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Death toll rises in New Caledonia as civil unrest intensifies

The death toll in New Caledonia has risen to three as violence continues to escalate.

Charles Wea, a spokesperson for international relations in the president’s office, confirmed the fatalities to NZ state media, saying the deaths resulted from a drive-by shooting by ‘French people’ rather than the indigenous Kanak Melanesians. He said many more were injured and hospitalised, describing the situation as ‘very, very difficult.’

Numerous shops have been set ablaze, and all schools, shops, and government services in the capital, Noumea, have been closed. The French territory is now in its third day of violent unrest.

According to Reuters, France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said hundreds of people had been injured in the riots. French High Commissioner Louis Le Franc expressed deep concern, saying, “I sense dark hours have arrived in New Caledonia.” He urged for calm, emphasizing, “Stop what has been started.”

When asked about the possibility of declaring a state of emergency, Le Franc did not give a direct answer. Instead, he stressed the importance of respecting the curfew and avoiding armed confrontations and the destruction of property, including businesses, pharmacies, schools, and medical centers. He warned that armed groups on both sides could escalate the violence if the call for calm goes unheeded.

In response to the unrest, France has sent over 600 reinforcements to support local police, with an additional 300-400 arriving on Wednesday evening, according to Wea. More than 130 people have been arrested, raising concerns about how to detain them with the prison system already at full capacity.

Local journalist Coralie Cochin told RNZ that a curfew had been announced for Wednesday evening, starting at 6 PM local time. Mike Lightfoot, a New Zealander vacationing in New Caledonia, reported that residents feared the situation could worsen. Lightfoot and his family are stuck in New Caledonia until at least Friday due to the imposed curfews and a drinking ban aimed at controlling the protests.

The violence was sparked by a proposal from France allowing French residents who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years to vote in provincial elections, a move local leaders believe will dilute the indigenous population’s vote. Lightfoot described returning from a beach north of Noumea to find the number of protests escalating, with intersections blocked and some set on fire. Riot police were present throughout the city.

Lightfoot recounted a frightening experience when he and his wife had to leave their hotel at night to find a doctor after she developed a chest infection. They heard gunshots and explosions and had to navigate through a roundabout set on fire and blocked by 150 protesters. Locals and hotel staff informed them that the protests might escalate further with the arrival of more riot police and the latest measures from France.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Mining and raw materials. Financial interests. Further more, this has been brewing for decenia. Between the Kanacks ( autochtones) and the French who were just nummerous enough to vote against independence from france during the last referendum.
    What about the aboriginals and the maoris ???

  2. Seems the old divide and conquer is being ramped up there as well.

    There isn’t anywhere in the world we can go and live peacefully together as one people is there? New Zealand used to be that place. Not anymore.

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