Emergency Declared In French Territory New Caledonia. Here’s Why

Emergency Declared In French Territory New Caledonia. Here’s Why

Apart from deploying troops in the area, the government hasalsobanned TikTok.

The French government has declared a state of emergency in New Caledonia, the semi-autonomous French Pacific territory, after three nights of deadly clashes resulted in four deaths and hundreds of injuries. Apart from deploying troops in the area, the government has also banned TikTok. 

After the clashes, streets were filled with debris from burned buildings and materials used in riots. Armoured vehicles were patrolling the now-empty streets, while locals set up makeshift roadblocks — made of wooden pallets, bedframes, wheelbarrows, tree fronds etc — out of fear. 

Why French government has declared emergency

The government’s declaration of an emergency comes after they initiated a “massive” mobilisation of security forces as an effort to restore order. French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced that troops were sent to secure ports and the international airport, which, for now, is closed to commercial flights.

The security forces responded by putting five suspected leaders under house arrest and planning house searches. Over 200 “rioters” were arrested, with reports of hundreds injured, including 64 police officers. TikTok was banned because it was used by rioters, with almost 20 related accounts identified by AFP.

France is creating an “air bridge” to quickly send troops, police reinforcements, and essential supplies to New Caledonia. French President Emmanuel Macron has offered to talk with New Caledonian lawmakers and urged them to engage in political conversations and negotiations to address the current situation.

Why the people of New Caledonia are protesting

The unrest stems from protests over a proposed amendment to the French Constitution that would impose new local voting rules in the Pacific archipelago. The violence erupted from pro-independence protests, largely led by indigenous groups, reports said. The clashes, including gunfire that claimed the life of a police officer, mark the deadliest violence seen in the region since the 1980s. 

New Caledonia, located between Australia and Fiji, remains under French control  but with a “special status”. While it rejected independence in past elections, many Kanak people, whose ancestors have lived on the islands for thousands of years, still support the idea.

As people protested on the streets, miles away, the French National Assembly voted to allow residents who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years to vote. However, this reform still needs approval from both houses of the French parliament. Pro-independence groups argued that this change would weaken the voting power of Kanaks, who make up about 41% of the population. On the other hand, supporters of the reform say that voter lists haven’t been updated since 1998, which leaves out newer residents from voting in provincial polls. 

What the state of emergency means

The state of emergency allows authorities to enforce travel bans, house arrests, and searches, along with a night curfew and bans on gatherings, weapon possession, and alcohol sales. Nearly 1,800 law enforcement officers are deployed, with 500 reinforcements planned, according to a French government spokeswoman.

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