Soldiers Without Guns

An Untold Story of Unsung KIWI Heros

SOLDIERS WITHOUT GUNS looks at the fascinating story of how the Bougainville civil war ended due to the NZ led ‘Operation Bel Isi’.

After 10 years of war, 14 failed peace agreements and 20,000 people dead, New Zealand stepped in with an unorthodox yet unprecedented style of peacekeeping. The NZ Defence landed in the warzone without weapons, in a determined effort to unite the people in peace. Instead of guns, they took guitars, cultural understanding and women’s empowerment

The NZ Defence landed in the warzone without weapons, in a determined effort to unite the people in peace. 

The Bougainville Civil War erupted when Bougainvilleans rose up against the might of the Australian owned Panguna copper mine that had destroyed their environment, taken their land and divided the people.

Deciding to take guitars instead of guns they were able to bring the warring parties together with music and cultural connection.  However when a New Zealand diplomat’s helicopter was shot out of the sky by rebel forces, the whole peace process was suddenly thrown into jeopardy. Journeying through a series of knife-edge negotiations, tense situations, and high level political maneuvering, this is the story of how peace was won and operation Bel Isi came to be considered one of modern history’s most successful peacekeeping missions.

Guiding us on this journey is Fiona Cassidy, a former Major in the New Zealand Army who was on the ground during the peace keeping operation. As she revisits the island to see how things have changed over twenty years since the restoration of peace, she meets again with the key players whom she worked with on the ground, to accomplish what many thought was impossible.

With the 20th Anniversary of peace in Bougainville approaching later this month, plans to reopen the copper mine back on the table, and the vote for independence coming in 2019, the big question remains; ‘Where to from here?’

With hundreds of hours of interviews and spectacular newsreel archive footage spanning over seventy years distilled into one movie, SOLDIERS WITHOUT GUNS is the inspirational story of a tiny island holding on to hope for independence and for peace, beset on all sides by corporate interests, colonial oppression, state violence, and civil war.

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Watch the riveting journey

Story of Unsung KIWI Heros

The riveting journey of New Zealand soldiers as they land unarmed into the heat of a 10 year civil war using only the weapons of Music, Maori Culture and Love to create peace. This radical idea of sending soldiers without guns was condemned by the  media because they felt the soldiers would be massacred given the first 14 peace attempts had failed.