The Solomon Islands chain consists of several large volcanic islands located southeast of Papua New Guinea. The islands were a British protectorate starting in the 1890s. During World War II, the American forces made strong efforts to capture Guadalcanal, the largest island, from Japan, resulting in fierce fighting. The islands achieved self-government in 1976 and independence two years later.
A large percentage of the islanders (more than 90 percent) are ethnic Melanesians. Guadalcanal witnessed intense ethnic rivalry between two other groups: the migrant Malaitans from a neighboring island and the Isatabus on Guadalcanal. In 1998, ethnic fighting erupted as the Isatabu Freedom Movement began to force out Malaitans, who were allegedly taking land and jobs from the Isatabus. Nearly 20,000 people were forced out of their homes, and many eventually left the island. In retaliation, the Malaitan Eagle Force staged a coup in June 2000, forcing the prime minister to resign. Nearly 100 people died during the crisis.
A peace agreement was worked out with Australian backing in October 2000. In June 2003, the prime minister of Solomon Islands asked Australia for assistance in establishing law and order. The next month, Australia sent a peacekeeping force, which disarmed the militias and restored peace.
Australia has assisted in efforts to make the country self-sustaining, but the process has been slow. The islands nearly went bankrupt after the civil war, and there were further post-election riots in April 2006.
Solomon Islands’ economy relies on timber exports, which are vulnerable to price fluctuations. The country hopes to revive its economy through palm oil production and gold mining.
Sources: BBC, International Crisis Group, CIA World Factbook.
Form of Government:
Parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm
Year of Independence:
1978 (from Britain)
Church of Melanesia 32.8%, Roman Catholic 19%, South Seas Evangelical 17%, Seventh-Day Adventist 11.2%, United Church 10.3%, Christian Fellowship Church 2.4%, other Christian 4.4%, other 2.4%, unspecified 0.3%, none 0.2% (1999 census)
27,556 sq km (10,639 sq miles)
Melanesian pidgin in much of the country is lingua franca; English (official; but spoken by only 1%-2% of the population); 120 indigenous languages
71 years (men), 76 years (women) (2009 est.)
1 Solomon Islands dollar = 100 cents
Timber, fish, palm oil and kernels, copra, cocoa
GDP - Per Capita (PPP):
$1,900 (2008 est.)
International Dialing Code: