The Strategic “Toolbox” of the Kanak Insurrection (1984-1988)



As the movement that fights for the independence of Kanaky-New-Caledonia is currently energized by encouraging results in the first of three self-determination referendums (November 4, 2018), we remember the 1980s Kanak insurrection in this conversation recorded in our office on December 7, 2018.

Tutugoro Funambulist10
Map of Kanaky-New-Caledonia by Léopold Lambert (2016).

LÉOPOLD LAMBERT: Giving a date to the beginning of an insurrection is always aproblem as it pretends that what happened earlier was somehow distinct from what followed, but if we are to accept that the 1980s Kanak insurrection started the night of November 18, 1984, could you describe what happened then?

ANTHONY TUTUGORO: November 18, 1984 is indeed commonly accepted in Caledonia as the date of the beginning of we erroneously called “the events.” When I’m with my students I tell them to stop talking about “the events,” because what are these events? A carnival? I much prefer the definition of Hamid Mokaddem [see The Funambulist 9 Islands] who speaks of “a revolutionary political sequence constituting the Kanak people as a nation.” As the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) emerges, all the pressure groups and independent political forces fighting for independence decide to engage in an active boycott, which does not simply mean not going to vote to the November 18, 1984 regional elections, but also preventing people from voting. They were rejecting the Lemoine status for the country that was being implemented. Despite appearing to give a form of emancipation to New-Caledonia, the Kanak people having already become a minority at that time, the game was rigged and they knew very well that the elections would be lost, hence the occupation of the town halls.