New Zealand is also sending dozens of police officers and soldiers to the Solomon Islands to restore order after last week‘s unrest. Prime Minister Ardern reports that the peacekeeping forces will be sent at the request of the Solomon Islands government. Previously, Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea sent agents and diplomats to the Pacific archipelago.
In fierce riots, especially in the capital of Honiara on Guadalcanal, dozens of buildings went up in flames and at least four were killed. The flame smashed in the pan after activists moved from the island of Malaita to the capital for a protest, including for being furious at the island group’s rapprochement to China.
What lives particularly strongly in the archipelago is a broader displeasure with the weak economic situation of residents and the sense of neglect by the central government. Those tensions came together in the riots, with numerous stores being looted and burned into flames in three days. According to Sogavare, the damage is around 200 million dollars.
More than a hundred protesters have been arrested:
“We are deeply concerned about the unrest and riots in Honiara and we have taken quick steps to provide necessary assistance in restoring peace and security,” Ardern reports in a statement.
It is not the first time that New Zealand, together with Australia, among others, is sending troops to the Solomon Islands. Between 2003 and 2017, the countries were involved in a long-term peace mission. After that, Australia and the Solomon Islands signed a treaty that allows peacekeeping troops to be deployed quickly if necessary.
The Australian government has previously said that the troop deployment is intended to last only a few weeks this time. Many residents of Malaita are dissatisfied with the peacekeeping force. They accuse Australia of taking sides with the central government, which was reason for Australian Prime Minister Morrison to say that his country is not taking a stand in this conflict.
“Every troop deployment comes with risks and challenges, but our people have extensive experience in the region and are seen as highly skilled in de-escalating conflict,” says Ardern. She stresses that the New Zealanders can also cope well with dangerous situations if necessary.