Fighters agree to bury hatchet with criminals

National, Normal

The National – Thursday, June 30, 2011

FORMER Bougainville freedom fighters have agreed to form a peace-seeking committee to meet with notorious criminal Damien Koike and three other armed groups in the Konnou area.
In an effort to stop the conflict in the Konnou constituency of South Bougainville, 110 former combatants yesterday met with Bougainville vice-president Patrick Nisira at the Tsiroge Catholic retreat centre in North Bougainville.
Led by former Bougainville Revolutionary Army leaders Sam Kauona, Ishmael Toroama and Panguna Me’ekamui hardliner John Duni, they resolved to meet with Koike and leaders of the three other armed groups in the Konnou area.
The committee will focus on establishing a peaceful settlement with Koike and his band of criminals who are alleged to have killed more than 50 civilians, including women and children, since 2006.
They will meet with members of the Wissai Liberation Movement, who are alleged to have retaliated by killing Koike’s men, including the outlaw’s spiritual leader, Andrew Manden.
Last week, Wilmo leaders, fed up with the killings allegedly by Koike, retaliated and killed five of
Koike’s men, including Manden.
The peace-keeping committee is expected to leave for Konnou and Sininai as soon as the ABG provides funding.
Toroama said the re-occurrence of the Konnou conflict was a direct result of the former commander’s refusal to take part in the implementation of the weapons disposal plan which was brokered by the United Nations observer mission on Bougainville in 2005.
“We in the BRA implemented the United Nations-sponsored weapons disposal exercise without the help of Me’ekamui and now all of us have to get back there and stop what they are doing, without of course the use of the gun,” Toroama said.
The ex-commanders rallied support for the Autonomous Bougainville Government and restated their commitment for total peace, stability and support for economic recovery in the region.
Nisira stressed the need for a united Bougainville in order to ensure a referendum for independence was held.
“The situation in Konnou, Tonu and Sininai must be addressed in order for unification, peace and stability to find its roots in the hearts and minds of our people,” he said.
“This is our land, our community and we must do everything possible to protect it.
“This is what we stood for in the beginning and we should continue to stand for it today,” Nisira said.