRF members retained weapons, due to suspicion of PNG or of one another, or for the purpose of sale, or for use in criminal activities. Further, since implementation of the weapons plan ended, in 2005, additional weapons have come into possession of some Bougainvilleans. Though exact numbers are not known, they include: some weapons brought in from Solomon Islands; probably some hundreds of refurbished WWII weapons; and possibly some weapons supplied to former BRF members by contacts of theirs in the PNGDF. Not only have such weapons been used in localised conflict, they have also been employed in several instances of violent crime. Further, a significant commercial trade in Bougainville weapons has emerged, both an especially lucrative trade into the PNG Highlands, but also a less lucrative internal Bougainville trade.
The ongoing availability of weapons undermines security, and is a constant threat to the strengthening of law and order. We also have growing fears that the presence of weapons could undermine the prospects of a free and fair se1fdetermination process, through the Bougainville Referendum. Paradoxically, the approach of the Referendum provides us with the opportunity to encourage disposal of weapons. Many who have retained weapons claim to have done so for fear that the National Government could not be trusted to allow the referendum to be held. Now that it is becoming clearer that this fear will not be realised, we are finding that Me'ekamui faction leaders and former BRA and BRF leaders are all engaging with the ABG about agreeing a new disposal process that will make Bougainville weapons free before the Referendum is held."
PRESIDENT'S STANCE ON WEAPONS DISPOSAL:
(Statement made during the June 15th 2015 Inauguration Day)
"On achieving complete weapons disposal, despite progress on reconciliation there’s been almost no progress since 2005. Weapons not destroyed during the UN supervised disposal process from 2002 to 2005 include those: held by Me’ekamui groups; captured at Kangu Beach in 1996; secretly retained by some BRA and BRF elements; or held by criminals. Since then, some additional weapons have been added, including some WWII and modern weapons Without much more complete weapons disposal our law and order situation will only get worse and we risk major problems over implementation of the referendum result.
There are four main issues here. First, disagreement between the governments on weapons could push the date back towards mid-2020. Second, weapons availability could result in referendum observers determining the referendum is not “free and fair”, as required by the Peace Agreement. Third, the National Parliament has the final decision on the outcome of the referendum, and could use weapons issues to decide against independence. Fourth, international community support may be required to encourage implementation of the referendum outcome. We must make sure weapons disposal issues do not undermine international community support. So clearly weapons disposal must be a major priority for the 3rd ABG. So I propose holding a summit of former combatant leaders, including Me’ekamui groups, as well as other sectors of the community, to consider the ways ahead."