Revolt in New Caledonia, Macron arrives by surprise


By John

No hesitationthe French president Emmanuel Macron caught everyone off guard during the council of ministers and announced the immediate departure for the Pacific: objective, a “dialogue mission” in New Caledonia, the archipelago that changed from a colony to an overseas French region after the Second World War, which has been in chaos for 8 days. The riots, which have decreased in intensity in the last few hours, were the most serious since the 1980s. The opposition of the native component, i kanaki, to the constitutional reform project that would broaden the electoral base, is very strong. So far it has been a wall against a wall, Macron wants to open up to dialogue and establish a “mission” in Nouméa to negotiate with local politicians and civil society.

An Initiative to demonstrate the importance of New Caledonia

«It is a strong initiative, intended to make people understand how much the state cares about New Caledonia», underlined the president's entourage. Taking off in the evening from Paris, arriving yesterday, when it will be Thursday morning in Nouméa. Macron will stop for a day before leaving again, which is enough for him to “express solidarity with the Caledonians” and “thank the internal security forces and the military who have mobilized to restore republican order”. Macron wants a “resumption of dialogue”, which has been completely interrupted between Paris and the archipelago. Traveling with the president are ministers Gérald Darmanin (Interior), Sébastien Lecornu (Defense) and Marie Guévenoux (Overseas). Prisca Thévenot, government spokeswoman, specified that the prime minister, Gabriel Attal, will fly to New Caledonia immediately afterwards, perhaps as early as next week, to re-establish relations between the executive and Nouméa.

The turbulent history of New Caledonia

According to experts in the history of the archipelago, which experienced bloody days in 1988, then a difficult agreement 10 years later, still operational. The archipelago experiences a historical contrast between kanaki, 41% of the population, and French accentuated by poverty, marginalization and discrimination of the Kanaki in the management of power and ultimately by the crisis of local wealth, the nickel. The 1998 agreement fixed the number of those entitled to vote to those who were registered on the lists at that time. About a fifth of potential voters were excluded, who would largely be included under the reform approved last week by the French Parliament, which could become law with a constitutional revision in June. The Kanaki are ready to do anything to block a reform that they consider to be the definitive end to their hopes of winning any future referendum on independence.

Current situation and international reactions

The riots in New Caledonia have so far caused the death of 6 people, including 2 policemen. For a couple of days the tension has decreased, also due to the sending of soldiers to protect Nouméa airport and the ports, as well as police and gendarme reinforcements from Paris. However, the airport remains closed, we will talk about it again at least on Thursday, and also for this reason yesterday Australia and New Zealand started the procedures for the evacuation of their compatriots.

New Caledonia: what is it and where is it?

New Caledonia is an archipelago located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. Geographically, it is located approximately 1,210 km east of Australia and 16,136 km from Paris. Politically, it is one French overseas community, gaining this status after being a colony. Consisting of one main island, the Grande Terreand numerous smaller islands, New Caledonia is known for its unique biodiversity and the rich cultural heritage of the indigenous peoples, the kanaki. The capital and main city of the archipelago is Noumea.