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Explained: Why A Decision In Paris Has Seen Violence On The Streets Of New Caledonia

There’s been tension on the streets of Nouméa in New Caledonia as riots have hit this south Pacific island, where shops have been vandalised, streets blocked, tyres set on fire and roads barricaded. The violence here has so far taken at least 3 lives. Schools are shut and curfew has been imposed in an attempt to restore peace.

Mike Lightfoot, a tourist from New Zealand said he saw at least 150 people rioting on the way back to his hotel. “There were police around Nouméa itself in full riot gear, now I’m talking in the middle of the day, and then as the night progressed into the evening into night, things got progressively worse. The streets were on fire, they were rioting in the streets, quite a frightening experience actually.”


The reason behind what’s happening in New Caledonia is connected to what’s taken place over 10,000 km away in France. French lawmakers have approved changes to the voting rules of New Caledonia with 351 lawmakers voting in favour of the changes. Paris has maintained that these changes were needed so elections would be democratic in the country’s territory. New Caledonia, an archipelago of dozens of islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean, was officially annexed by France in 1853, and officially became an overseas territory of France in 1953

Riots took place in New Caledonia after the change in voting rules came up for a vote in Paris. The new rules will give voting rights to French people who have stayed on the island for 10 years. The indigenous Kanak people fear it will dilute the Kanak vote.


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French President Emmanuel Macron and his counterpart in New Caledonia Louis Mapou have appealed for calm and called for dialogue. France has deployed more police to help quell the violence. Speaking in the French National Assembly, French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said, “In New Caledonia, we know the heavy toll of violence. We know that it resolves nothing, that it leads to nothing. And I want to say it, I want to say it clearly. As I stated this morning, the violence is neither justifiable nor tolerable. Violence has never forced anyone’s hand, it has never allowed dialogue. And it is through dialogue and dialogue alone that we will find a global political solution for New Caledonia. Our priority today, our priority today, is returning to calm.”

President Macron has also said he will not rush to convene a special parliament session needed to give the final go-ahead for the voting changes.


As a part of the Nouméa Accord, New Caledonia held three referendums to decide on its independence from France. In the first 2 referendums held in 2018 and 2020, independence was rejected by 57% and 53%.

The last referendum held in New Caledonia in 2021 was largely boycotted by the pro-independence parties and saw a result of 96% rejecting the idea of independence.
In response to that referendum, Macron had said – France ‘is more beautiful because New Caledonia has decided to stay part of it’.

Now Paris has promised to invite representatives of both pro and anti-independence groups to Paris for talks, before a final sign-off on the voting changes.
Will that be enough to stop the violence in New Caledonia?