New Caledonia | Fragile return to calm before Macron’s arrival

(Nouméa) French President Emmanuel Macron is on his way to New Caledonia on Wednesday, more than a week after the start of unprecedented violence in 40 years in the French archipelago in the South Pacific, where the situation is “calmer” according to authorities.

This surprise visit was announced Tuesday in the Council of Ministers, at a time when demands are increasing to postpone the reform of the electoral body which caused more than a week of riots in the territory colonized by France in the 19th century.e century.

Emmanuel Macron took off Tuesday early evening according to the Élysée and must arrive Thursday morning (local time) in the territory to set up a “mission” there, specified government spokesperson Prisca Thevenot, without detailing its composition or goals.

In the metropolitan area of ​​the capital, Nouméa, the night from Tuesday to Wednesday “was calmer than the previous one despite two fires,” the High Commission of the Republic said in a press release.

The State representative in the archipelago, Louis Le Franc, announced the sending of additional troops to quell the violence shaking the archipelago, in reaction to a constitutional reform decried by the separatists.

Its services announced on X the arrest of 22 people on Tuesday and the installation of permanent reinforcements in three districts of the Nouméa metropolitan area.

In a wealthy district of Nouméa spared by the riots, Jean, 57, has been taking turns for a week with his neighbors on a barricade intended to prevent possible intrusions.

The president’s arrival is “good news”, he believes: “The situation is completely blocked, we must hope that this will allow people to calm down, that a way out will be found.”

New Caledonia suffered a “cyber attack of unprecedented force” on Tuesday which has since been “stopped”, the Caledonian government announced on Wednesday, facts which occurred “shortly after” the announcement by President Emmanuel Macron of his arrival on the French archipelago.

“Last night we suffered a cyber attack of unprecedented force in New Caledonia since an access provider [à internet] suffered an attack from the outside on an IP address with the aim of saturating the Caledonian network,” explained Christopher Gygès, member (The Loyalists) of the local collegial government, at a press conference.

Since then, he said, “teams from the State and the OPT (post and telecommunications office) have managed to stop this attack before there was significant damage”.

“White flags”

Nine days after the start of the most serious violence affecting the archipelago in almost 40 years, the situation remains precarious and entire neighborhoods remain almost inaccessible and prey to rioters.

On Wednesday morning, fires were visible in several sectors of the agglomeration of 170,000 inhabitants, including the industrial zone of Ducos, noted an AFP journalist.

It is “much too early” to make an overall assessment of the damage, because there are still neighborhoods where the agents do not go, indicated the administration of the city of Nouméa. According to her, two schools and 300 vehicles from a dealership went up in smoke during the night.

Since the start of the violence, six people have been killed, including two mobile gendarmes, whose remains were brought back to France on Monday.

Since the start of the riots on May 13, 84 representatives of the police have been injured, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said on Tuesday. The police made 276 arrests, 248 of which led to police custody, he said a little later.

While the specter of a shortage of food and medicine looms over the Nouméa metropolitan area, Mr. Le Franc assured that 21 supermarkets had reopened “and are gradually being replenished”.

The exceptional measures of the state of emergency are still in force, namely the nighttime curfew, the ban on gatherings, the transport of weapons and the sale of alcohol and the ban on the TikTok application .

Seized by defenders of freedoms, the Council of State (highest French administrative authority) granted an additional 24 hours to the government on Tuesday to justify the blocking of the social network and provide proof of the role attributed to it by the authorities in the riots.

A sign of the difficulty in regaining control of the security situation, the international airport of the French archipelago announced that it would remain closed to commercial flights until Saturday morning.

Around a hundred tourists were evacuated, the High Commissioner said on Wednesday. Australia and New Zealand in particular have chartered flights to repatriate their hundreds of nationals stranded in the French archipelago.

“We don’t give up”

Around 400 businesses and businesses have suffered damage in Nouméa and neighboring towns since the start of the riots.

At the dams, the mobilization does not seem to be weakening despite the massive deployment of security forces.

For their part, the main non-independence figures of the archipelago, gathered at a press conference in Nouméa on Tuesday, called for continuing the examination of the contested constitutional reform, which must be adopted before the end of June.

Its withdrawal would be “a very serious error” which would “prove the thugs, the looters and the rioters right”, asserted the deputy for New Caledonia, Nicolas Metzdorf.

However, calls have multiplied, from all political sides and even the loyalist mayor of Nouméa, to demand a postponement of this reform, which would have the consequence of marginalizing the voices of the indigenous Kanak community, according to the separatists.

The South Pacific territory is strategic for France which wants to strengthen its influence in Asia-Pacific and due to its rich nickel resources, a mineral essential for the manufacture of electric vehicles.

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