New Caledonia’s road to independence from France looks promising with Louis Mapou (Louis Mapou élu in French) elected as the first Kanak president on July 8.
Mr Mapou becomes the first pro-independence Kanak in almost 40 years to lead New Caledonia.
He is a former director of the Agency for Rural Development and Land Planning, a leading Kanak activist in Southern Province and a member of the Union Nationale pour l’Indépendance (UNI) in the national congress.
Mapou said the top three priorities for him were “exit from the Covid-19 crisis, management of healthcare personnel and management of the New Caledonia budget”.
“It is an honour and a heavy responsibility”, he told local media.
His election comes at a crucial time with December’s third referendum just months away.
The referendum is the final poll under the Noumea Accord. The results of the last two polls have been narrowly in favour of remaining with France.
In 2018 the result was 56.4 per cent for maintaining the status quo and 43.6 per cent in favour of independence.
The 2020 margin was reduced slightly with 53.26 per cent voting to stay with France and the remainder for independence.
A New Caledonian student leader at the University of South Pacific, who chose to remain anonymous, told The Pacific Advocate that she supported the movement for independence.
“We want to be able to freely move around in our lands,” she said.
“I think it’s time we governed our people, land and resources.
“I don’t think France should leave if we gain independence. They can be around and assist us in development just as Australia and New Zealand does with Vanuatu and other Pacific island countries.”
A teacher in New Caledonia said he was against the upcoming referendum date, saying “it is rushed”.
“The December date for the referendum is in breach of the reserved dates set between Paris and the Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS),” he said.
“This means France does not respect the process of decolonisation.”
“France does not consult the other signatories to the Noumea Accord, which means this is not supported by all members and most likely, this will create political tensions.”
“Now that we have a Kanak president, I really hope things run fairly and smoothly.”
Mr Mapou is expected to be sworn in as president in a few days.