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“People are letting go of all their brakes.” France announces “regaining control” over New Caledonia

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French authorities sent more police troops to New Caledonia in the Pacific and announced they would “regain control” of the territory. Five people have already been killed in the riots that have been going on there since Monday. They broke out at a time when the French parliament is considering changes to the voting system in that country.

Authorities in Paris said rioters in New Caledonia, opposed to electoral reform, “burned businesses, set fire to cars, looted shops and set up road barricades, causing a tragic situation.”

– Everything is burning, people are letting go of all brakes – said a student from New Caledonia, Olivia Iloa. – Caledonia will have difficulty getting out of the crisis. Everything was destroyed, added Yoan Fleurot, a resident of the capital Noumea, who witnessed the looting.

The effects of riots in New CaledoniaReuters

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France announces “taking back control”

By Friday evening, the number of police and gendarmerie officers in New Caledonia is expected to increase from 1,700 to 2,700, with the support of a small number of soldiers. The armed forces are protecting two airports and a port in New Caledonia, the high commissioner said France Louis Le Franc, adding that roads in Noumea were blocked by barricades of burning cars.

– In the coming hours, the state will completely regain control, said the head of the Interior Ministry on France 2 television. Shortly later, he announced another fatality in the riots: a gendarme who died on Thursday morning in accidental fire. This means that five people have died since Monday in the unrest, the most violent since the 1980s.

State of emergency in New Caledonia

In New Caledonia, a territory several thousand kilometers away from Paris, it lasts from 5 a.m. on Thursday local time (8 p.m. on Wednesday Polish time) state of emergency. It will be valid for at least 12 days.

The social media platform TikTok, used by rioters, was also banned. As the daily “Le Figaro” points out, the ban is related to concerns about disinformation on social media, which could come from countries trying to inflame tensions. Government and security sources mention this in this context China Whether Azerbaijan.

Destruction in New CaledoniaReuters

Darmanin accused Baku of interference on Thursday, expressing regret that some supporters of New Caledonia's independence “made an agreement” with Azerbaijan.

In April, a representative of the Congress (New Caledonia's legislative body) signed a memorandum with the Azerbaijani parliament on cooperation in the field of sports and culture. Relations between Paris and Baku are tense, and the background to these tensions is France's support for the country in conflict with Azerbaijan. Armenia.

Riot leaders arrested

Darmanin also announced on Thursday that ten leaders of the Field Action Coordination Cell (CCAT) – the most radical faction of the Kanak National and Socialist Liberation Front (FLNKS) – were placed under house arrest. The head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs called CCAT a “mafia” organization. The FLNKS itself – a party that has been fighting for New Caledonia's independence for years – had previously appealed for calm and condemned violence.

The riots, which have been ongoing since Monday, broke out while the French parliament is considering changes to the voting system in New Caledonia. The planned constitutional reform will expand the right to vote in elections provincial elections to those voters who have lived in New Caledonia for at least 10 years. These changes are opposed by the independence movement, fearing that as a result the indigenous population – the Kanaks – will lose their influence on the voting results.

New CaledoniaReuters

French colony

New Caledonia, located in the western Pacific, became a French colony in 1853. Since 1946, it has been an overseas territory of France, and since 1998 it has also been a French “community sui generis” with wide autonomy. Referendums on independence were held there three times, and each time the majority of voters supported maintaining ties with France. The Kanaks rejected the results of the vote in the last referendum in 2021.

Foreign policy and defense matters remain the responsibility of the French government. The French government is represented by a high commissioner appointed by the president. The archipelago has great economic freedom within the special economic zone. There are rich deposits of cobalt and nickel there.

Main photo source: Reuters

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