New Nation in the Pacific
Author: Bradley Bigelow
Posted October 7th, 2020
A tiny archipelago in the South Pacific, New Caledonia held an important referendum last weekend on becoming an independent nation. The island nation of 270,000 people chose to remain a part of France on Sunday, with high voter turnout and a slim winner’s margin. French President Emmanuel Macron assured the independence movement after the results were in, saying “this is with you, all together, that we will build New Caledonia tomorrow.” Macron went on to say that France was facing its colonialist history head-on. The total count stated that 53.3% of the voters wanted to remain with France while the remaining 46.7 were in favor of breaking off and forming a new country. Although a narrow margin, this is not uncommon for the archipelago, with it’s last vote being 56.4% in favor of staying to 43.6% in favor of independence. Anti-independence leaders have stated the divisions in the country over this issue. Leaders in the pro-independence faction of the archipelago have vowed to keep fighting for their goal.
New Caledonia has a history with segregation and neocolonialism with France. It was once a former prison colony, brought under French control by Napoleon III. French citizenship was granted to the natives, known as the Kanaks, in 1957. The Kanaks, who are considered to be the main group striving for independence, and the rest of the populace have long been at fierce odds over which direction the country should go, although a peace deal was brokered in 1988.