This blog on New Caledonia is for those of you who ever wondered what life on a tiny island in the South Pacific might be like. Tired of bracing winter winds, the stress of an inner city or simply dreaming of a life change? This is a blog about what happens when, in the words of Yogi Berra, "you come to a fork in the road, [and] take it".

26 March 2007

Ouvéa: The 1988 Massacre

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2006.

To return to our tales of Ouvéa and the Loyalty Islands, I thought we should begin with the story of the 1988 massacre in Ouvéa. My thanks for the story go to the Lonely Planet's 4th edition of "New Caledonia", by Leanne Logan and Geert Cole:

"On 22 April 1988, just days before the French presidential election, a group of Kanaks captured the gendarmerie at Fayaoué, Ouvéa's capital, and killed four gendarmes. They took 27 hostages, 11 of whom were released, while the others were transported to a cave near Goosana, in the far north.

Ouvéa was declared a military zone and all communication and transport was cut. More than 300 soldiers were flown to the island and Captain Philippe Legorjus, head of France's elite antiterrorist squad, began negotiations with the hostage takers. During attempts to secure the hostages' release, Legorjus was captured but was freed after coming to an agreement with the group's young leader, Alphonse Dianou, on a date of release for the hostages. It was set for after the presidential election.

On 4 May, three days before the election, Captain Legorjus had two guns and a set of handcuff keys smuggled into the cave. In what was code-named Opération Victor, the military then stormed the cave and reported 'at least 16' people dead, all of them Kanaks. The following day, the figure was revised to 21, including two gendarmes. Later, allegations were made that four of the Kanaks, including the leader, Dianou, and Waine Amossa, a 19-year-old who had been sent into the cave to deliver food, were killed after they had surrendered. It was also claimed that the military tortured and beat civilians from Goosana during the operation. The human rights group Amnesty International took up the case, and France's Minister for Defence later announced that 'acts contrary to military duty have unfortunately been committed'. One gendarme was suspended but no judicial action was taken.

After the cave assault, 32 Ouvéan prisoners, including Djubelly Wea, a local independence movement leader and FULK (Front Uni de Libération Kanak) supporter, were flown to France to face trial. This was despite a previous assurance from the French High Commissioner in New Caledonia that trials would be held in Noumea. Wea was eventually released and the others were given amnesty as part of the Accords de Matignon. Wea returned home to find that his elderly father had died shortly after the hostage crisis. His father had apparently been beater and left tied up in the sun by the military, and was soon regarded as the '20th victim' of the Ouvéa massacre."

3 comments:

Jo said...

What ugliness in a land of beauty...

Susan said...

Having just spent a week in Noumea, I agree with the last comment. I won't be returning. The island has lost all its charm and is being carved up by Mining companies for nickel, the people are unfriendly and it's terribly expensive.

Julie Harris said...

I'm sorry to hear you had such a negative experience, Susan. When were you in New Caledonia before (you seem to have known its earlier charm)?