New Caledonia, Oceania
As a country located in Oceania defined by Countryaah, 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 peoples’ lands.
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 land
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 made.
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 indefinitely.
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 independence movement.
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 representative.
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 power.
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 autonomous provinces.
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 colonial era.
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 profound changes.
In July 2005, Michel Mathieu was appointed High Commissioner.
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.