Former Rebel Leader Is Elected President of Bougainville

Ishmael Toroama is expected to lead talks in the South Pacific autonomous region’s effort to seek independence from Papua New Guinea.

Credit…Melvin Levongo/Reuters

SYDNEY — A former rebel military commander has been elected president of Bougainville, the autonomous region in the South Pacific, electoral officials said on Wednesday, and he is set to lead talks for the territory’s independence from Papua New Guinea.

The victory by the former rebel leader, Ishmael Toroama, is a break from the current administration, led by President John Momis, after the government’s candidate was eliminated in the region’s preferential voting system.

The general election was the first since Bougainville voted overwhelmingly for separation from Papua New Guinea last year, with Mr. Toroama defeating an open field, according to Bougainville’s electoral commissioner.


Credit…Bougainville Peace Monitoring Group, via Reuters

The mineral-rich group of islands of 250,000 people has been hampered by years of little economic progress after a decade-long civil war that claimed as many as 20,000 lives. The war ended in 1998.

The conflict was largely fought over how the profits from the lucrative Panguna gold and copper mine on Bougainville Island should be shared and the environmental damage it had caused.

Mr. Toroama, who was a commander in the secessionist Bougainville Revolutionary Army, later worked on the peace-and-disarmament process.

Last year’s nonbinding independence poll was part of a peace process that ended the conflict, although competing claims over development rights to the long-shut Panguna mine remain.

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