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Violence in New Caledonia

Violence in New Caledonia: One Dead, Two Injured Amid Protests Over Voting Law Changes

Noumea, New Caledonia, May 18, 2024, The Europe Today: One person was killed and two others were injured on Saturday in the latest violent incident in New Caledonia, as indigenous Kanak people continue their protests against recent changes to voting laws in the French Pacific territory. This marks the sixth fatality since rioting began earlier this week.

The incident occurred in the northern Kaala-Gomen region. According to General Nicholas Mattheos, cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP), a man was shot and killed while attempting to climb over barricades erected by protesters. His son and a Kanak individual were injured in the incident. French police have not yet identified who was involved in the shooting.

Amid the unrest, hundreds of heavily armed French marines and gendarmes have been seen patrolling the capital, Noumea. Residents reported hearing gunfire and massive explosions overnight, according to AFP.

Vaimu’a Muliava, a minister in the territory’s devolved government, stated at a press conference that New Caledonia is facing logistical challenges due to the barricades, hindering the distribution of food and medicine.

Riots erupted on Tuesday following the adoption of a new bill by French lawmakers, allowing French residents who have lived in New Caledonia for at least ten years to vote in provincial elections. Supporters of the territory’s independence fear that this change will dilute the voting power of the indigenous Kanak people.

In response to the unrest, the French government imposed a state of emergency in New Caledonia on Wednesday after four people, including a French police officer, were killed. Soldiers have been deployed to secure the island’s ports and airport, and an additional 500 police officers have been dispatched to support the 1,800 already present in the territory.

The riots have stranded an estimated 3,200 tourists due to the closure of Noumea’s international airport. French officials have accused the separatist group CCAT of orchestrating the riots, placing ten activists under house arrest.

New Caledonia, which has been under French rule since its colonization in the late 1800s, has a population that is approximately 41% indigenous Kanak. The territory voted to remain under French control in referendums held in 2018, 2020, and 2021, the latter of which was largely boycotted by secessionists.