New Caledonia Rejects Independence From France In Referendum

Unless you’re pretty familiar with geography, you might not know where New Caledonia is. The Pacific island is about 2,000 miles off the coast of Australia, but officially speaking, it’s a part of Europe.

This is because the island has been a French territory since 1853, when it was used as a French penal colony. Deadly disputes between French colonizers and the local Kanak population led to a violent independence movement in the 1980s, when Kanak separatists took several people hostage and killed 4 members of the gendarme. But a referendum was held this weekend to re-address the issue, with French loyalists facing off against native Kanaks who still see the French as oppressors. And though the French government, including President Emmanuel Macron, officially holds a neutral stance with regard to the vote, the island is an asset both in terms of resources, and as a solid base of French culture in the Pacific.

The vote went in the favor of staying with France, but the margin was smaller than loyalists had hoped for, with 43.6% of the population voting to leave, and only 56.4% supporting remaining a French territory. But while Macron breathes a sigh of relief, separatists are likely gearing up for the two more chances they will have to break up with France within the next four years.