Actus Réunion

Tension persistante en Nouvelle-Calédonie : évacuation des premiers Français

Tensions persist in New Caledonia on Saturday, where the mission to « restore order in the coming days » set by President Emmanuel Macron is proving difficult, and where the evacuation of French tourists has begun.

On the ground, the situation « remains difficult, » acknowledged Overseas Minister Marie Guévenoux on franceinfo, who has stayed in New Caledonia since the President’s visit. « Law enforcement is gaining ground little by little, » she praised.

French mainlanders who were stuck in the archipelago due to the riots are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel: the first flights aboard military aircraft took off on Saturday from Magenta airport in Nouméa, heading to Australia and New Zealand.

« The wait was endless, as the reopening of the airport has been pushed back day by day, » one of these tourists told AFP, as La Tontouta international airport remains closed to commercial flights since May 14 and at least until Tuesday.

Despite calls for « calm » from the President on site, road blockades, dismantled by law enforcement and often immediately reinstalled, continue to impede traffic and violence persists.

During the night from Friday to Saturday in the Kaméré neighborhood in Nouméa, 35 people, including seven minors, according to authorities, had to be evacuated by sea under the protection of the nautical brigade after a house fire and looting.

Law enforcement « went through the street with a loudspeaker to tell us to evacuate the neighborhood. The children were taken care of as a priority, » a mother of two-year-old twins told AFP. « We found out from people in the neighborhood that our house had been looted during the night, like others. It’s horrible, very shocking, » she tearfully recounted over the phone.

« We never felt unsafe here, on the contrary… The people who burned and ransacked houses in the neighborhood are not necessarily the same people at the barricades, » she continued.

« We maintain resistance »

The FLNKS (Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front) admitted on Saturday that « today, the main objective of the independence movement is to calm tensions and find lasting solutions for our country. »

The independence movement still demands the withdrawal of the electoral body constitutional revision, which they believe will further marginalize the voices of the Kanak people, a law that the government was planning to have voted on in Congress in June.

While calling for the abandonment of this law that sparked the unrest and triggered unprecedented riots on May 13 in 40 years, the FLNKS stated that it « takes note of the de-escalation process proposed by the President of the Republic and the commitments requested from each party in order to emerge from this crisis in a positive way. »

« In this sense, the FLNKS reiterates its call for calm and also asks for the loosening of the grip on the main traffic routes so that the population of New Caledonia can, gradually, move freely, supply themselves, and have access to the most basic public services, » wrote the independence movement.

« We maintain resistance in our neighborhoods, » however, Christian Tein, the leader of the CCAT, an independence collective organizing the protest, said, denouncing « the strong repression that our population is facing. »

« Undercover police officer »

The death toll from violence rose to seven on Friday, with the seventh being a 48-year-old man whose identity was not disclosed, killed by a police officer in Dumbéa (near Nouméa). The officer was taken into custody.

« It was an undercover police officer who was off duty and was surrounded by about twenty individuals at a barricade, » Marie Guévenoux explained on Saturday.

« There were no police operations that resulted in deaths, and it is extremely important to emphasize that, » she continued, as this death raised concerns about the situation potentially escalating, where calm remains precarious two days after the President’s visit.

Between the Ducos and Kaméré neighborhoods, about ten bulldozers were working on Saturday to clear piles of debris still on fire, under the watch of gendarmes securing the area, as observed by an AFP journalist.

The Raid intervened first to secure the convoy’s passage, amidst the constant noise of a helicopter’s rotor blades overhead. Trucks and street sweepers followed to remove the debris.

The lifting of the state of emergency is not imminent, confirmed Marie Guévenoux. It can only be done « if the blockades are lifted and peace is restored, » « I fear that as I speak, this may not be possible. »

The President has given until the end of June for the archipelago’s elected officials and political leaders, assisted by a « mediation mission » of three senior civil servants dispatched from Paris, to find « a comprehensive agreement » that « can be submitted to a vote of the Caledonians. »


Le Quotidien

Add comment