Macron goes to New Caledonia to “resume dialogue” after deadly riots

Macron goes to New Caledonia to “resume dialogue” after deadly riots
Macron goes to New Caledonia to “resume dialogue” after deadly riots

French President Emmanuel Macron is making a surprise trip to New Caledonia, the French Pacific territory that has been gripped by days of deadly violence following protests by the indigenous Kanak population who have long demanded independence from Paris.

“(Macron) will go there this evening,” government spokesperson Prisca Thévenot announced this Tuesday, following a council of ministers during which the president declared that he had decided to carry out even the journey of more than 33,000 kilometers round trip to the archipelago east of Australia.

In just over a week, at least six people have been killed – including two gendarmes – and hundreds more injured in New Caledonia amid armed clashes, looting and arson, raising questions on Macron’s management of France’s colonial heritage.

For decades, tensions have flared between the indigenous Kanak who seek independence for the archipelago of 270,000 inhabitants and the descendants of colonizers and settlers who want to remain part of France.

The latest unrest broke out on May 13 as the French Parliament was debating an amendment to the French Constitution in Paris to make changes to New Caledonia’s electoral rolls.

Opponents fear the measure will benefit New Caledonia’s pro-French politicians and further marginalize Kanaks who once suffered from strict segregation policies and widespread discrimination.

Destruction in Nouméa

Last Wednesday, French authorities declared a state of emergency lasting at least 12 days on the island and dispatched 1,000 reinforcements to reinforce security forces who have lost control of parts of the capital, Nouméa.

“Faced with the increase in violence, the priority is the return of order to allow the resumption of dialogue in New Caledonia,” declared Thévenot, government spokesperson. “We are clear: there is still much to do before a return to normal. the government is fully mobilized. »

She gave no details about the length of Macron’s stay or who he will meet.

But the French president will himself witness the destruction that has transformed parts of Nouméa into no-go zones, with buildings burned, shops looted and barricades erected by both pro-independence supporters – some armed – and united people. to protect their livelihoods and homes. .

With police given emergency powers and a curfew in effect from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., authorities say security forces are beginning to contain the unrest.

They announced 22 additional arrests on Tuesday, bringing the total number to nearly 300.

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