People in France’s Pacific island territory of New Caledonia will go to the polls for yet another vote of independence from the European country on September 6 next year.
The archipelago has been part of France since 1853, but during the past few decades, relations have been strained between pro-France Caledonians — mainly the white descendants of early European settlers in the territory — and independence advocates, mainly ethnic Kanaks.
During the 1980s, fighting between the two sides left more than 70 people dead in the archipelago, which is now home to roughly 270,000 people.
The Matignon Agreements, reached in 1988, ensured a decade of stability and the Noumea Accord signed in 1998 ended the violence and set the groundwork for a two-decade transition expected to gradually transfer competences to the local government.
The Noumea deal called for up to three referendums by 2022 for the archipelago, with the first held on November 4 last year, in which 43.3 percent voted in favor of splitting, bolstering separatist hopes.
Kanak leaders believe that they can rally more support with time, pressuring the authorities to hold the second vote as late as possible. This is while pro-France advocates have been pressing for a referendum as early as next July.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who has overseen talks with representatives from both sides, notified the authorities in the capital, Noumea, on Tuesday of the compromise date of September 6.
New Caledonia, known for its palm-lined beaches and marine life-rich lagoon, sits atop around a quarter of the world’s known nickel reserves. Tourism and nickel are the territory’s two main sources of income. The region’s nickel deposits are estimated to represent 25 percent of the world’s.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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