New Caledonia: Macron Declares State of Emergency After Riots

Rebellion erupts after constitutional reform: local leaders fear it could diminish the importance of the indigenous vote

As of Tuesday, May 14, a state of emergency will come into effect in New Caledonia after riots rocked the Pacific Archipelago, a French territory east of Australia that Paris annexed in 1853 and to which it granted overseas territory status in 1946.

The protests were triggered by a constitutional reform that was contested by part of the population because it would reduce indigenous autonomy. Specifically, the reform would allow French residents, living in New Caledonia for 10 years, to vote in local elections, which local leaders say would make it less important and “onerous” for indigenous Kanak to vote.

The riot caused various acts of vandalism: burning of buildings, looting of stores, and the deaths of four people.

French President Emmanuel Macron therefore decided to act by declaring a state of emergency, placing some people under house arrest, banning TikTok, and sending law enforcement to the main island, where the police force contingent will increase from 1700 to 2700, including even some military personnel, to help regain control of the situation.

“An air bridge between France and the territory will allow for the rapid transfer of internal security forces, civilian and military reinforcements, and equipment to meet the basic needs of the population,” the French government said in a statement.

The measures in place include a ban on all meetings in the municipalities of Grand Nouméa, a ban on carrying and transportation of weapons, as well as a ban on the sale of alcohol, and the closure of La Tontouta airport to commercial flights.