Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation

The most credible news source in Barbados

Smoke rises in the distance in Noumea, France's Pacific territory of New Caledonia, on May 20. French President Emmanuel Macron is on his way to New Caledonia after a week of deadly unrest in the Pacific archipelago. (Theo Rouby/AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

Macron heads to violence-hit French territory

May 22, 2024

By Edward Szekeres and Alex Stambaugh, CNN

(CNN) — French President Emmanuel Macron is on his way to New Caledonia, a government official has said, after a week of deadly unrest in the Pacific archipelago.

Macron was leaving Paris on Tuesday night and will “set up a mission” in the French territory, government spokesperson Prisca Thevenot told a press conference, without giving further details.

He will be accompanied by Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu, and Overseas Minister Marie Guévenoux, Darmanin told the National Assembly.

New Caledonia has been roiled by riots sparked by electoral changes from the national government. The unrest has killed at least six people, and has left a trail of burned cars and looted shops, with road barricades restricting access to medicine and food.

The violence is the latest outburst of political tensions that have simmered for years and pitted the island’s largely pro-independence indigenous Kanak communities – who have long chafed against rule by Paris – against French inhabitants opposed to breaking ties with their motherland.

Macron’s visit comes as Australia and New Zealand deploy government planes to evacuate their nationals from New Caledonia and as hundreds more French security personnel have been deployed to assist in the unrest.

France’s High Commission of New Caledonia said Tuesday the airport remains closed for commercial flights until May 25.

Thevenot said Tuesday that 1,000 more members of French security forces have arrived in New Caledonia to support the 1,700 personnel already on the island. Darmanin also told the French legislature the number of police and gendarmes in New Caledonia would soon reach 3,000.

Also speaking to France’s National Assembly, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said Tuesday “the situation is starting to improve.”

Protests began May 13 involving mostly young people, in response to the tabling of a vote in the French parliament proposing changes to New Caledonia’s constitution that would give greater voting rights to French residents living on the islands. On Tuesday, legislators voted overwhelmingly in favor of the change.

The proposed changes to the constitution add thousands of extra voters to New Caledonia’s electoral rolls, which have not been updated since the late 1990s. Pro-independence groups say the changes are an attempt by France to consolidate its rule over the archipelago. Supporters of the change say voter rolls will better reflect the current population.

Lying in the South Pacific with Australia, Fiji and Vanuatu for neighbors, New Caledonia is a semiautonomous French territory — one of a dozen scattered throughout the Pacific, Caribbean and Indian Ocean.

Colonial France took control of New Caledonia in 1853. White settlement followed and the indigenous Kanak people were longtime victims of harsh segregation policies. Many indigenous inhabitants continue to live with high rates of poverty and high unemployment to this day.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

About The Author

Share this!