New Caledonia unrest: Nouméa burning, shooting, looting like ‘some kind of civil war’

Analysis – The situation in New Caledonia, especially Nouméa, remained tense throughout Tuesday, with scenes of burning, shooting and looting in hot points of the capital and its surroundings.

French High Commissioner Louis Le Franc early Tuesday confirmed a 48-hour ban on weapons and ammunition, as well as on the sale of alcohol.

But now a 48-hour dusk-to-dawn (6pm to 6am) curfew has also been imposed, as well as a ban on all public meetings within the Greater Nouméa Area, Le Franc told reporters on Tuesday during a press conference, adding significant security reinforcements were on their way to the French Pacific territory.

Roadblocks erected in several roundabout access points leading to Nouméa were still the scenes of severe clashes in a kind of guerrilla-like urban war, involving gunfire and tear gas, despite some 700 security forces agents already being deployed on the ground, in Nouméa alone, Le Franc conceded.

“I am once again asking the leaders of pro-independence political groups to do everything in their power and tell those youths who are terrorising the population in the Greater Nouméa Area to stop immediately,” he said.

French High Commissioner Louis Le Franc holds a press conference on Tuesday 14 May 2024

“If it doesn’t happen this way, taking into account the extreme violence (involved) and the use of firearms, there will be deaths,” he once again cautioned.

“The risk is to go back to a period some of you have lived, in the 1984-1988 years”, a civil war that erupted with a backdrop of pro-independence struggle and that could only be ended with the signing of the 1988 Matignon Accord.

Tens of people had been killed during that time.

“When you are running towards the edge of the cliff, there’s always time to stop. However, this looks like we’re heading straight in this direction,” Le Franc added.

Throughout Monday night, Nouméa was the scene of local businesses being set on fire by groups of young people Le Franc described as “very aggressive”, “out of control”, “armed” and sometimes “inebriated”.

Public transport and taxis in Nouméa have remained inoperative on Tuesday.

A refrigeration Société Le Froid factory burning in Nouméa’s industrial zone of Ducos

Yamaha dealership destroyed by fire

Burnt vehicles at the Renault dealership in Magenta district, Nouméa

Burnt out cars in New Caledonia on 14 May, 2024.

According to French police, some 35 officers were injured at various levels and close to 80 people were arrested.

On Tuesday, during the daytime, schools, public administrations businesses and shops have chosen to remain closed.

There were also scenes of looting on the part of some of the participating groups.

Scenes of looting at a supermarket in the Auteuil district of Nouméa on Tuesday

‘Some sort of civil war’ – Nouméa Mayor

Speaking at the same press conference on Tuesday, Nouméa Mayor Sonia Lagarde shared a gloomy assessment of the situation, saying the prospect of “some sort of civil war” was now becoming very real.

She urged individuals not to take the law into their own hands.

“I’m calling for calm on both sides. I don’t know if I’ll be heard, but I am calling on everyone not to give in to provocation. I know this can be frustrating, it is tempting, but I believe everyone should calm down,” she exhorted.

“Is this under control? It looks to me that it has even escaped the hands of those CCAT leaders,” Lagarde said.

CCAT is a self-styled “Field Coordination and Action Committee” that was revived a few months ago by Union Calédonienne (UC), one of the main components of pro-independence front FLNKS.

“They have bred a monster and we have no idea where this monster is going to go (…) I am calling for calm,” she pleaded.

CCAT leader Christian Tein told pro-independence Radio Djiido he had called for those youths to “go easy”.

“CCAT has never called them to engage in looting (…) We are a responsible organisation,” he pleaded.

French High Commissioner Louis Le Franc said on Tuesday he believed Tein was “responsible for all that happens at the moment”.

He said he was contemplating taking him before the courts.

CCAT action group leader Christian Tein during a previous march

Leaders have also called on the whole population for calm, in light of clashes that have started to surface between pro-independence demonstrators and civilian groups of pro-French residents.

Both sides were reported to be armed.

“(New) Caledonians are starting to lose patience. I think we can talk of an extremely well-organised guerrilla. What we see is trained youths. We’re going to reach a sort of civil war,” Lagarde assessed.

Ghost of civil war resurfaces

“We’re quite anxious, we have kids. We’re trying to protect ourselves from the assault we’ve heard about. We also hear of unbearable things.

“If we form a group, several dozens, maybe we’ll be able to form a front in case of assault,” a Nouméa suburbs resident told public media Nouvelle-Calédonie la Première.

In one district of Nouméa, La Coulée, water pipes have been ruptured by members of the rioting groups.

There have also been reports of elderly people being rescued from their burning residence.

All flights to and from Nouméa-La Tontouta international airports were also cancelled throughout Tuesday.

In the industrial zones of Ducos and Normandie, firemen were still trying to extinguish several fires that had been lit overnight.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

Related News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button