An island country in the south-west Pacific.
The Solomon Islands form a large archipelago comprising a double chain of six large and many smaller islands, lying between 5° and 13° S of the Equator. The largest island, Bougainville, together with a few others in the north-west, is part of Papua New Guinea; all the rest constitute a country in which the most important island is Guadalcanal. Lying at the edge of the Pacific plate, the region is subject to earthquakes; and there are volcanoes on the main islands.
The soil is generally fertile enabling cocoa and tobacco to be grown, although the main resource is copra – dried coconut kernels, from which oil can be expressed. Timber and palm oil are exported. Fishing is also important.
After some 3000 years of occupation, European missionaries and settlers arrived throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and in 1885 the German New Guinea Company established control of the north Solomons. Britain declared a protectorate over the southern islands in 1893. During World War II the Solomons witnessed fierce battles between Japanese and Allied forces. The Solomon Islands became an independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations on 7 July 1978. Solomon Mamaloni (Prime Minister since 1989) faced severe criticism during 1991 for allegedly ignoring the constitution and seeking to rule without a mandate. Following an election in 1993, the independent Francis Billy Hilly became Prime Minister. His short-lived administration ended in late 1994, when Mamaloni again won power. Relations with Papua New Guinea continued to be strained. After elections in 1997 a new government was formed, with Batholomew Ulufa'alu as Prime Minister. Ethnic violence broke out on Guadalcanal in 1998 between the indigenous population and the Malaitan community (from the neighbouring island of Malaita). This escalated until 2003, when an Australian peacekeeping force was deployed. Peace was thereafter gradually restored.
Source: MAPS IN MINUTES™ © RH Publications (1997)
28,370 sq km (10,954 sq miles)
1 Solomon Islands dollar = 100 cents
Protestant 74.0%; Roman Catholic 10.8%
Melanesian 94.2%; Polynesian 3.7%; other Pacific islander 1.4%
UN; Commonwealth; South Pacific Forum; Secretariat of the Pacific Community; WTO