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The Outbreak of Violence

The Solomon Islands conflict proceeded in two main phases. The first phase was the insurgency of the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM), formerly the Guadalcanal Revolutionary Army (GRA), during which ‘young men from the impoverished Weather Coast region of Guadalcanal, with the active involvement of political leaders such as Guadalcanal Premier, Ezekiel Alebua’ began ‘driving settlers from Malaita off

  • 19 Braithwaite et al., Pillars and Shadows, pp. 18-19.
  • 20 Braithwaite et al., Pillars and Shadows, p. 19.
  • 21 Bennett, ‘Roots of Conflict in Solomon Islands’, p. 11.

the island of Guadalcanal.’22 The IFM, as we will see, ‘was a loose coalition of militant groups focused on different local grievances’ and, as such, did not operate as a coherent party during the many years of peace negotiations that followed the outbreak of violence.23 During the second phase of the conflict, from late 1999 on, the Malaita Eagle Force, initially established ‘to defend Malaitan interests against the Guale rebels’ became operational.24 With the police force ‘fractured along ethnic lines’, the Malaitan-dominated paramilitary wing of the Royal Solomon Islands Police joined the MEF in staging a de facto coup in June 2000.25 This resulted in the forced resignation of Prime Minister Bart Ulufa’alu on June 5, 2000. Shortly after, in an overt attempt at political compromise, Manasseh Sogavare was appointed Prime Minister on account of the fact that he was neither Guale nor Malaitan. By December 2001, however, he had been replaced by Sir Allan Kemakeza, who instigated the intervention by RAMSI in 2003.

Throughout this period, fighting continued, with ‘[s]ome dreadful atrocities’ committed between 1998 and 2003. In addition to widespread accounts of kidnappings and the beheadings of IFM members by the MEF, ‘[r]apes and murders, executions and mutilations occurred on both sides.’26 As Clive Moore writes: ‘Men were held and made to watch their wives and daughters being pack-raped. Innocent people became involved just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.’27

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