NewsFrench government vows to regain control in New Caledonia riots

French government vows to regain control in New Caledonia riots

Hell in paradise. State of emergency in New Caledonia
Hell in paradise. State of emergency in New Caledonia
Images source: © forum | MACIAS Mathieu

6:53 AM EDT, May 17, 2024

On Thursday, Gerald Darmanin, the French Minister of Internal Affairs, assured the government that it would soon regain control of the situation in New Caledonia, an overseas territory. Riots are ongoing in the region, sparked by changes in the Paris government's proposed electoral system. A state of emergency has been declared.

During his television address on France 2, Darmanin announced that "within the next few hours, the state will completely regain control" of the situation in New Caledonia. Shortly after this statement, the minister reported another fatality in the riots.

This time, it was a gendarmerie officer who died on Thursday morning due to accidental gunfire. This means that since Monday, when the riots began, five people have died. These protests are the most violent since the 1980s.

New Caledonia, a French overseas territory located several thousand miles from Paris, has been in a state of emergency since 5 a.m. local time on Thursday (3 p.m. Wednesday Eastern Time). The emergency is set to last for at least 12 days.

On Wednesday evening, French authorities deployed soldiers to secure airports and ports.

Authorities block social media

Additionally, authorities have banned the use of the social media platform TikTok, which participants in the riots use. As emphasized by the newspaper Le Figaro, this ban is related to concerns about disinformation on social media, potentially sourced from countries attempting to fuel tensions. Government and security sources mention China and Azerbaijan among these countries.

On Thursday, Darmanin accused Baku of interference and expressed regret that some supporters of New Caledonia's independence "have reached an agreement" with Azerbaijan.

  • State of emergency in New Caledonia
  • State of emergency in New Caledonia
  • Four Dead In New Caledonia Riots
Violent riots have been taking place in Noumea in Noumea on May 15, 2024, amid protests linked to a debate on a constitutional bill aimed at enlarging the electorate for upcoming elections of the overseas French territory of New Caledonia. France deployed troops to New Caledonia's ports and international airport, banned TikTok and imposed a state of emergency on May 16 after three nights of clashes that have left four dead and hundreds wounded. Pro-independence, largely indigenous protests against a French plan to impose new voting rules on its Pacific archipelago have spiralled into the deadliest violence since the 1980s, with a police officer among several killed by gunfire.,Image: 873553669, License: Rights-managed, Restrictions: , Model Release: no, Credit line: MMIIAS/ABACA / Abaca Press / Forum
MMIIAS/ABACA / Abaca Press / Forum
Demo, Demonstration, Gathering, Protest, Rally, Riot, Riots
  • State of emergency in New Caledonia
  • State of emergency in New Caledonia
[1/5] State of emergency in New CaledoniaImages source: © East News, forum | DELPHINE MAYEUR, MMIIAS/ABACA, Nicolas Job

In April, a representative of the Congress (the legislative body of New Caledonia) signed a memorandum with the Azerbaijan Parliament to cooperate in sports and culture. Relations between Paris and Baku are tense, with France's support for Armenia, which conflicts with Azerbaijan, as the backdrop.

Thousands of security personnel on site. Paris sends reinforcements

The head of the French Ministry of Internal Affairs announced on Thursday the deployment of "hundreds of police officers and gendarmes" to the central city of New Caledonia, Nouméa. There are already 1,700 officers on site. The minister assured that the army would not be sent "onto the streets" and restoring order would be the task of the police and gendarmerie.

Darmanin also reported the house arrest of ten leaders of the Field Operations Coordination Cell (CCAT)—the most radical faction of the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS). The minister called CCAT a "mafia" organization. FLNKS—the party that has fought for New Caledonia's independence for years—has previously called for calm and condemned the violence.

Concerns for the indigenous population

The riots, which have been ongoing since Monday, erupted while the French parliament was considering changes to the voting system in New Caledonia. The proposed constitutional reform would extend the right to vote in provincial elections to those who have lived in New Caledonia for at least ten years.

The independence movement opposes these changes, fearing that they will result in the indigenous population—the Kanaks—losing their influence on the election results.

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