New Caledonia.. “Nickel Island” protests hamper Macer’s efforts

05:25 PM

Thursday, May 16, 2024


At a time when protests are sweeping the territory of New Caledonia, denouncing constitutional amendments, a person was killed after being hit by a gunshot during clashes with police forces in the capital, Noumea, according to statements by French High Commissioner Louis Le Fran.

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He said: “Three wounded were taken to the hospital, but one of them died as a result of being shot,” explaining that the person who opened fire was someone who “tried to defend himself, not the police.”

New Caledonia, along with 4 other island regions, represents the actual basis for French President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to strengthen his country’s authority in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, as Paris is trying to allow immigrants who have been in the region for 10 years to vote, according to what was reported by Agence France-Presse.

According to what the French High Commissioner indicated in his statement, an exchange of fire occurred between “rioters” and police officers in the regional capital, explaining that the police arrested 140 people in Noumea.

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The protests that broke out three days ago coincided with consultations in the French National Assembly to introduce amendments to the territory’s constitution, according to which a larger number of French residents of New Caledonia will be allowed to vote in the elections of the island located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean.

However, the French move clashes with the aspirations of the movement that calls for the independence of the region, as it will lead to limiting the ability of its indigenous people, the Kanak, to decide the vote in the elections.

The separatists believe that the French measure aims to continue belittling the “indigenous Kanak people,” who constituted 41.2% of the population of “New Caledonia” in 2019, according to the Agence France-Presse.

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Article 77 of the French Constitution restricted voting to those included in the 1998 referendum lists and their descendants, which deprived immigrants who arrived in the region and indigenous people born after this date, whom statistics estimated at about 20% of the electorate.

In the wake of the protests that included riots, President Macron called for a National Defense and Security Council to be held, after canceling a trip scheduled for Wednesday morning to one of the French islands.

“New Caledonia” is of great importance to France from a military, geopolitical, and economic perspective. The region has a large reserve of nickel.

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In an attempt to establish control over the situation in the region, the French government imposed a curfew in the capital, Noumea, and announced the mobilization of security forces and the closure of the international airport in “New Caledonia” as a result of the violence.

In turn, the regional government said in a statement that there is no justification for acts of violence and sabotage, regardless of the reasons for discontent and anger.

In 1998, an agreement in the capital of the region, which is home to 270,000 people and located 20,000 kilometers from France, ended a conflict that extended for years and resulted in the deaths of 80 people by setting a gradual path to self-rule.

Despite the independence that the region enjoys, it depends on France in several areas, most notably education and defense, and it also receives significant aid from the capital, Paris.

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For its part, the United Nations placed “New Caledonia” on the list of non-self-governing territories in the period between 1946 and 1947, after France provided details of the territories that fall under its jurisdiction in accordance with Article 73 of the United Nations Charter.

After nearly 40 years, the United Nations General Assembly again included the region on the list, after it deemed that it “does not enjoy self-rule within the framework stipulated in the UN Charter,” according to what the organization’s website shows.

In 2021, President Louis Mabo became the first Kanak leader supporting independence to be elected.

Since 1853, France has used “New Caledonia” as an exile for violators of its law, in addition to benefiting from the region’s nickel resources, which are estimated at approximately 25% of the world’s reserve of the metal.

There are great tensions in the region between its indigenous Kanak population and pro-French immigrants.


The efforts of the residents of New Caledonia have continued since the 1980s for independence, after the unrest witnessed in the areas controlled by France in the 19th century, which resulted in hostage-taking and an attack on the Ovea Cave in 1988.

During that attack, 19 indigenous activists and 6 soldiers were killed, before the two parties were able, two months later, to conclude the “Matignon” agreement, which organized the distribution of power on the “island.” The “Noumea” agreement, 10 years later, launched a plan to end colonialism that would extend for 20 years.

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