Former rebel military commander Ishmael Toroama has been elected president of Bougainville, an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea, electoral officials have announced.
He was officially declared elected nearly six weeks after the voting process began, in an announcement by returning officer Peter Wanga and witnessed by electoral commissioner George Manu, with the venue bursting into applause and cheers on Wednesday.
Toroama is set to lead talks for the territory’s independence from Papua New Guinea.
In a referendum last year, around 98 per cent, or 176,928 people, voted in favour of independence, paving the way for the island group to become the world’s newest nation.
“I think the vision and the dream is there,” Toroama told Australian broadcaster ABC.
“We have to fulfil the dreams and the vision of why we fought.”
The independence referendum was part of a peace process agreed 20 years ago between groups on Bougainville and PNG following a bloody 10-year civil war that ended in 1998 after 15,000 deaths.
The mineral-rich group of islands of 250,000 people lies 700km off the coast of PNG in the Solomon Sea.
Bougainville people are culturally different from those in Papua New Guinea, and the island already has some autonomy with its own government for local affairs.
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