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Greed and Grievance

Greed and Grievance: Ex-Militants' Perspectives on the Conflict in Solomon Islands, 1998-2003

Matthew G. Allen
Copyright Date: 2013
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  • Book Info
    Greed and Grievance
    Book Description:

    This work offers important new perspectives on the violence and unrest that gripped Solomon Islands between late 1998 and mid-2003, a period known as the Ethnic Tension. Based on in-depth interviews and documents associated with the “Tension Trials,” it is the first detailed account of the conflict that engages directly with the voices of the men who joined the rival militant groups. These contemporary voices are presented against the backdrop of the socioeconomic and cultural history of Solomon Islands.

    The findings provide a refreshing corrective to the pervasive framing of the Isatabu uprising and the Malaitan response as essentially criminal and apolitical activities driven by the self-interest of those who participated in them. Alternative motives for the men who participated in the Solomons conflict are elucidated, foremost of which are their own conceptions of history and of the places of their respective peoples in the historical processes of colonization, development, and nation-building. Uneven development, relative deprivation and rapid socioeconomic and cultural change are highlighted as salient structural causes of the unrest.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-3922-2
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. From the General Editor
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Brij V. Lal
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. Bibliographic Conventions
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  7. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-29)

    Jonwin was born in 1978 at a village on the remote and rugged Weather Coast of Guadalcanal, an area known locally as Tasi Mauri (meaning “rough sea”). He described to me how he was raised in a landscape rich with stories and meaning and how his land was, and still is, contoured by sacred sites and ancestral shrines, a tapestry of places of spiritual, cultural, and historical significance. For Jonwin, his story and his identity are inseparable from the narratives of the land and the people who have lived within its myriad spaces. These narratives are not restricted merely to...

  8. CHAPTER 2 Solomon Islands and the Tension
    (pp. 30-60)

    This chapter introduces the social, political, and economic context of Solomon Islands; provides a factual chronological account of the conflict; and briefly examines the differing interpretations of the “causes” of the conflict proposed in the academic literature to date. Some aspects of the socioeconomic history of Solomon Islands that are revisited in the following chapters are introduced here. These include the cleavages that emerged between eastern and western Solomons, the closely related history of labor migration, and the nature of postcolonial political culture and its association with the rapacious logging industry. I also introduce the politics of regional and island-wide...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Kastom, Class, and Colonization
    (pp. 61-102)

    This chapter locates Malaita and Guadalcanal in the socioeconomic and political history of Solomon Islands from the early contact period. It provides the context for the voices of ex-militants that are introduced over the next two chapters. The “objective” history told here both challenges and corroborates the subjective historical narratives of the ex-militants. In doing so, it assists us in understanding how the past is engaged, often creatively, to suit contemporary political objectives. The politics of identity were thrown into stark relief during the Ethnic Tension. I argue not only that a sense of a collective ethnic identity was an...

  10. CHAPTER 4 Guadalcanal: The Contested Motherland
    (pp. 103-136)

    In examining the motives of the Guale militants, we can distinguish several different sets, associated with the different phases of the conflict on Guadalcanal and with the different Guale militant groups. A crucial point of difference revolves around the schism that eventually saw the complete separation of the Guadalcanal Liberation Front (GLF), led by Harold Keke, from the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM) after the Townsville Peace Agreement (TPA) and the ensuing “tribal fight” on the Weather Coast.¹ The reasons for this split illustrate important differences in the ideologies that were held by these two groups, with the GLF openly repudiating...

  11. CHAPTER 5 Saving the Solomons: The Malaita Eagle Force
    (pp. 137-156)

    This chapter considers the motives of the men who joined the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) from the time of its formation in the latter part of 1999. As was the case in chapter 4, the primary focus is upon the voices of the ex-militants—rank-and-file members of the MEF and also some “field commanders” and former members of the RSIP—as opposed to the politicians and businessmen who constituted the MEF Supreme Command.¹ Although the MEF was formally disbanded after the TPA in October 2000, Honiara remained under the control of the MEF/RSIP Joint Operation. Many former members of the...

  12. CHAPTER 6 Continuities and Symmetries
    (pp. 157-177)

    The voices of the ex-militants examined over the previous two chapters encourage us to see them as narrators of ethnohistory. They are active participants in the creation and perpetuation of the micronationalist narratives that have waxed and waned in intensity since before World War II. During the Tension, both “sides” evoked images of the past in order to create both unity and difference: to construct a sense of collective identity, as in “Guale” or “Malaitan,” and also its oppositional “Other.” The symbols of unity that were evoked by the men who were involved in the militant groups are essentially the...

  13. CHAPTER 7 The State, Resources, Identity, and Conflict
    (pp. 178-188)

    This book gives a voice to some of the hundreds of men who joined the militant groups during the recent conflict in Solomon Islands. The voices of these men have thus far been underrepresented in journalistic and scholarly accounts of the conflict. Nonetheless, many of these accounts have portrayed their motives in terms of greed and criminality. This is also the approach to ex-militants that has been taken by RAMSI. Recall that in early 2004 the first head of RAMSI, Nick Warner, stated that the mission “would approach the former militants as a policing issue.” While the role of greed...

  14. Appendix 1 ʺA Brief History of Ethnic Tension (South Guadalcanal)ʺ
    (pp. 189-192)
  15. Appendix 2 ʺGuadalcanal Struggle for Freedom: Our History in Briefʺ
    (pp. 193-196)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 197-216)
  17. References
    (pp. 217-234)
  18. Index
    (pp. 235-247)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 248-249)