Biographical entry: Sogavare, Damukana Manasseh (1955 - )

17 January 1955
Prime Minister


Manasseh Damukana Sogavare, public servant, politician and sixth Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, was born on 17 January 1955 to Choiseulese parents living in Oro Province of Papua New Guinea. His home village is Tagibangara in eastern Choiseul. A Seventh-Day Adventist, he left high school in 1974 to become a clerk in the Honiara Consumers Cooperative shop, but he soon moved on to another clerical position in the Inland Revenue Division of the Ministry of Finance. He rose through the ranks until he became the Commissioner for Inland Revenue in 1991 and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance in 1993. He was sidelined by the Mamaloni government in 1994 when he disagreed with their shoddy practices, and so he resigned and went to study accounting and economics at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, from which he graduated in 1997. Prior to his election to Parliament he also served as the Commissioner of Inland Revenue, Director of the Central Bank of the Solomon Islands, and Chairman of the Solomon Islands National Provident Fund. His parliamentary career began when he won the East Choiseul seat in the 1997 elections and became Minister for Finance and Treasury in the Ulufa'alu government. He was sacked in mid-July 1999, not for anything related to his competency but rather in an exercise related to balancing the Cabinet. Sogavare became Deputy Leader of the Opposition in late September 1998, and Leader of the Opposition in January 2000, replacing Solomon Mamaloni (q.v.) when Mamaloni died. Sogavare then completed a flexible delivery Masters Degree in Management Studies from Waikato University.

Sogavare took over from Prime Minister Ulufa'alu (q.v.) in late June 2000 after a coup, although he was elected by the Parliament, and served as Prime Minister during the very difficult 'crisis' years. Unfortunately, the forces stacked up against the first Sogavare Government were even greater than those which had undone the reformist Hilly (q.v.) (1993-1994) and Ulufa'alu (1997-2000) governments, and his government accentuated some of the worst elements of past maladministration. Sogavare lost his Prime Ministership in a general election in December 2001, after which he became Leader of the Opposition for some time.

After the 2006 national election, Sogavare formed a coalition to oust Snyder Rini (q.v.), the chosen successor to the previous Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza (q.v.). Then he switched his support, which enabled Rini (q.v.) to become Prime Minister and himself Minister for Commerce, Industries and Employment. After riots followed Rini's election and he resigned on 26 April 2006, Sogavare once more became Prime Minister. Although he was experienced and had plans to reinvigorate the government and develop rural projects, his second period as Prime Minister was as traumatic as his first. He was at odds with the Australian Government, the main backer of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI), which led to the expulsion of the Australian High Commissioner and the Australian Police Commissioner over disputes relating to a commission of inquiry into the April riots and the appointment of Julian Moti as Attorney-General.

Sogavare's political philosophy mixes practical experience gained while a senior public servant, with a social credit economic philosophy obvious in his Solomon Islands Social Credit (Socred) Party, and strong belief in nationalism. Earlier he had also led the People's Progressive Party. His style as Prime Minister was confrontational, but he faced extreme provocation, which slowed the performance of his second government. He was removed as Prime Minister on 17 December 2007 after a vote of no confidence, and remained in office as caretaker Prime Minister until the election of the new Prime Minister Derek Sikua (q.v.) on 20 December. On the same day Sogavare became Leader of the Opposition. In 2010, he and eight other members of Parliament established the Ownership, Unity and Responsibility Party. ( [accessed 14 Apr. 2011]; Moore 2008b, 2008c)

Published resources

Book Sections

  • Moore, Clive, 'No More Walkabout Long Chinatown: Asian Involvement in the Solomon Islands Economic and Political Processes', in Sinclair Dinnen;Stewart Firth (ed.), Politics and State Building in Solomon Islands, Asia Pacific Press, Canberra, 2008c, pp. 64-95. Details

Journal Articles

  • Moore, Clive, 'Uncharted Pacific Waters: The Solomon Islands Constitution and the Government of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, 2006-2007', History Compass, vol. 6, no. 2, 2008b, pp. 488-509. Details