Why is Macron getting very nervous about the Pacific?
    Article by Daily Express

    WORLD  24 May 2024 - 16:16

    Writing in UK’s Daily Express newspaper, Paul Baldwin describes New Caledonia's desire for independence from France.

    "Reinforcements will arrive massively and immediately and will be deployed to the areas which have escaped our control in recent days... to reconquer all the areas we have lost," Caliber.Az reports citing the article.

    According to the article, this brutally aggressive statement sounds like something a 19th century colonial slave master might have spat out, his name lost to history.

    In fact it was spoken by Louis Le Franc, France's High Commissioner, a few days ago.

    And it is precisely this antiquated, jack-booted, colonialist mindset which has led to violence, street riots and a state of emergency on the Oceania archipelago of New Caledonia in recent days.

    Le Franc is Paris’s most senior representative in New Caledonia - a 140-strong collection of tiny specks in the Pacific Ocean about 1500km east of Australia.

    The recent riots, sparked entirely by Emmanuel Macron’s attempts to impose changes to voting rules to the detriment of the indigenous Kanak people fighting for independence, have also left five people dead.

    The plan Macron wants to impose allows recent French settlers to vote, to the anger of many Kanaks who make up 40 per cent of the population. And the stench of double-standards emanating from the Elysée Palace is rank indeed.

    On the world stage - and especially in the context of the EU - Macron insists he is a champion for democracy and self-rule. Only days ago, as people took to the streets to fight Vladimir Putin’s malign influence in the former Soviet-bloc nation of Georgia he wrote: “Bravo to the Georgian people. France stands by you.”

    By contrast, at the same time he was sending 1000 more armed officers to New Caledonia for a military-style clamp down on demonstrations triggered by his own affront to democracy in that tiny nation.

    Meanwhile Macron has also bizarrely launched a broadside against Azerbaijan, a country he accuses of fomenting anti-French tensions in New Caledonia and waging a disinformation campaign.

    It's not France's fault you see, it's those sneaky Azerbaijanis.... again, you couldn't make it up.

    To this end he has banned Chinese-owned social media service TikTok across the territory - a move one might more usually associate more with unsavoury dictators.

    Of course Paris’s anti-Azerbaijan position has nothing to do with an independence battle 17,000km away but much to do with domestic French politics.

    Azerbaijan and neighbour Armenia have been locked in a long-standing and unpleasant tit-for-tat confrontation for years. France backs Armenia, largely because somewhere between 500,000 and a million Armenians live in France - the biggest proportion in Paris - and Macron, presumably, would like their vote.

    And yes, Azerbaijan flags have been seen alongside Kanak symbols in the New Caledonia capital Nouméa (though the Government in Baku has fiercely denied any link between itself and the archipelago’s separatist movement).

    But why wouldn’t they wave those flags? Last year Azerbaijan invited separatists from the French territories of Martinique, French Guiana, New Caledonia and French Polynesia to Baku for a conference in July 2023. The meeting saw the creation of the "Baku Initiative Group", whose stated aim is to support "French liberation and anti-colonialist movements".

    If you are a New Caledonian committed to the ultimate independence of New Caledonia of course you are going to get behind that.

    By contrast France has a grim and bloody history of clinging on to colonialism by force, in both Indo China and Africa.

    The First Indo China war which started in 1954 (a prelude to the 1960s Vietnam conflict proper) left more than half a million dead. And the even bloodier Algerian War which France fought against native Algerian separatists between 1954 and 1962 is estimated to have cost 1.5 million lives. Rape, torture and other horrific war crimes were commonplace.

    Tunisia, Chad, Niger, Morocco… the list of colonies France was desperate to remain master over is as bloody as it is extensive.

    But why does all this matter? Why should the wider world trouble itself with the internal politics of a tiny speck in the Pacific with a national population slightly less than that of Montpellier?

    Two words: nickel and China.

    New Caledonia is estimated to hold 30 per cent of world’s nickel reserves and nickel is what makes up about half of the batteries powering the planet’s electric vehicles.

    Nickel may very well be the new oil.

    A recent report by Australia’s science agency CSIRO indicated about five times as much nickel (48,006 kilotonnes) would be needed to meet global demand by 2050.

    Nickel-rich countries will be very rich indeed in forthcoming decades.

    In truth New Caledonia’s nickel industry is currently in chaos, partly through mismanagement, and partly through French policy which governs exports but it is difficult not to conclude that these problems will be corrected and the tiny dot of New Caledonia will become a significant world player.

    The second reason New Caledonia is so important is its physical location - which gives France, and thus NATO, a key foothold in this highly contested area of the Pacific.

    Unsurprisingly it is currently being salivated over by China.

    Which leaves Macron very nervous and feeling the colonial need to step in and make decisions for the poor colonials who know no better.

    In 2024 this of course is nothing but patronising, paternalistic imperialism.

    As Denise Fisher, former Australian consul-general to New Caledonian capital Nouméa, said: "Never underestimate our independent Pacific Island friends.

    "I've been asked, 'Oh, but you know, isn't it a key problem for Australia that if New Caledonia becomes independent right on your doorstep, you're going to have another Chinese vessel? “Clearly, broadly strategically, it's very important. But the reality is, we have other island neighbours who manage their independent countries, they manage their relationships with China."

    What she’s saying is that the people of New Caledonia are grown-up enough to think for themselves and make decisions in their interests.

    Isn’t that democracy Mr Macron?

    Caliber.Az

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