Last Updated: Friday, 09 December 2016, 15:34 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Solomon Islands

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 June 2003
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Solomon Islands , 1 June 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3eddc49210.html [accessed 11 December 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

An estimated 3,500 persons were internally displaced in the Solomon Islands at the end of 2002. Most were newly displaced on the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal island in the course of government attempts to apprehend a rebel leader.

An estimated 30,000 persons internally displaced by ethnic violence in 1998 and a coup in 2000 had returned home by the close of 2002.

During World War II, the United States brought laborers from Malaita, the most populous island in the Solomons chain, to work on Guadalcanal, the political center of the Solomons. In later years, competition for land and jobs caused tensions between the Malaitans and the Guadalcanalese, as the Malaitans achieved dominant positions in the economy.

In late 1998, the tensions erupted into inter-ethnic conflict when the Guadalcanalese initiated a rebel insurgency demanding autonomy within the Solomons and an end to new migration. The rebels concentrated on emptying villages of Malaitans, burning hundreds of homes. By mid-1999, up to 20,000 Malaitans fled back to Malaita, and as many as 12,000 Guadalcanalese sought refuge on other parts of the island.

A Malaitan rebel group known as the Malaita Eagle Force, frustrated with the government's inability to resolve the conflict, began to combat the Guadalcanalese militants. In June 2000 they staged a coup, forcing the prime minister to resign.

By the end of 2000, the violence had resulted in as many as 200 deaths and had crippled the economy of the Solomon Islands.

The government and most rebel leaders signed a series of peace agreements in 1999 and 2000, and an international peace monitoring team was established. However, Harold Keke, founder of the Guadalcanal Liberation Front (GLF), one of the militant groups, refused to negotiate.

Keke retreated to the remote and inaccessible Weather Coast region of Guadalcanal, located about 70 miles from Honiara, the capital of the Solomons. Keke reportedly admitted to killing ten men in June and a cabinet minister in August.

In late September, police – along with former rebels deputized by the police – began an operation to capture Keke and his supporters. Amnesty International reported that some former rebels and civilian volunteers tortured and beat suspected GLF members, burned homes, and killed livestock. Keke also reportedly burned nearly 200 homes in late 2002.

At year's end, Keke had not been apprehended.

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