1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

New Caledonia: French marines deployed amid deadly unrest

May 18, 2024

Violence in New Caledonia turned deadly once again as clashes between protesters and security forces continue in the French Pacific territory.

French security official in riot gear looking out from armoured vehicle in Noumea, New Caledonia
A sixth person has died in unrest in New Caledonia as French soldiers and gendarmes continue to patrol the capital NoumeaImage: Delphine Mayeur/AFP

One person was killed on Saturday and two were injured in the latest violent incident in New Caledonia, as indigenous Kanak people continue their protest against changes to voting laws in the French Pacific territory.

This is the sixth death since rioting began earlier this week. .

Roadblocks and debris in Noumea, New Caledonia
Rioters set up roadblocks in protest of an electoral reform measure that would allow more people to vote in provincial electionsImage: Delphine Mayeur/AFP

What do we know about the unrest on Saturday?

The incident occurred in New Caledonia's northern Kaala-Gomen region, General Nicholas Mattheos was cited by the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency as saying.

French media reported that a man died after being shot when he tried to climb over barricades erected by protesters. His son and one Kanak were injured in the incident.

French police did not identify who was involved in the shooting.

Also on Saturday, hundreds of heavily armed French marines and gendarmes were seen patroling 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, said at a press conference that New Caledonia was experiencing logistical issues due to barricades and was struggling to distribute food and medicine.

French lawmakers spark riots in New Caledonia

What caused the rioting in New Caledonia?

Riots broke out on Tuesday after French lawmakers adopted a new bill allowing French residents who have lived in New Caledonia for at least 10 years to vote in provincial elections. Supporters of the territory's independence are concerned this will dilute the vote of the indigenous Kanak people.

On Wednesday, the French government imposed a state of emergency in New Caledonia after four people, including a French police officer, were killed during unrest.

Soldiers from the armed forces were deployed to secure the island's ports and the airport, and some 500 additional police officers were dispatched to assist the 1,800 already present in the territory.

An estimated 3,200 tourists have been stranded due to the closure of Noumea's international airport.

French officials have accused a separatist group known as CCAT of being behind the riots. Ten activists have been placed under house arrest, according to authorities.

New Caledonia has been ruled by France since it was colonized in the late 1800s. Indigenous Kanak people make up around 41% of the territory's population.

The territory voted to remain under French rule in 2018 and 2020, as well as in 2021 in a referendum that was largely boycotted by secessionists.

sdi/dj (AFP, Reuters, AP)