“Insurrectional situation”, four deaths, state of emergency… What is happening at the moment in New Caledonia? We take stock

“Insurrectional situation”, four deaths, state of emergency… What is happening at the moment in New Caledonia? We take stock
“Insurrectional situation”, four deaths, state of emergency… What is happening at the moment in New Caledonia? We take stock

The path to appeasement in New Caledonia does not yet seem to have been found. For more than 48 hours, riots have broken out in the island’s main city, Nouméa. Initially material damage with fires all over the city, the situation continued to degenerate, taking on the appearance of real “urban guerrilla warfare”.

The violence has escalated further with the death of three people and a police officer more recently. Buckshot shots are increasing and causing absolute chaos in the city. We take stock of the situation three days after the start of the violence.

A police officer who died

According to the latest provisional report communicated by the Elysée, they left three dead and a “very seriously injured” gendarme who ended up succumbing to his injuries, as AFP just confirmed this Wednesday early in the afternoon. .

This 22-year-old mobile gendarme, belonging to the Melun squadron (Seine-et-Marne), was hit by a shot in the Plum sector, east of Nouméa, the gendarmerie said.

“He died after a night of protection in a particularly dangerous place”detailed Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin on Wednesday, during questions to the government in the Senate.

“All violence is intolerable and will be the subject of a relentless response to ensure the return of republican order,” assured Emmanuel Macron at the end of the defense council, before reminding once again recalled “the need for a resumption of political dialogue”.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal clarified shortly after in front of the deputies that he would propose a date “in the coming hours” to receive separatists and non-independence activists in Matignon.

Establishment of the state of emergency

Emmanuel Macron called on Wednesday for the establishment of a state of emergency in New Caledonia after two nights of riots which left three dead and hundreds injured in the archipelago, shaken by the revolt of separatists against an electoral reform passed by Parliament.

At the end of a defense and national security council meeting in the morning, the Head of State announced that the decree aimed at establishing a state of emergency in the French archipelago in the South Pacific would be included in the agenda of the council of ministers scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

But what exactly does this consist of? Implemented after the attacks of November 13, 2015 or during the Covid-19 epidemic, the state of emergency allows in particular to prohibit travel or demonstrations. Provided for by the law of April 3, 1955, this exceptional legal system can be decided “on all or part of the territory” French, or “in case of imminent danger” (attack, war) or in the event of events “presenting, by their nature and seriousness, the character of a public calamity”.

In this specific case, the state of emergency makes it possible to strengthen the powers of civil authorities, in this case, in New Caledonia, the High Commissioner of the Republic, Louis Le Franc. In this context, certain public or individual freedoms may be restricted. The movement of people or vehicles in certain places may, for example, be reduced, the rules concerning house arrest or searches are relaxed or even temporary closure. “performance halls, drinking establishments and meeting places of all kinds” can be ordered.

Despite calls for calm from the main political parties in the territory and the authorities, the wave of violence that began on Monday, the most serious since the 1980s, has shown no sign of abating.

Towards a civil war”?

The five main parties of these two camps called earlier Wednesday “the entire population (…) calm and reason”.

Fires, looting, armed clashes between rioters and the population or with the police, the entire archipelago has been the scene of particularly violent riots since Monday, despite the establishment of a curfew in Nouméa and its agglomeration .

The Minister of the Interior and Overseas Territories Gérald Darmanin reported “hundreds” injured in total, including one “hundred” police officers and gendarmes.

“We are in a situation that I would describe as insurrectional,” worried Mr. Le Franc on the island. “The time must be for appeasement (…) the call for calm is imperative.”

The High Commissioner reported“exchanges of buckshot between rioters and civil defense groups in Nouméa and Paita” and indicated having called in elite RAID police officers against rioters who were heading towards a gas depot.

The Minister of Public Service of local government, Vaimu’a Muliava, reported that two people had been injured by bullets in Ducos, in the northwest of Nouméa, “by a mechanic who was protecting his business”.

“I let you imagine what will happen if militias start shooting at armed people”insisted Louis Le Franc, “We are in a death spiral.”

The police carried out a total of 140 arrests in the urban area of ​​Nouméa alone, according to the latest official report.

Airport closed until further notice

To contain the riots, large numbers of police and gendarmes, including elements of their two elite groups, the GIGN and the RAID, were mobilized.

Other reinforcements were being transported to the archipelago, according to Gérald Darmanin. According to the ministry, 1,800 police officers and gendarmes were deployed there on Wednesday and 500 more will arrive there in the coming hours.

Nouméa airport has been closed since Monday until further notice. The high commissioner said Wednesday that he had requested reinforcements from the army to protect him.

Food shortages

The island’s inhabitants were quickly confronted with another problem, that of food.

On Wednesday morning, due to a lack of supplies in stores, food shortages caused very long queues in front of stores, noted an AFP correspondent.

“The cops are overwhelmed, we are trying to protect ourselves” residents in disarray

In Tuband, a district of Nouméa, residents patrolled during the night from Tuesday to Wednesday armed with sticks or baseball bats, hooded or helmeted.

“The cops are overwhelmed so we try to protect ourselves and as soon as things get heated, we warn the cops so that they can come and help us. We try to ensure that each neighborhood has its militia”said a resident, Sébastien, 42 years old.

“We were very helped by the Sainte-Marie militia,” a resident of this neighborhood, Aurélia, told AFP. “I spent the night with him yesterday and he was still okay but tonight I’m scared”added this 42-year-old teacher. “I packed a bag to be ready to go.”

What is the origin of the riots?

The violent clashes broke out in a context of acute political tensions which have been present on the archipelago for several weeks, between elected pro-independence and pro-French so-called loyalists.

At the heart of the crisis: a draft constitutional law, the text of which aims to open up the provincial electoral body, determining the composition of the assemblies of the three provinces and that of Congress. This restriction comes from the Nouméa Accord, a decolonization agreement, signed 26 years ago by the forces of both political sensibilities and the State, then from a constitutional reform of 2007 under the mandate of Jacques Chirac.

In mainland France, deputies adopted the text which expands the electoral body by 351 votes to 153 during the night from Tuesday to Wednesday. The constitutional reform will still have to gather three-fifths of the votes of the parliamentarians meeting in Congress at Versailles.

In a letter sent Wednesday to New Caledonian representatives, Emmanuel Macron specified that this Congress would meet “before the end of June”, unless separatists and loyalists agree between now and then on a more global text.

The text voted on by senators and now deputies aims to expand the electorate in provincial elections, crucial in the archipelago. Supporters of independence judge that this thaw risks reducing their electoral weight and “further minimize the indigenous Kanak people”.

On Wednesday, the independence president of the territorial government, Louis Mapou, “taken note” of the reform voted in Paris but deplored a “an approach which has a serious impact on our ability to conduct the affairs of New Caledonia”.

To restore calm, certain right-wing and far-right voices have called for the intervention of the army.

Conversely, the left called for the suspension of constitutional reform. “Everything must be done to regain calm and dialogue”pleaded the communist Fabien Roussel.



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