New Caledonia: Uneasy in the Islands

Uneasy in the Islands

After 134 years of French rule, the native Melanesians of New Caledonia, who are known as Kanaks, have become a minority in their own land. Non- Melanesians, mostly French settlers and their descendants, now make up 57% of the population. Kanak activists have begun fighting for independence, sometimes clashing violently with police and settlers.

In an attempt to settle the matter, the French last week held a referendum on independence in the islands. The result: 48,611 vs. 842 in favor of remaining a French territory. But Kanaks argued that the tally was not conclusive. As a result of a boycott organized...