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  • New Caledonia
  • David Chappell (bio)

The "post-colonial" process of nation building continued in Kanaky/New Caledonia in 2005, as the new government elected in May 2004 entered its second year. The political stars of Avenir Ensemble (AE, or Future [End Page 399] Together) and Palika-UNI (Parti de Liberation Kanak plus the rump Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste, or FLNKS) rose, relative to the stars of Jacques Lafleur and his Rassemblement pour la Calédonie dans la République (RPCR) and the pro-independence Union Calédonienne (UC), though the minority AE government (only 16 out of 54 seats in Congress) had to share power in the cabinet and thus continue nurturing a case-by-case consensus in order to pass local "laws of the country." Moreover, contentious issues remained unresolved, such as creating a local citizenship, protecting local hiring, restricting the electorate on important votes, and balancing economic development with much-needed social programs. The struggles over increasing nickel exports in the North and South provinces, in the face of militant labor strikes and Kanak customary and/or environmental protests, often disrupted the country.

In January, supporters of independence organized a three-day commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the assassination by French sharpshooters of Eloi Machoro and Marcel Nonaro in La Foa. Both are regarded as martyrs in the FLNKS uprising of 1984–85, though the French State and loyalist settlers called them terrorists. At the opening of a new sociocultural hall in Canala named after Machoro, Jean Pierre Pouperon of the organizing committee said the event expressed both a duty to remember and a message of unity. The organizers hoped to show that Machoro and Nonaro were fighting for justice and freedom, both for the indigenous Kanak and for other ethnic groups exploited by French colonialism. Because of post-1980s divisions in the FLNKS, the organizers wanted to remind people of the need for solidarity in order to achieve the "common destiny" proposed by the 1998 Noumea Accord. Palika spokesman Sylvain Pabouty argued that Machoro, who smashed a ballot box in a famous incident in November 1984 and then conducted an active rural struggle to recover stolen lands, had helped to unify the Kanak movement on the ground, shake up the colonial system, and internationalize the independence struggle by attracting more support abroad, culminating in the United Nations' inscription of the territory on its decolonization list in 1986. Jean-Paul Caillard, another activist, said that the FLNKS revolt had forced France to create three provinces, so that Kanak leaders could govern the North and Islands provinces—a success that "saved the existence of a people"—and that individual democratic rights, which had once been used as a colonial weapon against collective indigenous liberation, now served decolonization instead (KOL, 13 Jan, 17 Jan 2005).

The local branch of the League of the Rights of Man, led by Kanak activist Elie Poigoune, held several colloquia during the year to encourage public discussion on important issues. In mid-June, Billy Wapotro of the Protestant Educational Alliance and author-teacher Dr Louis-José Barbançon spoke about the meaning of a "common destiny" and how to achieve it. Wapotro urged people to study history in order to change it; to avoid the tragic confrontations of the past, Kanak and non-Kanak must find [End Page 400] ways to coexist through active dialogue leading to greater mutual understanding. Barbançon said French settlers needed to become "Oceanians of European origin"; many were already intermarried with non-Europeans and should work toward better ways to share the country's riches. In the discussion that followed, Poigoune said, "The common destiny is built slowly every day if we believe in it," notably in schools, municipalities, churches, and mixed couples, though it still required more promotion in civic and political circles (KOL, 9 July 2005). At a second colloquium in July, Octave Togna, director of the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center, reminded the audience of the 1983 Nainville-les-Roches roundtable in France, where Kanak and loyalists had agreed to recognize each other's heritages and rights; he advocated political cohesion through the teaching of cultural diversity to young people...


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pp. 399-413
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