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16/05 • NEW CALEDONIA

  • May 16, 2024

Unrest in New Caledonia 

New Caledonia has seen violent protests erupt in response to proposed voting changes for provincial elections. Four people have died and hundreds have been injured over the last three days. 
The unrest is the latest flare-up in long-standing tensions between the indigenous Kanak population and residents of European descent over the territory's political status and its relationship with France. French president, Emmanuel Macron has declared a 12-day state of emergency and 1200 police reinforcements are en route from France to support the local gendamarie. 

The protests were sparked by discussions in the French parliament over a draft constitutional amendment that would allow recent arrivals to New Caledonia to vote in provincial elections. Currently, voting is restricted to indigenous Kanaks and migrants who resided in the territory before 1998 under the terms of the 1998 Nouméa Accorde  

Some Kanak leaders fear that expanding the electorate would dilute the voting power of the indigenous population, who have sought greater autonomy and even independence from France over decades of tensions. 

As parliament debated the proposed changes, protesters took to the streets, prompting authorities to shut down the international airport in the capital Nouméa, impose a curfew, and request additional police reinforcements from France. Businesses and vehicles were set alight amid the unrest. 

The latest turmoil comes after three referenda between 2018-2021 in which a majority of New Caledonians voted to remain a French territory, though the 2021 vote was boycotted by pro-independence groups citing the pandemic.   

France has sought to increase its influence in the strategic Indo-Pacific region, where New Caledonia lies at the heart of a geopolitically complex maritime area with competing interests from China and the United States. 

While not directly naming China, French President Emmanuel Macron has framed France's push in the Pacific as ensuring a "rules-based development" in the region. 

Human rights groups are likely monitoring the situation closely for any potential excessive use of force as authorities work to restore order amid the volatile political backdrop in New Caledonia. 

Prayer Points: 
For those caught up in the unrest which has forced schools, public services, and business to close and seen many panic-buying in shops. Commercial flights from Nouméa have also been cancelled leaving visitors stranded.
Pray for an end to violence and the safety of all including security staff, bystanders and protesters. 
Pray for peaceful resolution of the conflict through dialogue and negotiation between all parties involved. May wisdom, empathy and understanding find a just solution that respects the rights and grievances of all sides. For the wider geopolitical implications of this conflict. 
Pray that the Pacific would remain a place of peace and not an area to be fought over by world powers.


Click here for a printable version of Pray the News.

 

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