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Pillars and Shadows

Pillars and Shadows: Statebuilding as peacebuilding in Solomon Islands OPEN ACCESS

John Braithwaite
Sinclair Dinnen
Matthew Allen
Valerie Braithwaite
Hilary Charlesworth
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: ANU Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24hf05
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  • Book Info
    Pillars and Shadows
    Book Description:

    This volume of the Peacebuilding Compared Project examines the sources of the armed conflict and coup in the Solomon Islands before and after the turn of the millennium. The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) has been an intensive peacekeeping operation, concentrating on building 'core pillars' of the modern state. It did not take adequate notice of a variety of shadow sources of power in the Solomon Islands, for example logging and business interests, that continue to undermine the state's democratic foundations. At first RAMSI's statebuilding was neither very responsive to local voices nor to root causes of the conflict, but it slowly changed tack to a more responsive form of peacebuilding. The craft of peace as learned in the Solomon Islands is about enabling spaces for dialogue that define where the mission should pull back to allow local actors to expand the horizons of their peacebuilding ambition.

    eISBN: 978-1-921666-79-7
    Subjects: Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. The Solomon Islands conflict of 1998–2003 is often read simply as a story of a failed or fragile state. It was not a state that had been built and then failed. Rather it was a state that had never consolidated after decades since independence of taking at least as many steps back as steps forward. It was not a formed state; up to this point in its history, it has been a state in a process of formation. In this book, we conceive peacebuilding as the craft of supporting institutions, including non-state institutions, in a process of growing to...

  2. When human beings first arrived on the Solomon Islands of the south-west Pacific some 29 000 years ago, one large island joined the islands of Bougainville to the western islands of the Solomons, with some other large islands sitting to the south and east. As ice melted in subsequent millennia, the Solomon Islands physically fragmented into 900 islands and atolls that are now home to 500 000 people. Most of them still live in some 4000 village communities or hamlets. Cultural diversity was increased by Austronesian migrations to the Solomons from the north-west three or four millennia ago. Later Austronesian...

  3. In 1988, three Guadalcanal villagers were reportedly murdered in a payback killing by a group of men from Malaita. This led to the submission of a petition to the government from ‘the indigenous people of Guadalcanal’. Among other things, it called for an end to impunity for the crimes of settlers and for the government to look for ‘ways and means to repatriate all non-indigenous unemployed illegal squatters’ (Fraenkel 2004a:47). The prime minister at the time was Ezekiel Alebua from Guadalcanal. He took no action on the petition. For this, he was much criticised by his own Guadalcanal people. By...

  4. Some more inclusive peace negotiations were held on the Australian Navy ship Tobruk in July 2000. Militant leaders from both the IFM and the MEF sat down with representatives of the government, the Solomon Islands Christian Association, NGOs, women’s organisations, the Chamber of Commerce and the Chinese and Gilbertese communities (Moore 2004:143). But key IFM commanders Harold Keke, his brother, Joseph Sangu, and nephew, George Gray, did not attend. The MEF expressed great concern about the absence of their signatures on the IFM cease-fire proposal. Things fell apart when other IFM leaders said they could not sign because Keke would...

  5. In September 2002, Prime Minister Kemakeza made two requests from his embattled and unpopular government to the United Nations for international assistance to stop the violence that persisted. The United Nations sent an interagency mission to investigate (Ponzio 2005:176), but by early 2003 it was clear that a consequence of the Solomons’ diplomatic recognition of Taiwan would be that China would veto any Security Council resolution to step up assistance. Australia had not invited the United Nations to participate in the Townsville peace talks. At every stage from then on, the United Nations played a more marginal role than is...

  6. Many of the Solomon Islanders and RAMSI members we interviewed did not see reconciliation as part of RAMSI’s job, particularly in its first few years. Rather this was seen as something Solomon Islanders must demand, initiate and lead. On the other hand, some informants, including Andrew Nori, Jimmy Rasta and former IFM leaders, felt RAMSI had crowded reconciliation off the policy agenda. The arrival of RAMSI was seen as putting the policy focus on everything but reconciliation, especially law and order (Allen and Dinnen 2010). MEF spokesman Andrew Nori told John Braithwaite that ‘you can’t reconcile by demand’. But a...

  7. Our colleague Ron May is fond of saying that ethnicity is a ‘notoriously slippery concept in Melanesia’. Both Guadalcanal and Malaita comprise numerous linguistic and tribal groups, and there are few physical differences between the peoples of the two islands—far fewer than between Bougainvilleans and PNG Highlanders, for example. Moreover, island-wide identities such as ‘Malaitan’ and ‘Guale’ are relatively recent phenomena, doubtless reinforced by recent conflict, with their origins in the colonial and early contact periods. For most people in the Solomons, and indeed across Melanesia, primary identities and loyalties continue to reside with what can be variously described...

  8. Former prime minister Alebua’s analysis during one interview was that the IFM uprising was about frustration because attempts had been made by the people of Guadalcanal in 1978 and 1988 to raise their concerns about being overrun on their own lands before a desperate last attempt in 1998. He saw the uprising as an assertion of dignity by people who had been trodden on and ignored. That is one interpretation of the return to wearing traditional bark loincloths by IFM warriors to assert a shared Guale identity with a symbolic marker of difference.¹ It was an assertion of the dignity...

  9. In this chapter, we move under a set of themes through the strengths and weaknesses entries in the final section of Table 8.1. The Solomons’ was a conflict that could have become a major war, but was successfully contained. Unlike the story of Timor-Leste, in the next Peacebuilding Compared volume, where every village in the nation suffered death and devastation, the overwhelming majority of the Solomon Islands population stayed out of the conflict and concentrated on sustaining their village economies and taking care of the vulnerable members of their own villages. In spite of the fact that the country is...

  10. In Chapter 9, we argued that a necessary ingredient for peace was to end gaming the state with compensation claims by replacing it with a rule of law. As always, the rule of law turned out to be a beautiful theory that ushered in some ugly practices by RAMSI and the post-conflict state. But it was a fairer rule of law than that which preceded it. When the bar has been progressively raised on some critical barriers to enduring peace—including ending the culture of gaming government compensation, the culture of corruption and harassment on the streets—perhaps we should...