Macron Offers Referendum To Quell New Caledonia Unrest As Pro-Independence Leader Calls For Continued Resistance

French President Emmanuel Macron has expressed willingness to hold a referendum on contentious voting reforms in New Caledonia, as a pro-independence leader called on protesters to “maintain resistance” against France’s efforts to impose the changes. The reforms have sparked the worst unrest in decades in the French Pacific archipelago, with indigenous Kanaks fearing further marginalization.

Christian Tein, leader of the pro-independence party The Field Action Coordination Unit, urged supporters in a video message to remain steadfast and refrain from violence while maintaining barricades across the territory. He insisted that the barricades would remain in place until French authorities lift house arrest warrants for several party members and scrap the electoral reform.

Macron, who flew to New Caledonia on Thursday to defuse the crisis, said he would be willing to hold a referendum on the changes but hoped that local officials could reach an agreement. He laid out a roadmap that could lead to another referendum for the territory, following three earlier referendums organized between 2018 and 2021 that produced “no” votes against independence.

The unrest has turned parts of the capital, Noumea, into no-go zones, with barricades made up of charred vehicles and debris hindering travel and access to essential goods and services. Despite the state of emergency measures, tensions remain high throughout the archipelago, which has been under French rule since 1853.

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