The capital of the Solomon Islands is now placed under curfew for an indefinite period. The measure came into effect Friday, November 26 in Honiara after a third day of riots in the city.
During the day, thousands of people, some of them armed with axes and knives, attacked Chinatown and the city’s business center, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP) correspondents. Buildings were set on fire and shops looted.
Police fired warning shots to disperse demonstrators trying to reach the private residence of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, east of Honiara. The crowd set at least one nearby building on fire before being pushed back to the city center, AFP journalists said. Australian police and soldiers, who had just arrived, intervened to protect certain buildings and patrol, heavily armed, the streets of the capital.
The first members of the Australian peacekeeping force were deployed overnight from Thursday to Friday, hours after Mr. Sogavare’s call for help. Neighboring Papua New Guinea also announced on Friday the deployment of 34 peacekeepers.
Condemnation of China
The riots began on Wednesday, when hundreds of people protested to demand the resignation of the prime minister before moving to Honiara Chinatown, which has a population of 80,000. The causes of these riots are multiple. Among them, anger at the government, the economic difficulties aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the historic rivalry between the inhabitants of the most populous island in the country, Malaita, and that of Guadalcanal where is based the government.
Residents of Malaita Island feel abandoned by the central government, and disputes escalated when, in 2019, Sogavarea’s government decided not to diplomatically recognize Taiwan but China.
The Prime Minister thus affirmed that foreign powers, opposed to the decision taken in 2019 by his government to no longer diplomatically recognize Taiwan but China, were at the origin of these disturbances. Beijing condemned the riots on Friday and pledged to « To ensure the security and the rights and interests of Chinese citizens and institutions ».