France Deploys Army to New Caledonia Amid Widespread Riots

France has deployed army personnel to ports and the airport in New Caledonia, its Pacific Ocean overseas territory, amid a state of emergency and escalating violence. The unrest follows a controversial constitutional reform by the French government, which has been fiercely contested by pro-independence groups.

The decision to send troops comes after the outbreak of deadly riots, which have so far claimed the lives of at least four people, including one police officer. French armed forces have been seen engaged in confrontations with local protesters, with the situation in the countryside particularly precarious.

In response to the unrest, France has banned TikTok in New Caledonia to prevent the dissemination of riot footage. This move aims to curb the spread of incendiary content that could further inflame the situation.

The violence has sparked the emergence of ethnic French vigilante militias, who have taken up arms to patrol neighborhoods and protect businesses. These groups, which the New Caledonian high commissioner LeFranc describes as ‘self-defense’ units, have reportedly killed at least three individuals amid the chaos.

Complicating the situation is a significant online influence operation targeting France, with dozens of burner accounts drawing parallels between New Caledonia and Algeria’s decolonization history. While the primary source of this operation appears to be Azerbaijan, there are suspicions of involvement from other states, including China and Russia.

The turmoil follows France’s recent approval of a constitutional reform that would allow French residents to vote after only ten years of residency in New Caledonia. This decision has been met with strong opposition from native Kanak people, who fear it undermines their quest for independence.

The island, which rejected independence in three referenda, is now witnessing unprecedented levels of violence.

New Caledonia’s capital, Nouméa, has been described as being in a state of “some kind of civil war” by its mayor, with barricades erected throughout the territory and French forces struggling to maintain control. Despite being historically a retreat for French citizens, the current unrest highlights deep-seated tensions and the complexity of New Caledonia’s political landscape.

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