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Last Updated: Friday, 18 March, 2005, 08:28 GMT
Profile: Harold Keke
Harold Keke
Harold Keke is blamed for dozens of deaths
Of all the warlords and rebel leaders involved in the Solomon Islands' spiral towards violence, Harold Keke became the most notorious.

Before his surrender to Australian-led peacekeepers in August 2003, he was responsible for a four-year reign of terror around his base in the remote Weathercoast region of the main island, Guadalcanal.

Just a week before giving himself up, he said that six Anglican missionaries he had held hostage were no longer with him; they were all mysteriously dead.

Now he faces a life behind bars, after a court found him and two associates guilty of the 2002 murder of Catholic priest Father Augustine Geve.

Harold Keke, a 34-year-old one-time choirboy and former policeman, first came to public notice in the late 1990s as ethnic unrest enveloped the Solomons.

Fighting broke out between the Isatabu, the indigenous people of Guadalcanal, and the increasing number of economic migrants from the neighbouring island of Malaita.

Mr Keke led a December 1998 raid on a police armoury, and was arrested and charged with attempted murder and robbery.

He escaped and shortly afterwards became one of the leaders of the newly-formed Guadalcanal Liberation Army - an organisation which sought to drive Malaitans off the island.

In response, a hastily-formed Malaita Eagle Force counter-attacked, and in June 2000 it took over the Solomons' capital, Honiara, and turned it into a Malaitan enclave.

While the Guadalcanal Liberation Army changed name several times during the following years, it did not change its raison d'etre, and hundreds of people died, and an estimated 20,000 were made homeless, in the ensuing violence.

Over the years, Mr Keke and his supporters refused to sign any of the proposed peace deals put forward to end the violence.

From his Weathercoast stronghold he financed his group's activities through corruption, hostage-taking and raids on local villages.

Mr Keke himself was blamed for dozens of deaths The warlord was even rumoured to have beaten his father to death and killed his nephew in a ritual sacrifice - although few people have been willing to go to the region to attempt to verify such reports.

A missionary from the Anglican Church of Melanesia was a regular visitor, before he was killed in 2003.

The church sent nine brothers to investigate the case, but they were all taken hostage. Three were released, but Mr Keke told Australian peacekeepers the remaining six were dead, without providing any explanation.




SEE ALSO:
Profile: Harold Keke
13 Aug 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Peacekeeper shot dead in Solomons
22 Dec 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Solomons enjoy new-found stability
15 Jun 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Solomons warlord surrenders
13 Aug 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Solomon Islands
10 Mar 05 |  Country profiles


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