Former rebel leader elected president of Bougainville | Papua New Guinea

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Ishmael Toroama is set to lead the Autonomous Territory independence talks in eastern Papua New Guinea.

Former rebel military commander Ishmael Toroama has been elected president of Bougainville, an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea, election officials said on Wednesday. Toroama is on the verge of holding talks for independence.The general election was the first since Bougainville voted overwhelmingly to separate from Papua New Guinea late last year, with Toroama beating an open field, Bougainville’s electoral commissioner said.

Bougainville, a group of lush, mineral-rich islands in the South Pacific, has undergone little development since the end of a decade-long civil war that claimed the lives of 20,000 people in 1998.

Much of the dispute has been disputed over how the profits from the lucrative Panguna gold and copper mine on Bougainville Island should be shared – and over the environmental damage caused by mining.

Toroama was a commander of the Secessionist Revolutionary Army of Bougainville, and then worked on the peace and disarmament process.

His victory marks a break with the current administration, led by President John Momis, after the government candidate was eliminated earlier in the region’s preferential voting system.

Last year’s non-binding independence ballot was part of the peace process that ended the conflict, although competing claims remain over development rights for the long-closed mine.



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