Riots in New Caledonia: deployment of the army after four deaths

Riots in New Caledonia: deployment of the army after four deaths
Riots in New Caledonia: deployment of the army after four deaths

A barricade set up by residents of a residential area of ​​Nouméa, May 16, 2024.

AFP

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced the deployment of the army in New Caledonia, where three nights of riots left four dead, including a gendarme, in the archipelago shaken by the revolt of separatists against an electoral reform voted by the Parliament.

The military deployment should make it possible to “secure” the ports and the airport, said Gabriel Attal on Wednesday, who will again chair an interministerial crisis unit on Thursday morning.

The high commissioner on the French Pacific territory, Louis Le Franc, for his part “announced a curfew and banned TikTok”, a social network used by the rioters, said Gabriel Attal.

After two nights of deadly conflagration, that from Wednesday to Thursday “was less violent,” declared the high commissioner. In the urban area of ​​Nouméa, residents began to organize the protection of their neighborhoods and erected makeshift barricades, made of wooden pallets, cans and other wheelbarrows, on which they planted white flags.

The violence continues

Despite this, violence continued on the archipelago, which once again experienced “very significant clashes”, lamented the high commissioner on Thursday. The Nouméa metropolitan area has once again fallen prey to looting and fires, he added, while nearly 200 arrests have taken place since Monday in the region. “There are also traps set for the police,” who were subjected to “heavy fire from large-scale rifles,” he said.

The customary Senate building was set on fire, according to its communications service, without the extent of the damage being known at this time. Symbol of this outbreak of violence, the poor district of Auteuil, where heavy gunfire still echoed in the early morning, found itself reduced to a state of desolation on Thursday, noted an AFP correspondent, with its supermarket burnt down, its businesses and restaurants burned and looted.

“We come to pick up what is in the stores to eat. Afterwards, we will no longer have a store. We need milk for the children. I don’t consider it to be looting,” a resident of Auteuil, who requested anonymity, told AFP.

Violence, “we have to go through it, to blow up because we are not heard,” said a young man living in the town of Houaïlou, who also refused to give his name.

Videoconferencing

Emmanuel Macron gave up a trip planned for Thursday to the EPR site in Flamanville (Manche) to be able to chair a “follow-up meeting”. He proposed to Caledonian elected officials to have “an exchange by videoconference” at the end.

The state of emergency, requested by the Head of State, has been in force on the Caillou since 8:00 p.m. Paris time (5:00 a.m. Thursday in Nouméa). In this context, the Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin carried out the first five house arrests of members of the Field Action Coordination Cell (CCAT), the most radical fringe of the Socialist Kanak Liberation Front (FLNKS), accused of being alleged instigators of the violence.

In a press release, the leaders of this movement, without reacting to these summons, argued that “the abuses committed (…) were not necessary”, but were “the expression of the invisible people of society who suffer from inequalities with full force and are marginalized on a daily basis.

The main political parties in the territory and the authorities called for calm on Wednesday, in the face of this wave of violence, the most serious since the 1980s.

Four dead

This violence left three people dead, two men aged 20 and 36, as well as a 17-year-old girl, authorities detailed on Thursday. A gendarme in his twenties who was hit in the head by a shot also succumbed to his injuries.

In mainland France, deputies adopted the text which expands the electorate during the night from Tuesday to Wednesday. This constitutional reform will still have to obtain three-fifths of the votes of parliamentarians who must meet before “the end of June” in Congress in Versailles, according to Emmanuel Macron. Unless separatists and loyalists agree between now and then on a more comprehensive text, said the President of the Republic.

The voted text 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 marginalizing “even more the indigenous Kanak people”.

On Wednesday, the pro-independence president of the territory’s government, Louis Mapou, “took note” of the vote but deplored an “approach which heavily impacts” his “capacity to conduct the affairs of New Caledonia”.

Shortages

In New Caledonia, due to a lack of supplies for businesses, food shortages have caused very long queues in front of stores.

On Thursday, the authorities announced an “air bridge” between France and the Caledonian territory, where the airport remains closed until further notice, in particular to “ensure that the essential needs of the population are taken into account”.

High Commissioner Louis Le Franc also spoke of the establishment of secure convoys to supply food distribution points. “If the situation does not (return) to normal quickly, establishments will be faced (…) with a shortage of medicines,” also warned the federation of establishments welcoming the elderly.

Large numbers of police and gendarmes, including elements of their two elite groups, the GIGN and the RAID, have already been mobilized. Other reinforcements were being transported to the archipelago, according to Gérald Darmanin. According to the ministry, 1,800 police and gendarmes were deployed there on Wednesday and 500 more will arrive there in the coming hours.

(AFP)

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