France to lift state of emergency in riot-razed New Caledonia after seven killed

27 May 2024, 02:14

France New Caledonia
France New Caledonia. Picture: PA

The move hopes to create space for political dialogue with protesters in the wake of recent unrest.

French President Emmanuel Macron has decided to lift the state of emergency in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia in a move meant to allow political dialogue following the unrest that left seven people dead and a trail of destruction, his office said.

The president’s office said in a statement on Monday the state of emergency will not be extended “for the moment” and will end on Monday at 8pm in Paris or 5pm on Tuesday in New Caledonia.

The decision aims at “enabling meetings of the various components” such as the pro-independence movement Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS).

It also aims to give elected officials and other local leaders “in a position to call” to lift the barricades and meet with protesters, the statement said.

French president Emmanuel Macron arriving in to Noumea n La Tontouta International airport in New Caledonia
French President Emmanuel Macron at Noumea La Tontouta International airport in New Caledonia (Ludovic Marin/Pool Photo via AP)

Mr Macron repeatedly pushed for removing protesters’ barricades with leaders on both sides of New Caledonia’s bitter divide — Indigenous Kanaks, who want independence, and the pro-Paris leaders, who do not.

In the statement, he insisted it is “the necessary condition for the opening of concrete and serious negotiations”.

Mr Macron’s move came after he travelled to New Caledonia on Thursday.

The statement said 480 additional gendarmes will arrive on the archipelago “in the next few hours”, putting security reinforcements at more than 3,500. The seven people killed in shootings include two gendarmes.

Paris imposed a state of emergency on May 15 for at least 12 days to boost police powers. The emergency measures give authorities greater powers to tackle the violence, including the possibility of house detention for people deemed a threat to public order and expanded powers to conduct searches, seize weapons, and restrict movements, with possible jail time for violators.

This month’s unrest erupted as the French legislature in Paris debated amending the French constitution to change voter lists in New Caledonia.

New Caledonia
Police meet with the French president in riot-hit New Caledonia (Ludovic Marin/AP)

The leader of a pro-independence party in New Caledonia on Saturday called on supporters to “remain mobilised” across the French Pacific archipelago and “maintain resistance” against the Paris government’s efforts to impose electoral reforms that the Indigenous Kanak people fear would further marginalise them.

Christian Tein, the pro-independence party leader, the Field Action Co-ordination Unit, addressed supporters and protesters in a video message posted on social media.

In a separate statement, the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front called on Mr Macron to withdraw the electoral reform bill if France wants to “end the crisis”.

New Caledonia became French in 1853 under Emperor Napoleon III, Napoleon’s nephew and heir. It became an overseas territory after the Second World War, with French citizenship granted to all Kanaks in 1957.

By Press Association

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