Riots in New Caledonia: what is this vast operation “with more than 600 gendarmes” launched this Sunday by Gérald Darmanin ?

The French state launched this Sunday, May 19, 2024, a vast law enforcement operation in its South Pacific archipelago of New Caledonia to clear the route to the airport, after six dead in six days of riots against electoral reform.

This operation "with more than 600 gendarmes" aims "to regain complete control of the 60 km main road between Nouméa and the airport", announced the French Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin in a message on X.

"Ready to take off"

An emergency for the authorities, especially since New Zealand announced this Sunday that it had asked France to be able to land planes, in order to repatriate its nationals.

"We are ready to take off, and are awaiting authorization from the French authorities to know when these flights can take place safely“, Foreign Minister Winston Peters said in a statement.

In the absence of flights to and from New Caledonia, suspended since Tuesday May 14, the government of the archipelago estimated on Saturday that 3,200 people were stranded, either because ;they could not leave the archipelago, either because they could not join it.

Nearly 230 rioters arrested

To clear the road to the airport, a convoy made up in particular of armored vehicles and construction equipment left Nouméa, initially towards Païta.

But AFP journalists noted that this Sunday at midday in Nouméa and in the surrounding towns, separatists were still filtering the passage through numerous roadblocks made of stones, ;rsquo;various machines or other objects, depending on the vehicles that presented themselves: "We are ready to go to the end, otherwise what good ?", a protester told AFP at a roadblock in Tamoa.

The violence left six dead, the latest on Saturday afternoon, a Caldoche (Caledonian of European origin) in Kaala-Gomen, in the North province. The other five dead are two gendarmes and three Kanak civilians, in the Nouméa metropolitan area.

In a press release on Sunday morning, the High Commission of the Republic in New Caledonia, however, reported a quieter night "60~ /em>", emphasizing that the State was mobilizing: "In total, 230 rioters were arrested " in almost a week, he said.

Curfew maintained

The exceptional measures of the state of emergency are maintained, namely the curfew between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. (7 a.m. and 7 p.m. GMT), the ban on gatherings, the transport of weapons and the sale of alcohol, and the banning of the TikTok application.

A sign of a situation that could last, the passage of the Olympic flame through New Caledonia scheduled for June 11 has been canceled.

The French authorities hope that the state of emergency in force since Thursday will reduce the violence, which began on Monday after mobilization against an electoral reform contested by representatives of the indigenous people kanak, who fear a reduction in their electoral weight.

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