Between 1998-2003 Solomon Islands had reached a state of despair. Over the five year period a fierce and sometimes bloody civil war had taken place. Known as the ‘tension times’ people from Gaudalcanal, Malaita and neighbouring provinces clashed in heated battles over development and lack of opportunity. Often groups would demand compensation using brute force and home made weapons, while corruption was rife within ranks of the police and parliament.
The serious problems that faced the Solomon Islands would hear experts claim that it was a failed state and see, the then Prime Minister Sir Allen Kemakeza repeatedly request assistance from Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Harold Keke had become the poster boy for the violence and while there were many perpetrators from the many opposing sides, Keke was enemy no 1. He was a feared man who had brutal methods, controlling whole villages in the remote weather coast region. Many of the stories be they myth or fact were enough to keep people quiet of whereabouts for fear of future retribution.
Keke, along with his group were responsible for the disappearance and subsequent deaths of nine Melanesian brothers, a religious order situated within the Solomon Islands. In April 2003 John Howards response to Sir Allen’s request for assistance had changed and then began the start of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands better known as RAMSI.
15 Nations combined to create law enforcement, government re-structure and economic recovery. It was a unique intervention that over the course of the past ten years has provided a number of success stories with some hurdles along the way.
“Our leaders had lead themselves into a situation to create that kind of instability then to force a change in a political situation.”
Gordon Darci Lilo – Prime Minister of Solomon Islands
“The future of the country is very important. So although my life and the life of my family is at risk, if I could achieve in my time of leadership by calling on RAMSI to come and help us out, it is the right thing to do. I feel I achieved something.”
Sir Allan Kemakeza – Prime Minister of Solomon Islands (2001-2006)
“Ordinary Solomon Islanders were really in a real jam. I remember people collecting water from drains, there was no gas supply in town. Woman were cutting fire wood, taking it to the suburbs. Use of firewood is only used in the outskirts of Honiara, in the villiages, but at that time they were using it in the centre of town. That’s a sign of something wrong. They don’t have access to gas and running water in there homes and kids stopped going to school because teachers didn’t want to teach.
The whole society was just grinding to a halt.
Then you would see clashes of people fighting in the centre of town. It was just a bad phycological affect.”
“About the easter period of 1998. We were in Honiara, we travelled from Honiara to our home back at the western part of Guadalcanal. We arrived at home and these group of people came and attacked us in the early evening of that day. When they took me out from the house with guns, they point guns to my head and back and all this, grab me out of the house. My wife took the two kids and actually fled into the bush. Keke and his boys, some of his senior commanders that came after me. They bashed me up, burned my house down. I lost everything, everything except the wife and kids.”
“Harold Keke’s group they run away to the Weather coast and start a conflict there within the people of the Weather coast region itself.”