Violence in New Caledonia: two deaths during riots

Violence in New Caledonia: two deaths during riots
Violence in New Caledonia: two deaths during riots

Macron announces state of emergency after four deaths, including a gendarme

Published today at 8:24 a.m. Updated 1 hour ago

Emmanuel Macron decided on Wednesday to impose a state of emergency in New Caledonia, a French archipelago in the Pacific shaken by violent riots which left four dead including a gendarme, and were provoked by a constitutional reform project rejected by the independentists.

“All violence is intolerable and will be the subject of an implacable response to ensure the return of republican order,” indicated the French presidency in a press release announcing the establishment of this exceptional regime which extends the powers of authorities. The decree on the state of emergency must be formally taken during a Council of Ministers at 4:30 p.m. in Paris.

The president also recalled “the need for a resumption of political dialogue” in New Caledonia, a territory colonized by France in the 19th century.

Since the first altercations during the day on Monday, on the sidelines of an independence mobilization against constitutional reform, two violent nights of riots have shaken the island.

According to the latest report communicated by the Élysée, they left three dead. A 22-year-old gendarme hit in the head by a shot also died from his injuries, AFP learned from sources close to the case.

Several hundred other people were injured, including around a hundred police officers and gendarmes, according to Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin. “We are in a situation that I would describe as insurrectional,” declared the High Commissioner of the Republic, Louis Le Franc.

Despite the curfew put in place in Nouméa, the main city of the territory, violence resumed Tuesday evening after dark, marked by numerous fires, looting and exchanges of fire, including against the police. . Nouméa airport has been closed since Monday.

Two people were also shot and injured in Ducos, in the northwest of Nouméa “by a mechanic who was protecting his business”, according to a local government minister. “I’ll let you imagine what will happen if militias start shooting at armed people,” insisted Mr. Le Franc, referring to “a deadly spiral.”

Met by AFP, Sébastien, a 42-year-old resident who did not give his name, said he led the guard to “protect the city”. “The cops are overwhelmed so we try to protect ourselves and as soon as things get hot, we warn the cops (…). We are trying to ensure that each neighborhood has its own militia.”

“Call for calm”

Point of tension in the anger of the separatists, the constitutional reform project on the electorate was adopted by the deputies in Paris on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday. He must still gather three-fifths of the votes of the parliamentarians meeting in Congress.

This text aims to expand the electorate in provincial elections, crucial in the archipelago, to all native Caledonians and residents for at least ten years. Supporters of independence believe that this thaw risks “even further minimizing the indigenous Kanak people”.

In a joint declaration, the main independence and loyalist parties of New Caledonia, however, launched a call for “calm and reason” on Wednesday.

“Despite the insurrectional situation that we have been experiencing for the past forty-eight hours and because we are called to continue living together, we solemnly call on the entire population for calm and reason,” write these parties.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal indicated early this afternoon in Paris that he would propose “in the coming hours” a meeting date in Paris to the various stakeholders in New Caledonia. On Wednesday morning, due to a lack of supplies in stores, food shortages caused very long queues in front of stores.

Created in 1955 during the Algerian War (1954-1962), the state of emergency has already been established eight times in France in order to respond to imminent dangers (attack, war) or natural disasters. Demanded by many voices on the right and the far right, this measure makes it possible in particular to prohibit travel or demonstrations.

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