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New Caledonia ‘Calmer’ After France Imposes State of Emergency

New Caledonia 'Calmer' After France Imposes State of Emergency

New Caledonia has seen a reduction in violence after France declared a state of emergency in response to deadly unrest over proposed changes to voting rules. The violence, the worst in the territory in over 30 years, erupted on Monday and has resulted in the deaths of five people, including two police officers and three Indigenous Kanaks.

The unrest began due to anger over French plans to allow outsiders who have lived in New Caledonia for at least 10 years to vote in provincial elections. The Kanak population, which makes up about 40% of the territory’s 270,000 people, fears this change will dilute their political influence.

In response, France has sent about 1,000 additional security forces to join the 1,700 already present. These forces have begun arriving at La Tontouta International Airport and have been seen patrolling the capital, Noumea. Using emergency powers, security forces have managed to establish a “calmer and more peaceful situation” in Noumea, though fires were reported at a school and two businesses.

High Commissioner Louis Le Franc stated that the reinforcements will impose order where control has been lost. Ten independence activists accused of organizing the violence have been placed under house arrest, and around 200 of the estimated 5,000 rioters have been detained.

The violence has led to significant damage, with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry estimating around 200 million euros in losses. Essential services and supplies have been disrupted, with up to 90% of the grocery distribution network in Noumea affected.

Despite the imposed calm, tensions remain high. President Emmanuel Macron has urged New Caledonia’s opposing sides to reach a new agreement before French lawmakers vote on the constitutional change by the end of June. A planned videoconference between Macron and New Caledonian lawmakers was canceled due to the unwillingness of different parties to communicate.

The state of emergency, which includes a nighttime curfew and a ban on gatherings, will remain in force for 12 days as authorities work to restore order and address the underlying political tensions.

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