Violent protests rage in New Caledonia amid growing civil unrest

4 weeks ago 20

A street blocked by debris and burnt out items is seen following overnight unrest in the Magenta district of Noumea, France's Pacific territory of New Caledonia, on May 18

A street is blocked by debris and burned items following overnight unrest in the Magenta district of Noumea, in France's Pacific Islands territory of New Caledonia, on Saturday. [Delphine Mayeur/AFP]

Published On 18 May 2024

Mass protests erupted in New Caledonia this week after France’s parliament voted to allow French residents who have lived in the Pacific Islands territory for 10 years or more to vote in provincial elections.

The French government has argued that these reforms uphold democracy in the archipelago. But local people – particularly those from the Indigenous Kanak community, who make up 40 percent of the islands’ population – fear this will undermine their efforts to win independence from France.

France deployed troops to New Caledonia’s ports and international airport, banned TikTok as the government imposed a state of emergency on May 16.

Anger among the Indigenous Kanak people has been simmering for weeks over plans to amend the French constitution, diluting a 1998 accord that limited voting rights.

Hundreds of heavily armed French marines and police on Saturday patrolled the capital, Noumea, where streets were filled with debris following several nights of looting, arson and armed clashes in which six people have died.

French officials have accused a pro-independence group known as CCAT of being behind the protests. Ten activists accused of organising the violence have been placed under house arrest, according to authorities.

New Caledonia has been French territory since colonisation in the late 1800s. Centuries on, politics remains dominated by debate about whether the islands should be part of France, autonomous or independent – with opinions split roughly along ethnic lines.

This photograph shows burnt cars of the Renault Dacia parking lot in the Magenta district of Noumea, France's Pacific territory of New Caledonia, on May 17

Charred cars in the Renault Dacia parking lot in the Magenta district of Noumea. [Delphine Mayeur/AFP]

French soldiers of the 8th Marine Infantry Regiment (8e RIMa) secure the Magenta airport in Noumea, France's Pacific territory of New Caledonia, on May 17

French soldiers from the 8th Marine Infantry Regiment secure the Magenta airport in Noumea. [Delphine Mayeur/AFP]

People wait in line to buy provisions from a supermarket along a street blocked by debris and burnt out items following overnight unrest in the Magenta district of Noumea, France's Pacific territory of New Caledonia, on May 18

People wait in line to buy provisions from a supermarket along a street blocked by debris and burned goods following overnight unrest. [Delphine Mayeur/AFP]

Gendarmerie armoured vehicles are seen near a police station in Noumea, France's Pacific territory of New Caledonia, on May 18

Gendarmerie in armoured vehicles near a police station in Noumea. [Delphine Mayeur/AFP]

People wait in line to buy provisions from a supermarket as charred items previously set on fire are seen following overnight unrest in the Magenta district of Noumea, France's Pacific territory of New Caledonia, on May 18

People wait in line to buy provisions from a supermarket. [Delphine Mayeur/AFP]

People look for groceries and food among nearly empty shelves in a supermarket in the Magenta district of Noumea, France's Pacific territory of New Caledonia, on May 18

People look for groceries and food but the shelves are close to empty. [Theo Rouby/AFP]

A police officer interacts with a man as others queue to enter a supermarket in the Magenta district of Noumea, France's Pacific territory of New Caledonia, on May 18

A police officer interacts with a man as others queue to enter a supermarket. [Theo Rouby/AFP]

A torched restaurant is seen in the Magenta district of Noumea, France's Pacific territory of New Caledonia, on May 18

A torched restaurant is seen in the Magenta district of Noumea. [Delphine Mayeur/AFP]

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