Emmanuel Macron making surprise trip to New Caledonia amid deadly unrest on French territory

240521 new calcedonia ch 1400 e5cc78

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron is making a surprise trip to New Caledonia, the French Pacific territory that has been gripped by days of deadly unrest and where indigenous people have long sought independence.

“He will go there tonight,” government spokesperson Prisca Thevenot said after a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday where the president said he’d decided to make the more than 33,000-kilometer (20,000-mile) round trip himself to the archipelago east of Australia.

Six people have been killed, including two gendarmes, and hundreds of others injured in New Caledonia during armed clashes, looting and arson, raising new questions about Macron’s handling of France’s colonial legacy.

There have been decades of tensions between indigenous Kanaks who seek independence for the archipelago of 270,000 people, and descendants of colonizers and others who have settled on the island and who want to remain part of France.