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Australia flies to the rescue of the Solomon Islands

Thursday, November 25, after two days of violent riots in his country, it is to Australia that the pro-Chinese Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, asked for assistance. Under a security agreement between the two countries since 2017, his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, at daggers drawn with Beijing, immediately responded and announced the deployment of more than a hundred police and military to help the forces of the Solomon Islands order to « Ensure stability and security » of the archipelago. The first men landed the same evening in the capital, Honiara. Friday afternoon, a hundred demonstrators gathered in front of the residence of Manasseh Sogavare.

“The Australian government has no intention whatsoever of intervening in the internal issues of the Solomon Islands, it is up to them to resolve them. I said it very clearly. Our presence there does not indicate any position « , had made a point of clarifying, the day before, the conservative Scott Morrison.

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Between 2003 and 2017, Canberra had led the Ramsi peacekeeping force, established to stabilize the Melanesian country after five years of inter-ethnic violence. “Australia already has experience on the ground. Without his intervention, there is a risk of reliving a civil war which could cause regional instability ”, explains Alexandre Dayant, researcher at the Lowy Institute in Sydney.

On Wednesday, demonstrators demanding the resignation of Manasseh Sogavare tried to storm Parliament before sweeping through the streets of the capital, where they burned official buildings and looted shops. From 7 p.m., the head of government instituted a curfew but the police were completely overwhelmed by the ever-increasing rioters who continued to ransack the city and in particular the Chinatown district. Worried, Beijing diplomacy spokesman Zhao Lijian asked «  the government of the Solomon Islands to take all necessary measures to ensure the security of Chinese entities and nationals ”.

Resentment towards China

This is not the first time that this community, owner of most of the businesses in Honiara, has suffered from the anger of the Solomonais, some of whom say they have been invaded. In 2006, protesters had already attacked Chinatown.

Today, resentment vis-à-vis the Asian giant is all the more keen because in 2019, Manasseh Sogavare decided, without real consultations, to diplomatically recognize Beijing, turning his back on a thirty-six-year alliance. with Taiwan. Several elected officials then protested; the most virulent of them, the head of government of the island of Malaita, Daniel Suidani, had even ended up announcing, the 1er September 2020, that he was going to organize a referendum on the independence of his province, the most populous of the archipelago – in the early 2000s, it had played a major role in the inter-ethnic violence that had engulfed the country.

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