New Caledonia: situation still tense in the deserted streets of Nouméa

Deserted streets, where a few young people walk and where screams and sounds of detonations resonate: the population was cloistered on the evening of Tuesday May 14 in Nouméa, the “capital” of New Caledonia, subject to a curfew after a night of violence

New Caledonia: situation still tense in the deserted streets of Nouméa

Deserted streets, where a few young people walk and where screams and sounds of detonations resonate: the population was cloistered on the evening of Tuesday May 14 in Nouméa, the “capital” of New Caledonia, subject to a curfew after a night of violence.

Only a few people were still circulating in the streets before the curfew, some looking for one of the few businesses still open to get supplies, noted an Agence France-Presse (AFP) correspondent.

After its entry into force from 6 p.m. local time (9 a.m. in France), young people walk with their arms loaded with boxes resulting from the looting of businesses in Dumbéa, in the northern suburbs of Nouméa, where a butcher's shop burned down morning is conscientiously emptied. In the city, screams and explosions are incessant.

Looted stores, burned houses, shooting at the gendarmes: extremely violent clashes shook the night from Monday to Tuesday in the French Pacific archipelago, while the National Assembly examines in Paris a constitutional revision decried by the separatists .

The text aims to expand the electorate in provincial elections, crucial in the South Pacific archipelago. The separatists believe that this thaw risks “even further minimizing the indigenous Kanak people”.

Eighty-two arrests

For fear of a conflagration of the territory, the numbers of the gendarmerie intervention group (GIGN), the RAID, its equivalent for the police, four squadrons of mobile gendarmes and two sections of the CRS 8, a unit specialized in the fight against urban violence, were mobilized.

Seven gendarmerie squadrons are on site, compared to three to four normally, according to the gendarmerie. The police have made 82 arrests over the past two days, according to the latest report made public by the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin.

Despite the curfew, in effect until 6 a.m. local time, a group of men deployed in front of their homes on Tuesday to try to protect them and avoid the ransacking of the nearby supermarket. “We go out despite the curfew, we put out the fires around the roundabout, our homes are very close,” testifies one of them, who does not give his name.

“We are going through very difficult times. It’s shit, whether the reform of the electoral body passes or not,” he adds. The man prepares to “have a sleepless night.” “Even if we know,” he continues, disillusioned, “that we will not be able (…) to stop” the young rioters “if they arrive en masse.” On social networks, numerous images of burned businesses are circulating over and over, raising fears of the worst for an already tested New Caledonian economy.

Gabriel Attal called on Tuesday, during questions to the government, the political leaders of New Caledonia to “grasp [the] outstretched hand” of dialogue, confirming that the Congress of Parliament would not meet “immediately” after the vote on the constitutional bill decried by the separatists, leaving an interval for discussions. “The important thing is appeasement. The important thing is dialogue. The important thing is to build a common, political and global solution,” he added.