After 14 years and more than $3 billion in support from Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific partners, what chance has Solomon Islands got of lasting peace?
The true success of the Pacific region's first ever peacekeeping intervention is now being tested in the island nation as it tries to chart a course for its future, while trying to forget the ghosts of the past.
The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) led by Australia and New Zealand departed the country at the end of June, having spent 14 years helping to restore law and order and build up government institutions.
Has Solomon Islands made the most of RAMSI's time in the country? And, more importantly, can it make the most of the second chance given by the "blood, sweat and tears" of the men and women of 15 nations who came to help a friend in need?
More than 200 people lost their lives during the conflict in Solomon Islands. Most were civilians. Many are still missing.
This period from 1998 to 2003 is locally referred to as the 'Ethnic Tensions' or simply 'The Tensions'.
Opinions vary on the cause of the conflict and the list of contributing factors is long and complex.
But in its simplest form, the Ethnic Tensions involved four broad groups: the Guadalcanal Revolutionary Army (GRA), self-described freedom fighters trying to rid their lands of illegal settlers; the Malaita Eagle Force, saw themselves themselves defenders of the settlers, repelling the GRA and protecting people in the capital, Honiara; parliamentarians, who probably thought of themselves as victims; and ordinary civilians, who are considered to be the real victims.
The fighting started with disputes over rights to settle on certain areas of land near the capital, Honiara.
First-hand accounts recorded on condition of anonymity by a truth and reconciliation commission, which was set up to look into the causes of the tensions, are harrowing. These are the words of a man who had returned to his village after a militant raid the night before.
"There I saw a man who was shot and had a knife stab wound on his body. I helped carry his body to a helicopter but unfortunately he died at the spot. Another man was lying down in the flower hedges; the militants had removed the skin of his face. His two children were given a piece of biscuit each and stood over their father's body. He was rushed to the hospital but unfortunately he died later."
And this woman described life under a warlord's rule.
"There were several of them who were raped at gunpoint, including my own daughter. We were under his rule and we did not have freedom of movement during that time."
It was an especially dark time for women and children, as another woman explained.
"Mothers gave birth in the middle of the bush. Some in pouring rain, some in heat, but all in fear."
The government, struggling to regain control of the situation, brokered a peace treaty disbanding both militia groups.
But most of the now "ex-militants" hung onto their weapons and Solomon Islands continued its downward spiral into complete lawlessness and chaotic violence, ruled by men with guns.
In 2003, having at first strongly opposed the idea, Australia finally agreed to lead an intervention with support from New Zealand and personnel from 13 Pacific Islands Forum countries.
Help arrives but eventually comes to an end
For Solomon Islanders weary of five years of living hell, the arrival of the RAMSI teams was the answer to their prayers.
"It has become the symbol of peace, hope and order. To all Christians in Solomon Islands RAMSI is a divine intervention," was how Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare described it.
Over the course of the next decade RAMSI helped rebuild national institutions, strengthen government processes and restart Solomon Islands' economy.
In 2013 after its 10th anniversary, all of RAMSI's state-building activities were transferred to longer-term bilateral arrangements and it became solely a policing mission.
By 2016 this had further reduced to an advisory support role to the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.
The mission, which cost Australia $NZ3bn, ended this year in June.
About 2000 New Zealand men and women took part in RAMSI and the government contributed $NZ150 million to its overall cost.
Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett said it had been an important investment.
"I think we should be really proud of that. The fact that we put so many personnel here and through the aid programme as well are investing in things that make a practical difference to the people of the Solomons.
"I am really confident... I think that the money has been well spent."
A new chapter
On the eve of RAMSI's departure Australia announced another $NZ150m in support for Solomon Islands over the next four years, $NZ80m of which will fund more than 40 Australian Federal Police officers who are staying on to continue supporting local police in advisory roles.
New Zealand has committed another $NZ12.5m, which will fund at least four police advisors from New Zealand, to be based in Honiara.
On top of this both Australia and New Zealand will provide ongoing bilateral aid support to Solomon Islands.
Australia's governor-general Sir Peter Cosgrove, speaking on behalf of Pacific Islands Forum leaders at the RAMSI farewell celebrations at the Lawson Tama stadium in Honiara, reassured Solomon Islanders of this support.
"We the people of the participating nations stand proud of what has been achieved with the courage and the energy and the tolerance and the wisdom of Solomon Islanders. We look forward to seeing the course you chart into the future... From Australia and New Zealand to the smaller states. from north, south, east and west, we are with you."
But despite all of this support there were still mixed feelings among Solomon Islanders about RAMSI's departure.
In Chinatown, John Bishop, a visitor from the Western Province, said the mission's work would be missed.
"It makes me really sad because RAMSI has been doing a lot of work here in the Solomons. And has established a lot of things. Peace and order and people [were] starting to gain confidence when RAMSI was here," Mr Bishop said.
Another citizen RNZ talked to, Anthonia Deve, who had lived through the tensions, said she was still uncertain about the future.
"Sometimes we will be thinking it will be okay, but we are not really sure. We are not really sure what will come after they are leaving the Solomon Islands, as we are the women of Solomon Islands. Because already in the past during this ethnic tension, it really hurt us, and put us in some kind of position that we [were] lost, we [were] nothing. Dying people and all this," she said.
There were some who were glad RAMSI was leaving. With a deep sense of patriotism, local resident Ellen Stennet, said she was proud that Solomon Islands was able to stand on its own.
"If you regard this country, you name it [as] a Christian country, you stand by yourself like you are independent. And make Solomon Islands a better place. Rather than always relying on other countries. We have our government, we are independent, we educate ourselves. Let us make our country to a better living [standard] if you think you are proud of Solomon Islands," Ellen Stennet said.
Others RNZ spoke to were apathetic. One man at the central market politely explained to me that he was more concerned about selling his produce than talking about the mission leaving.
While views on RAMSI leaving varied greatly, most Solomon Islanders spoken to by RNZ said they were grateful for what the mission had done for their country.
RAMSI was never meant to solve all of Solomon Islands' problems.
Considerable gains have been made under RAMSI across all sectors of the nation, thanks to the focus on strengthening institutions such as the courts and streamlining processes like that for registering a business.
But the difficult areas, areas where RAMSI could or would not go - such as addressing the causes of the ethnic crisis, corruption and bringing about political stability - were also not addressed by the island nation while the mission was there.
And they remain the things Solomon Islands must still address, without RAMSI, if it is to move forward.