The French South Pacific territory of New Caledonia will vote in a referendum on independence with voters expected to reject breaking away from France after almost 170 years despite rising support for the move.
- The referendum is part of a carefully negotiated de-colonisation plan agreed in 1998, known as the Noumea Accord, designed to put an end to a deadly conflict between the mostly pro-independence indigenous Kanak population, and the descendants of European settlers known as “Caldoches”.
- Violence in the 1980s culminated in a drawn-out hostage crisis in 1988 that saw 19 separatists killed on one side, and six police and special forces on the other.
- It will be the second time the archipelago goes to the polls to decide on its fate in two years, after a first referendum in 2018 resulted in status quo with 56.7% of the vote. But the result still marked a shift towards pro-independence sympathies, raising campaigners’ hopes that this time it could manage to break free.