SYDNEY (Reuters) – New Caledonia, a French archipelago in the South Pacific, decides on Sunday in a referendum on independence, which is the result of a 30-year decolonization process to become the newest state in the world.
It is the first self-determination vote that has taken place on French territory since Djibouti voted in favor of independence in the Horn of Africa in 1977. The tensions between the autonomous Kanaks and the descendants of colonial settlers who remain faithful are long gone to Paris.
A yes vote would not only affect the pride of France, which was once a colonial power whose reach spanned the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific Ocean; it would be Paris in the Indo-Pacific region of China is located, gain a foothold presence.
The question is asked to voters: "Would you like New Caledonia to gain full sovereignty and become independent?"
During a visit to the archipelago in May, French President Emmanuel Macron acknowledged the "pains of colonization" and welcomed them Efforts "worthy" campaign for autonomy, led by the Kanaks. He and his government have tried to neutralize the vote.
Recent polls show that the islands are expected to remain a French territory.
The economy in New Caledonia relies on French annual subsidies of $ 1
Although the archipelago and its 280,000 inhabitants are already largely autonomous, they are heavily dependent on France, such as defense and education.
First discovered by the British explorer James Cook, the New Caledonian archipelago is more than 16,700 kilometers from the French capital. It became a French colony in 1853.
Under colonial rule, the Kanaks were limited to reserves and largely excluded from the economy of the islands. The first uprising broke out in 1878, not long after the discovery of large nickel deposits exploited today by French Miner subsidiary Eramet SLN.
More than 100 years later, in the mid-1980s, there was a struggle between supporters of independence and those who wanted to remain French amid rage over poverty and poor job opportunities.
A 1988 massacre in a cave on the island of Ouvea killed 19 native separatists and two French soldiers and intensified the island's future. A 1998 deal called for a referendum on independence to be held by the end of 2018.
Under the terms of the deal, in case of non-voting, two more referendums may be held before 2022.
Letter from Richard Lough; Edited by Geert De Clercq and Jacqueline Wong