Actus Réunion

Nouvelle-Calédonie : Nouveau décès lors des émeutes, le sixième bilan s’alourdit

Violence continues in New Caledonia with sixth death in six days

The violence linked to riots in New Caledonia, a French archipelago in the South Pacific, continues on Saturday with a sixth death in six days, according to authorities, and a situation « far from calming down, » according to the mayor of Nouméa who described it as a « besieged city. »

A local of European descent, known as a Caldoche, was killed at midday and two other men were injured in Kaala-Gomen (North) in a shootout at a roadblock set up by rioters.

These riots, the most serious in New Caledonia since the 1980s, are caused by an electoral reform that has angered the independence movement.

It is the first death outside the Nouméa metropolitan area, the « capital » of New Caledonia, where the riots had mainly been concentrated in urban areas.

In addition to the six dead – two gendarmes and four civilians, including three Kanaks (of Melanesian indigenous origin) and a Caldoche – hundreds of injuries have been reported, according to authorities.

On Friday evening, the arrival of 1,000 additional reinforcements, in addition to the 1,700 already deployed, showed the French authorities’ determination to regain control of the situation.

« The last two nights, we can say they were calmer, » but « the days are similar » with their « share of fires, » said Sonia Lagarde, the mayor of Nouméa, to BFMTV on Saturday.

She continued, stating that there were barricades set up in an eastern district of Nouméa, held by the independence movement, and that the situation was not improving, « quite the opposite, despite all the calls for calm. »

Asked about the extent of the damage, she said she was « unable » to quantify it. « There are many municipal structures that have burned, such as libraries and schools. »

According to local estimates, the damage amounted to 200 million euros by Thursday.

The daily life of New Caledonians is becoming increasingly difficult. The damages complicate the supply in stores and the operation of public services, especially healthcare.

Long Lines

In the Magenta district of Nouméa, the street is littered with debris and burnt cars, remnants of the disturbances of the night, as observed by AFP on Saturday. A significant police presence now secures the area.

A pizzeria and a Japanese caterer were reduced to ashes, but a supermarket next door reopened for a few hours with hundreds of people waiting in line.

The New Caledonia government has called for an end to roadblocks and barricades. « We are killing each other and we cannot continue like this, » said Vaimu’a Muliava, a government member in charge of public services. « People are already dying not because of armed conflicts, but because they do not have access to healthcare or food. »

The French authorities hope that the state of emergency in effect since Thursday will curb the violence, which began on Monday after a protest against an electoral reform disputed by the representatives of the indigenous Kanak people.

« Airlift »

French State representative in New Caledonia, Louis Le Franc, promised the mobilization of the State to « organize the delivery of essential products, » as well as an « airlift » between mainland France and the archipelago, separated by over 16,000 km.

The violence has « devastated » 80% to 90% of the city’s commercial distribution chain, according to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New Caledonia, and commercial flights remain suspended.

Simultaneously, the French justice system has opened an investigation into « the instigators » of the riots, targeting in particular the CCAT collective (Coordination Cell of Field Actions), the most radical faction of the independence movement, previously accused by the government.

So far, 163 people have been placed in custody since Sunday, of whom 26 have been brought before justice, according to the public prosecutor.

Throughout New Caledonia, the social network TikTok, favored by rioters, is banned until further notice.

Without directly linking it to the violence, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin accused Azerbaijan of interference in New Caledonia, with Baku denouncing « unfounded » accusations.

For French senator Claude Malhuret, rapporteur of an investigation commission on TikTok, « if there are much more invisible interferences to fear, they are those of China,” notably through this social network.

He explained in an interview with AFP, “China wants to be in its own domain in the South China Sea but also predominant in the Pacific: it needs nickel to produce batteries,” referring to the raw mineral of which the archipelago holds 20 to 30% of global resources.

On the political front, following the cancellation of a video conference with New Caledonian elected officials on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron began exchanges with some of them on Friday, but his communication service declined to provide further details.

Presented by his government, the constitutional reform aims to expand the electoral body for crucial provincial elections in the archipelago. Pro-independence groups believe this could reduce their electoral influence.


Le Quotidien

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