New Caledonia

The Fragile Peace

by George K. Tanham

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This Note examines the current political situation in New Caledonia and the prospects for independence for this French Territory in the Southwest Pacific. The analysis is based primarily on the author's two visits to the territory in 1989 when he spoke with leaders of both the indigenous and European communities, local officials, and private citizens. Increasing disruption and violence of the independence movement was ended by the Matignon Accord of 1988, which promised a referendum on independence in 1998 and divided the territory into three autonomous provinces, two of which are controlled by the indigenous population. The French government is providing generous assistance for political, social, and economic development. Whether such assistance and limited self-government will frustrate the drive for independence is uncertain. Although the current situation is relatively stable and peaceful, conditions remain volatile.

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