As a country located in Oceania defined by
New Caledonia was inhabited by the Melanesians (Canucks)
3,000 years ago. The English Captain James Cook gave it
the name New Caledonia in 1774 because it, with its
wooded hills, resembled Scotland, called by the Romans
for Caledonia. The main island of the archipelago was
occupied in 1853 by the French navy, who armed a local
militia to defeat the frequent revolts. The extraction
of nickel and chromium attracted thousands of French
immigrants. The religious, artisanal and organizational
traditions of the indigenous people were suppressed and
many of the indigenous people gathered in "reserves".
Terrace farms that had been built up over the centuries
had to give way to cattle farming. The last armed
uprising was crushed in 1917 and did nothing but
accelerate Europeans 'confiscation of the indigenous
The colonization process intensified after Algeria's
independence because thousands of pieds-noirs
(French extreme right-wing colonists) applied for Kanaky.
The country had gained the status of overseas French
territory in 1946, but local political autonomy did not
benefit the indigenous people who had become a minority
towards the immigrant European population.
When Francois Mitterrand was elected president in
1981, it strengthened hopes among the independence
parties. The French socialist president was supported by
a majority of Kanaki's people who were striving for
independence, hoping for a more equitable distribution
of the country's income. Pr. Capita income was then $
7,000 a year - the highest in the Pacific except Naurú -
but in reality it was concentrated among European
business people and among European immigrants.
The Canucks formed the basis of the independence
movement. They lived in miserable conditions, were
predominantly unemployed, discriminated against, lived
in «reserves» and had access to only 10% of the arable
During the 1970's, the independence movement grew
strong. It carried out strikes, occupied lands,
organized cooperatives and a widespread campaign for the
return of the lands which the French settlers had
confiscated from the indigenous population -
predominantly to use the land for cattle farming. In
this way, the independence movement fundamentally
questioned the colonial system and the economic
structures the colonial power had developed. The
independence movement also worked for the
salvation of traditional culture - la coutume -
and the identity of the Canucks, while opposing
the intrusion of luxury tourism into the indigenous
territories - organized byClub Mediterranean.
The claims of the Canucks were supported by the
surrounding Melanesian independent states: Fiji,
Solomon, Papua New Guinea and especially Vanuatu. This
support came, among other things. emerged during the
South Pacific Forum in August 1981. A month later, the
leader of the independence movement, Pierre Declercq,
was murdered in his house by the extreme right wing,
which further compounded the political crisis. Declercq
was Catholic and of European origin.
It should not be a surprise that France was reluctant
to give the country its independence when taking into
account that Kanaky has the world's second largest
deposits of nickel and also has significant reserves of
chromium, iron, cobalt, manganese and polymetallic
nodules there recently. has been discovered in the
sea off the islands.
But Kanaky also has military strategic importance.
Its ports, installations and bases (where 6,000 French
soldiers are stationed as well as a nuclear submarine)
are considered by the French command as a "vital support
point" for Mururoa, where France carries out its nuclear
test blasts, and Kuru from which special missions are
In July 1984, the French National Assembly decided to
grant the colony a special form of autonomy, but at the
same time rejected the demands for independence. This
merely reaffirmed the Canucks' presumptions that the
Socialist French government had no intention of granting
the country its independence. In November, the country's
main opposition force, Kanaky's Socialist National
Liberation Front (FLNKS), declared it would boycott the
elections for the Local Assembly. This election was
merely intended to postpone Kanaky's independence
When the local government in December 1984 was
completely in the hands of the French immigrants, the
FLNKS unilaterally proclaimed Kanaky's independence and
the creation of a Canak state. The boycott was followed
by 80% of the Canucks, forcing the government to cancel
the election results and convene negotiations.
Immediately after the French government declared its
willingness to discuss Kanaki's independence with the
FLNKS, on December 5, 1984, 10 Kanak activists were
brutally murdered by French ultra-right-wing immigrants.
This ushered in a violent period that stretched through
most of 1985, costing 40 lives and thousands of wounded
among the Canaanite independence activists. The security
forces sent by the French government to bring the
situation under control quickly turned out to have links
to the criminal acts and the assaults on the
After the FLNKS obtained a clear majority in the
local parliamentary elections in September 1986, the UN
General Assembly in December declared that the Kanaki
people were entitled to self-determination and
independence, and at the same time recommended the
recognition of FLNKS as the people's rightful
The following year, a referendum was held to
determine whether relations with the colonial power
should be maintained. The European immigrants who had
spent up to 3 years in the country also participated in
the vote. This prompted FLNKS to call for a boycott of
the vote. It was boycotted by 41.5% of voters, prompting
the opposition and governments in Australia and New
Zealand to declare that the vote was insignificant as an
indicator of continued affiliation with the colonial
In May 1988, FLNKS took 22 French gendarmes hostage.
The purpose was to negotiate their release as part of an
agreement with the French government that might be
deployed after the upcoming elections. However, the
action failed and the French attacked the island of Uvéa.
An attack that cost 19 lives - most of them executed.
Locals denounced that French troops carried out raids,
torture and other human rights abuses.
In June 1988, FLNKS President Jean-Marie Tjibaou and
Jacques Lafleur in Paris signed the first paragraph of
the Matignon Agreement in the presence of French Prime
Minister Michel Rocard. Lafleur was the leader of the
so-called Caledonian People's Alliance for the Republic
(RPCR), which fiercely opposes independence. From July,
Paris assumed direct government responsibility for
Kanaky. Section 2 of the agreement laid down the
conditions for preparing a referendum on self-government
in 1998, as well as freezing the electoral rolls to
prevent France from continuing to undermine power by
sending new settlers to the country.
The country was divided into 3 regions, of which 2
had a majority of Kanak. One of the purposes of this
administrative division was the development of a
political and financial Melanesian "elite" to exercise
the power in most of the country. Other sections of the
agreement dealt with increased financial assistance from
Paris over the following 10 years.
In an initial vote the same year, the agreement was
ratified. But in May 1989, Tjibaou and another central
independence leader who advocated the Matignon agreement
were assassinated in Ouvéa.
In 1991, the trade balance was affected by the
decline in prices of nickel and fish in international
markets. In the two provinces led by the independence
movement, a new generation of leaders developed, but the
situation for the majority of the Melanesian population
deteriorated. The inequality in income among Melanesians
increased and the increased access to consumer goods for
some groups led them to distance themselves from their
community structures and traditions.
Social inequality also increased among the immigrant
French population - predominantly in the capital Nouméa.
Not only because of the arrival of Melanesian farmers
who built slums on the outskirts of the city, but also
because of the poverty of some immigrant sectors. The
rising social tensions led to ever more clashes.
The political consequences of these new social
contradictions were reflected in the provincial
elections in 1995. One of the FLNKS member
organizations, Palika, compiled its own lists and
criticized the work of the front in the two provinces
controlled by the independence movement. Both sectors
received roughly equal votes.
In the professional field, the increasing inequality
meant that many French immigrant workers joined the
trade union of Kanaki's Exploited Workers (USTKE). This
organization is not only the main "enemy" of employers,
but also criticizes the "technocrats" who lead the
The independence movement of nickel extraction in the
northern province produced good results in the first
years, which provided the basis for cooperation with the
French mining company Falconbridge, but the independence
movement's attempt to build a nickel processing plant
ran into trouble when the state-owned French mining
company, SLN-Eramet launched similar plans. In protest,
FLNKS sympathizers blocked access to installations
controlled by France.
Efforts on independence for Kanaky changed character
in 1998 as FLNKS and Paris negotiated a common basis for
an agreement to replace the planned referendum. The
coexistence of two different systems - the Kanaky
culture and the French colonial system - is the most
difficult to solve. The Canucks want their culture and
traditional civil organization to be respected by the
French. The Numea agreement stipulates the transfer of
competence, which within a time frame of 15-20 years
must give areas almost complete independence. At the
same time, the agreement meant that Canacs and the
native French population must share common citizenship
and that France would take on the "blame" for the
In November, a referendum was held to ratify the
Numea agreement. It received support from 69.14% of
voters. In December, legislation was passed implementing
the Numea agreement. On December 23, the National
Assembly could adopt the bill for the creation of the
new country. It envisages the creation of new
institutions and the "progressive" transfer of
competence to the new state.
In July 1999, Thierry Lataste was appointed High
Commissioner for the island. In 2001, J. Pierre Frogier
was appointed head of government.
At the end of 2002, a demonstration was held
demanding the suspension of mining operations. The
protesters demanded a permit for the extraction of
nickel in Prony, which the French authorities had given
the company Goro Nickel, withdrawn. The construction
site was subject to blockade and Goro Nickel
subsequently decided to pull his employees out of Kanaky
and suspend the investigation.
In 2002-03, environmental activists in Kanaky
conducted a campaign to declare the coral reefs around
the island for UNESCO protected areas.
The 2004 election victory of the opponents of
independence, the Avenir ensemble (whose members are
predominantly European and Melanesian) put an end to the
RPCR's hegemony. This party is also against
independence, but was considered the voice of the white
Caledonians. The change of power was therefore taken to
mean that the Kanak community is characterized by more
In July 2005, Michel Mathieu was appointed High
Marie-Noëlle Thémereau was elected President of the
Government Council in 2004, but resigned in July 2007.
The government was automatically dissolved and its
members formed a provisional government instead.
Philippe Gomès of the loyalist party, the Calédonie
Ensemble was appointed chairman of the Cabinet in June
2009. The Calédonie Ensemble had been shelled from the
Avenir Ensemble the year before. Avenir Ensemble is a
party that predominantly represents the white and
Melanesian population and who are against independence.
The traditional French-oriented party is RPCR, which at
the same time is considered highly corrupt. While the
RPCR is decidedly racist and regards the white
population as superhuman, the Avenir Ensemble is
inclusive and considers both whites and canoes as
equals, but at the same time it wants to maintain the
colony ties to France. Opponents of independence got a
total of 57.5% of the vote while supporters gained
38.2%. In agreement with the UN, a vote on independence
must be conducted at some point between 2014 and 18.
In July 2010, a Canadian flag was introduced next to
the French. Kanaky thus became the first country in the
world with 2 national flags.
In August 2011, French President Nicolas Sarkozy
visited the country for the first time. It happened a
few weeks after rising airfares had led to protests that
cost 4 Canucks lives. There were no concessions from the
French president who called the protesters' blockade of
an airport too unscrupulous.
Philippe Germain was inaugurated as new Prime
Minister on 1 April 2015. The post had then been vacant
for 100 days after former Prime Minister Cynthia Ligeard.
The election was delayed because of the difficulty in
appointing a prime minister and a deputy prime minister
who should have the support of both independence
supporters and supporters of continued colonial status
under France - in accordance with the Nouméa agreement.
Germain eventually got the support of the independence
supporters and could therefore be elected, prompting the
counter-candidate Cynthia Ligeard to accuse him of
"treason." It came to new political clashes between the
two when he fired her staff as prime minister and 2
ministers. The fired were subsequently reinstated in
their offices following a court decision.
In November 2017, French Prime Minister Édouard
Philippe hosted a meeting that laid the groundwork for
conducting a 2018 referendum on Kanaky's independence.
The meeting was within the framework of the 1998 Noumea
agreement, which foresaw a 20-year handover of
increasing authorizations to the French colony.