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May 17, 2024, 2:58pm EDT
securityOceania
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Semafor Signals

France sends more police to quell New Caledonia violence as civil war fears brew

Insights from Reuters, Politico, and The Guardian

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A damaged building is seen as rioters protest against plans to allow more people to take part in local elections in the French-ruled territory, which indigenous Kanak protesters reject, in Noumea, New Caledonia, May 15, 2024, in this picture obtained from social media.
Lilou Garrido Navarro Kherachi/via REUTERS
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The News

France deployed 1,000 more police officers Friday to try and restore peace in New Caledonia, where riots over a controversial electoral reform have killed at least five people, injured hundreds, and led to more than 200 arrests.

The French-controlled Pacific Ocean territory has been in a state of emergency over violent protests against a law passed by Paris that would allow continental French citizens living in New Caledonia for 10 years to vote in regional elections. The indigenous Kanak people that form 40% of New Caledonia’s population say the reform would dilute their vote.

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Kanak activists have pressed for independence from France for years, and the new wave of violence has raised concerns about a ”civil war,” as the French government’s representative in New Caledonia said.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

French police crackdown could boost China’s ambitions in the Pacific

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Source:  
Reuters

France’s excessive police actions in New Caledonia risk its ambition to counter China’s growing security ties in the Pacific. Paris fears that China could more easily influence an independent New Caledonia, but by sending hundreds of officers to stem protests on the island, France is instead “reigniting regional sensitivities over colonialism,” Reuters wrote. China is trying to court several Pacific islands into a security pact, including a group of former French colonies that backs a pro-independence political alliance in New Caledonia. France’s response to the riots could help China weaponize the colonial legacy of Western nations in the Pacific, an analyst told Reuters.

New Caledonia protests widen rift between France and Azerbaijan

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Sources:  
The Guardian, Politico

France has accused Azerbaijan of fanning the unrest in New Caledonia, highlighting the worsening relations between the two countries over French support of Baku’s bitter rival and neighbor, Armenia. France pointed to some protesters waving Azerbaijani flags; Baku has denied the allegations. But Azerbaijan’s ties to the Kanak pro-independence movement are ”clear and obvious,” the former president of the government of New Caledonia told Politico: A Baku group created last year aims to support “French liberation and anti-colonialist movements,” and the country is funding a Kanak pro-independence alliance.

France’s TikTok ban in New Caledonia worries press freedom activists

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Source:  
Politico

TikTok has been widely used by Kanak protesters to spread messages about sovereignty and coordinate demonstrations, leading Paris to block access to the app on Thursday, in the first move of its kind within the European Union, according to Politico. This move could “reinforce the abuse of internet shutdowns” in illiberal societies, a press freedom activist told Politico, and it heightens worries of a backsliding of media rights in Europe. EU leaders have been concerned by French President Emmanuel Macron’s support for internet blockades; he floated the idea during last year’s nationwide protests sparked by the police killing of a Muslim teenager. Regulating the internet is “a cultural and civilizational fight,” Macron said in April.

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