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Justice Conference - International Day
Auckland - New Zealand: April 27, 2000

Indigenous Wisdom on Peace -Making and Peace- Building:
How to make peace in post-colonial conflicts.

By: Jossie Kauona Sirivi
Bougainville Women for Peace and Freedom (BWPF)

We come in peace, and to you we extend our peace. I too bring the greetings of the people of Bougainville to you…


"Peace is the absence of war", as we have been repeatedly told in our peace building processes (in Bougainville) and negotiations with the government of Papua New Guinea.

In the words of our leader Mr. Joseph Kabui, President of the Bougainville Reconciliation Government (BRG);

Quote - "It is easy to make war, but hard to make peace. Making war anywhere (now including Bougainville) becomes one of the most expensive exercises any government can commit itself to"….. …And Kabui continues - " if it is expensive to prosecute, fund a war; then it is also equally an expensive exercise to make, fund and bring back peace" - Unquote…

Waging a war on Bougainville has been a very expensive business indeed by those who prosecuted and colluded in this horrible mindless exercise. This translated directly into the terrible loses our people faced in human lives and sufferings, destruction of our environment by a Trans-national corporation; including the destruction of the entire infrastructures, in the ten years of fighting with Papua New Guinea.

Other parties are also implicated in Bougainville. And peace building, whether they like it or not must also involve those alleged to have aided and abetted in the war, and must be held beholden to their actions. We seek full justice for the wrongs unfairly dealt to us, for simply trying to protect our rights, land and our environment.

They must now extend their hands to us - not only in peace and friendship - but in also translating that "peace, or peace dividend" into reparations, compensations, re-building and the re-development of a new Bougainville.

Peace building is an expensive exercise as President Kabui has often re-iterated. It ‘takes two to tango’ or bring about a war. Bougainville was the reluctant "host" to a war that was planned externally and by other parties. We were not a party to its planning.

I would like to come back to this again during the main part of my paper.

Indigenous wisdom, peace making and peace building?

But firstly, are there any indigenous wisdom in peace making and peace building that we can share with the rest of the world? I prefer to treat this question only from the context of a world peace agenda. Conflicts are not only confined to traditional societies or to Third World Countries; far from it. Thus we want to know what are the common root causes of wars and conflicts"? For what reasons are wars fought or started? What are the answers and the criteria, if they’re any, which we can contribute towards resolving such conflicts?

Wars are no longer just little tribal warfare confined to one corner of this planet. It is something that has unfortunately increased since after the Second World War - into something I would like to refer to as a global "disease". Thus some of us cannot be held in a pedestal, as if we had all the answers to how wars could be gotten rid of. We can only be a part of a global campaign towards seeking ways and means by which we can move towards a much more peaceful world.

This world has shrunk so much into a "global village", that a common global peace agenda is everybody’s business, if we want peace to be planted firmly within every nation. No longer are we talking about little tribal warfare, but wars and conflicts that have and now involve nation states. Whether inter-rivalry or states amassing under one force such as a United Nations Peacekeeping Force against a single nation - viewed as the enemy. Iraq, Yugoslavia, Vietnam, North Korea and Bougainville to a certain extent come to mind.

I was a member of a Bougainville Delegation of 5 Women Representatives in May last year; with thousands others from all over the world that assembled in the Netherlands. This was for "the Hague Appeal for Peace and Justice for the 21st Century", from May 11 - 15 1999.

It was a world conference to develop an agenda for world peace so that we can turn this planet around from a "culture of war to a culture of peace". Peace is now a "human right" as sanctioned by the United Nations.

But before peace can become a reality in our lives, we must first of all establish why conflicts arise, for what reasons and who are the main culprits, hidden or obvious. We have been asked to answer the following questions; " what is the meaning of peace, the means to peace, and meaningful peace" in this plenary session.

Some ideas on meaning of peace, means to peace and meaningful peace.

The Oxford dictionary defines peace as; "freedom from war", "cessation of war", "freedom from civil disorder", "in a state of friendliness, and not be at strife" , and so on.

Planning a war as mentioned earlier can become one of the most expansive exercises that any organisation can commit to. Not only do governments spend billions in their defence budget, but would also spend billions in planning a war. Which in most cases takes nearly three quarters of a country’s budget.

We estimate for instance that the government of Papua New Guinea would have easily spent in the ten years of fighting its war on Bougainville more that $800 millions.

This is money that could have easily been spent in building more hospitals, schools, bridges, buying much needed medical drugs, curving out corruption and improving law and order in that country. On the contrary the fruits of such expenditure in Bougainville as experienced by our people have been nothing but sufferings and the destruction of our country.

It also did nothing to improve the fighting ability and spirits of the completely demoralised PNG military; whom the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) in every battle fought on Bougainville, in the last ten years, had defeated. In the end this wasteful exercise had become a loss/loss situation for Papua New Guinea, the people of Bougainville and the Australian owned CRA Copper Mine in Bougainville.

I am reminded of a very popoular t-shirt by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) with the slogan, which reads: - " It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need - and the air force has to hold a cake stall to buy a bomber" .

I applaud therefore the move by the Prime Minister of New Zealand Mrs Helen Clark; in suspending in the last couple of months buying Jet Fighter warplanes from the United States, and Warships from Australia.

I can assure the Prime Minister that she was applauded from all over the world for her government’s stand. To spend its budget on much more useful programs, rather than buying more weapons of mass destruction. This was a peace action by the Clark Government for peace in this world. This is the message that I want to convey to this peace conference.

The means to peace can be fully realised by: -

Meaningful peace can only be achieved if nations and citizens all over the world co-operated in a world agenda for peace. I think we can start with what I would like to call the ‘big fish’ i.e., those countries that have stock files of weapons of mass destruction - take a bigger responsibility towards this end. Some of the countries that are of great concern to us are: -United States of America, Britain, France, China, Israel, Iraq Russia, India, Pakistan, Japan, Germany et al.

Some of the following are what we consider could assist us in creating a peaceful world. And we call upon nations to co-operate by observing some of the following: -

The ravages of war were supposed to have ended after World War Two. In fact the strength of the formation of the United Nations was to see that no more conflicts to the magnitude of the First and Second World Wars be ever seen again. The opposite is in fact true. For this world has in fact seen more wars fought since WW2, in all the centuries past.

Of all the 99 wars recorded two thirds actually occurred between 1989 and 1996, almost all of them in developing countries. Leaving in its wake destroyed political systems, collapsed economies and distraught people (Wallensteen and Sollenberg - 1997). Our most recent example of this was the NATO bombing of Serbia in Yugoslavia last year.

The only way that peace can be enjoyed, and replace this "culture of war’ is by a strong will by all peoples and nations of the world for peace. Bougainville is opting to turn away from all things warlike, and warmongering. We must dialogue with and convince other nations-states who are proprietors and owners of weapons of mass destruction to get rid of them.

Powerful nation-states hold the key to peace. They also hold the licence to war. They must take the first serious steps in leading the world away from wars and conflicts towards permanent peace. They have to set the example so that the rest of the world can follow.

The Peace Process in Post-conflict Bougainville:

One does not know whether the peace process now in place in Bougainville can be used as an example to the rest of the world, if not in this region post-conflict. But we are happy to share our experiences with you.

Let me remind you that the Bougainville Interim Government and the BRA have always been willing partners since 1990, to resolving the conflict through peaceful means other than by the barrel of the gun. The gun was brought onto our land, we did not bring the gun to Bougainville.

Our willingness to this end has been our continuous quest for peace through dialogue since 1990. Although the past five Peace Accords from 1990 to 1995 - suffered from lack of longevity, the use of the gun was never BIG/BRA’s preferred alternative.

From 1990 onwards, the most significant success was in 1997 - when through the New Zealand Government - new peace initiatives were arranged for peace talks to be re-commenced between BIG/BRA, BTG/Resistance and the Papua New Government.

The Burnham Declaration.

One of the first fruits of this new peace process was the Burnham Declaration - July 5 - July 18, 1997; with the following principles: -

  1. Unity and Reconciliation,
  2. Process for Negotiations,
  3. Ending of the War,
  4. Declaration of a Cease-fire,
  5. A Neutral Peacekeeping Force,
  6. Demilitarisation,
  7. Lifting of the Blockade,
  8. Political Process and
  9. Commencement of Process,
  10. Venue for First Meeting.

The Burnham Declaration was in fact Bougainvilleans’ own initiative heralding a new and a different approach to peace. The test was whether Papua New Guinea would be prepared to honour this new direction, adopt the declaration and become a party to the peace process.

In what can only be attributed to a new change of government, a new political climate after PNG’s 1997 General Elections; and also a new political change and government in Australia - the new Government of PNG under Prime Minister Bull Skate decided to take the new declaration (The Burnham Declaration) on board.

The Burnham Truce - October 1 - 10th, 1997, Burnham Christchurch NZ.

The formal participation of the PNG Government was seen as the next major step in this new process at our next round of Talks held at same venue, Burnham, October 1-10th October 1997.

These Talks were in fact the ‘litmus test’ as to whether the Government of Papua New Guinea would continue to support and move on with the peace process. As part of the natural progression of the peace process a new concept of a ‘truce’ between all parties was developed.

The Burnham Truce became the document, which was necessary as the pre-requisite to creating and establishing an on-going peaceful environment in Bougainville/Papua New Guinea. This was in fact following closely from examples of various " mini peace treaties" signed between various groups on the ground in Bougainville to cease animosities amongst themselves.

Following from other definitions including that of the Concise Oxford Dictionary:

a truce was an agreement for temporary cessation of hostilities, suspension of private feuds temporarily, while something was worked out between the parties .

When it was fully examined by the Bougainville Interim Government and BRA only then that they decided to commit themselves to the truce document. It was deemed appropriate that some kind of a truce should also be entered into between the Bougainvillean parties and the Papua New Guinea National Government at this level of negotiations.

The Burnham Truce signed by representatives of the National Government of Papua New Guinea (PNG), the Bougainville Transitional Government (BTG) and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA), immediately sought to undertake the following steps: -

  1. To cease armed conflict
  2. Peace and reconciliation, and,
  3. The return of normalcy and restoration of services by all parties.

The leaders also agreed, as immediate interim measures, to the following: -

The Lincoln Agreement on Peace and Security - January 1998.

The first Leaders Political Meeting reached the 'The Lincoln agreement on Peace and Security' calling for the following:

Agreement covering implementation of the Cease-fire - 30 April 1998-HMS Tobruk in Bougainville.

With the cease-fire now in place, a Peace monitoring Group led by Australia with members from New Zealand, Fiji and Vanuatu is now in place to assess and monitor the progress of the peace process and observance of the cease-fire.

A Bougainville Peoples Congress Government is now in place elected and hence the continuation of dialogue with the Government of Papua New Guinea regarding a political solution of the Bougainville question is continuing.


The current Peace Process on Bougainville has been embraced by our region, and physically supported on the ground in Bougainville by the Peace Monitors Group from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu; and the United Nations Observer Mission from the United Nations, New York.

This is an expression by the region including Member States of the South Pacific Forum that the issue in Bougainville is one about a people serious about the peace process and a satisfactory political solution to their just struggle.

It is worth emphasising that there were (and are) also other important provisions contained within the agreements between Bougainville and Papua New Guinea - necessary to solidly secure the peace process.

One of these was the process of reconciliation. Indeed this was one of the very first issues in the Burnham Declaration - "unity and reconciliation"; that the Bougainvillean parties seriously discussed. Once they reached a common position to it, they then agreed to: -

"claim ownership of the peace process as their own - pledge to protect this new peace" from thereon - for the sake of the people and all future generations of its land. This was an important and serious undertaking by the people of Bougainville.

The process of reconciliation of former combatants is long term. It goes beyond the economic and political recovery - and is in fact the foundation and the building block of any successful peace processes.

If reconstruction and re-building post-conflict; are carried out without first of all looking for the root causes of conflicts, then recovery will only be superficial. It will be like trying to dress a pestering ulcer with just Band-Aids, with no guarantee of fighting back on the drawing board by warring groups.

Reconciliation is import to heal "spiritual and psychological wounds, trauma, hatred, anger, distrust, pride, warmongering, encourage forgiveness, unity and so forth. Until the hearts and minds of a people in conflict are rested towards the road to peace - then a satisfactory solution to the conflict can be impossible to reach.

One just cannot afford to have a deeply dived society after the war. This was the condition before the war; and all efforts must be made towards unifying the former warring parties, to agree and co-operate, work together, and move quickly towards resolving the conflict.

Finally, countries must not be agenda-driven and participate in conflict resolution; only because they will get something out of it - but must genuinely assist for the sake of peace in this world.

There can never be one set of rules for conflict resolution in Third World countries, traditional societies and those that occur in developing countries. There must be one rule for all. Conflicts such as in Bougainville do not occur in a vacuum or in isolation of other parties.

The ideals that we have developed in our peace process are hopes that we are more than happy to share with the rest of the world; in all our combined efforts to participate and contribute towards a global agenda for peace and justice for this 21st Century.

Mrs Jossie Kauona Sirivi.
Bougainville Women for Peace and Freedom (BWPF).

Biography of Author: Josephine Tankunani Sirivi

photo of the authorJosephine Sirivi, wife of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army General Sam Kauona, has in her own right, made amazing contributions to the community using her study of natural healing bush medicines to care for others. She became an innovative young wife and mother who supported her family with good nutrition under wartime conditions and even developed her own rice production. Josephine initiated and organized the Navuia Women's Group in her local area of Central Bougainville to help under-privileged families in the villages. She is the founding President of the Bougainville Women for Peace and Freedom (BWPF) organization.

Jossie was a representative at the Burnham I Peace Meeting in July 1997 in New Zealand and subsequently led the BIG/BRA Women's delegation in the Lincoln Leaders Negotiations in January 1998. Josephine went on to represent the Bougainville Women for Peace and Freedom organization at the Ceasefire Negotiations in Bougainville on board the HMAS Tobruk in April 1998 and later became an appointed member to the Bougainville Peace Process Consultative Committee.

In May 1999 Josephine was a Bougainvillean delegate to the "Hague Appeal for Peace" World Peace Conference in the Netherlands, Holland.

Josephine has been the inspiration for a well-known CAA documentary "An evergreen Island" that has been screened twice on SBS television and in many overseas countries. While studying in New Zealand during 1999 - 2000 she has represented Bougainville and BWPF at several conferences relating to indigenous issues, politics, and the Peace Process on Bougainville.

Josephine has completed her studies in Business Computing level 3 and computers Advance Users 4 and National New Zealand Certificate level 4 at the Universal College of Learning (UCOL) in Palmerston, New Zealand 1999-

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