Nickel, guns and foreign powers: How France’s New Caledonia reached the brink of ‘civil war’ ( – May 16, 2024)

Violent protests have erupted in France’s South Pacific archipelago as decades-old tensions come to a head.

PARIS — Nickel-rich New Caledonia could have been France’s Eldorado. Instead, it has once again turned into a security time bomb. Ongoing violent protests in the French overseas territory in the South Pacific, which have already led to the death of five people around the Caledonian capital of Nouméa, have put the French government on high alert.

President Emmanuel Macron canceled several official events to hold emergency meetings, and declared a state of emergency giving the executive branch more powers to keep the situation under control. “The situation remains very tense,” French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal warned Thursday following a new emergency meeting, after the local representative for the French state said a “civil war” was imminent.

Protests against a proposed reform of the territory’s electoral body — which separatists say would weaken the representation of the indigenous Kanak population — have been fueled by deep economic turmoil on the remote tropical archipelago.

The French government has placed some of the blame on foreign powers, mainly Azerbaijan, who have formed ties with the separatists. But political tensions combined with economic misery is a more likely explanation.

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