The French Pacific territory of New Caledonia entered its fourth consecutive day of riots and civic unrest on Friday as local citizens violently protest new voting reforms, prompting France to declare a state of emergency and deploy additional security forces. As French military personnel work to quell the uprisings that have already killed five people and injured hundreds more, government officials are tightening restrictions on social media apps and blaming outside influence from Azerbaijan and Russia for instigating the conflict.

The French Pacific territory of New Caledonia entered its fourth day of riots as citizens violently protest new voting reforms passed by France.
(AP Graphic)

The violence in New Caledonia, a small archipelago east of Australia that has been controlled by France since 1853, began earlier this week when the French government passed legislation to extend voting rights in the territory to all citizens who have lived there for more than 10 years. Among local political factions that campaign for the territory to become independent, this move has been seen as a way to dilute the electoral power of the indigenous Kanak people.

Initial clashes between angry anti-French protesters and local police quickly grew into large-scale violence, resulting in the deaths of three Kanaks and at least two police officers. By Thursday night, 214 people had been arrested and dozens were injured amid a rash of looting and arson. French media outlets report that cars, factories, homes, and at least one police station have been burned, and gun violence is increasing.

(AP Photo/Nicolas Job)
(AP Photo/Nicolas Job)

In response to the riots, the French government has declared a state of emergency, implemented a curfew through the end of the week, and deployed additional military units to protect critical infrastructure.

Learn the benefits of becoming a Valuetainment Member and subscribe today!

First reported by POLITICO, French authorities have also banned TikTok in New Caledonia to disrupt protesters’ ability to coordinate their activities online.

“No violence will be tolerated,” French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal has said, insisting the draconian measures will “allow us to roll out huge efforts to restore order.”

POLITICO further reported that France suspects a “foreign hand” influencing the protests, specifically interested parties in Azerbaijan and Russia. Relations between France and Azerbaijan have cratered in recent years given French military support for Azerbaijan’s longtime rival Armenia. The Azerbaijani government has repeatedly accused France of being a “colonialist state” and actively backs separatist movements in 14 French territories.

Azerbaijan has also endorsed independence for the Kanak people and called for the native population to have “the right to self-determination.” However, the government of the country has denied any actual involvement in the ongoing protests.

“Instead of accusing Azerbaijan of allegedly supporting pro-independence protests in New Caledonia, the Minister of the Interior of France should focus on his country’s failed policy towards the overseas territories that led to such protests,” Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Aykhan Hajizada stated.

Nevertheless, French officials suspect that the South Caucasus country is instigating the violence. “This isn’t a fantasy,” French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said on Thursday. “I regret that some of the separatists have made a deal with Azerbaijan.”

Another anonymous French source told POLITICO that Russia has also been implicated in spreading the anti-colonial narrative and inciting violence.

Connor Walcott is a staff writer for Follow Connor on X and look for him on VT’s “The Unusual Suspects.”

Add comment