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The island of New Guinea was discovered by the Portuguese more than 300 years ago. Colonisation of the region only began in the second half of the 19th century with the annexation of territories by the Netherlands (the western part), Great Britain and Germany. The areas annexed by the Netherlands, then Dutch New Guinea, were brought under Indonesian sovereignty in 1963 after mediation by the UN.

Britain laid claim to Port Moresby and the south-eastern part of the island in 1884. In the same year, Germany claimed control of the north-eastern part.

In 1901, the British territory was ceded to Australia. After the outbreak of World War I, the German section was occupied by Australian troops. The League of Nations granted Australia a mandate in 1920. A large part of New Guinea was occupied by Japan between 1942 and 1945. After the Japanese surrender, the eastern part was returned to Australian control, the northern part on the basis of a UN trusteeship.

In 1973, the entire eastern region was given internal self-government under the name Papua New Guinea, after which the state became fully independent on 16 September 1975.

The current coalition government of Sir Michael Somare was elected on 5 August 2002. Sir Michael Somare was the first Prime Minister of independent Papua New Guinea in 1975 and was also Head of Government from 1982 to 1987.

The conflict in Bougainville in particular, where a separatist movement has been active for years, has left a heavy mark on Papua New Guinea's political climate.

The conflict has claimed an estimated 20,000 lives since 1989. On 30 August 2001, after years of UN intervention and the active involvement of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, a peace agreement was signed providing a framework for disarmament and the establishment of an autonomous Bougainville government. The elections for this government took place from 20 May to 2 June 2005, and the Bougainville autonomous government was inaugurated on 15 June 2005. The mandate of the UN monitoring mission in Bougainville (UNMOB) expired on 30 June.

Furthermore, together with Australia, they are working hard to improve the country's governance. In August 2007, Michael Somare was re-elected president. In December 2009, China signed an agreement with Papua New Guinea on gas imports.

Since 2 August 2011, Peter Paire O'Neill has been Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. In the years 2011 and 2012, Somare and O'Neill quarreled and ran separate governments. In August 2012, Somare acknowledged defeat in new elections and O'Neill became the recognised Prime Minister. In August 2013, the 1971 "witchcraft law" was repealed and no longer applied to murder cases.

In July 2013, Papua New Guinea agreed with Australia to set up a large asylum seekers' centre. Australia pledges financial support. In March 2014, an investigation begins into living conditions at the Asylum Seekers Centre on Manus Island. In 2014 and 2015 Prime Minister O' Neill gets into trouble over allegations of corruption. In April 2016, the government decides to close the Australian detention centre because, according to the court, it violates the constitution.

In August 2017, President O'Neill wins the election. In November 2017, Australia closes the detention centre but many asylum seekers refuse to leave. Parliament elected James Marape as Prime Minister on 30 May 2019, a day after the resignation of his predecessor, Peter O'Neill.


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated February 2024
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