Scotland will not be given a new referendum on independence before 2024, a senior UK cabinet minister said in an interview published on Wednesday.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, who heads a UK government strategy unit on policy for the country’s four nations, said a vote was unlikely in the immediate future.
“I can’t see it,” Gove, a Scot, told the Daily Telegraph when asked if Prime Minister Boris Johnson would approve the move before the next scheduled UK general election.
“It’s foolish to talk about a referendum now — we’re recovering from Covid,” he added.
“It seems to me to be at best reckless, at worst folly, to try to move the conversation on to constitutional division when people expect us to be working together in order to deal with these challenges.”
Renewed calls for a vote on Scottish independence are a potential headache for Johnson, despite a 2014 referendum which saw Scots voted by 55 percent to 45 percent to remain part of the UK.
The Pastor of Latter Rain Assembly, Tunde Bakare, has asked the Federal Government not to kill Nigerians.
Speaking on The Platform, a special programme to commemorate Nigeria’s Independence Day anniversary, the cleric asked the government to murder corruption instead.
“Don’t kill Nigerians, kill corruption because we knew that the subsidy being paid is going into private pockets,” he said.
Bakare recalled that when he joined the likes of Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana among others to protest during Jonathan’s government in 2012, the protest was not against subsidy.
“I campaigned against the oppression of the poor,” Bakare said, adding that the subsidy by the Federal Government was not used to advance the cause of the poor.
Reacting to calls for Nigeria to disintegrate, the cleric argued that the country should be united.
Meanwhile, the former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega has asked President Muhammadu Buhari’s 60th Independence speech to go beyond talk to implementation.
Jega, who spoke during Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily wants the Federal Government to implement policies that will make Nigerians have pride in their country.
“What is clear is that the speech carries quite a lot of the right things to be said on a day like this. But for me, the critical thing is not what is said but how it is followed up,” Professor Jega noted.
“I think it is important to reflect on the issue of what government needs to do to ensure that when you call upon Nigerians to take pride in Nigeria, there are certain things that encourage and help them to be able to do that,” he said.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday promised that Nigeria will support Guinea-Bissau in any way possible, saying “a peaceful and prosperous Guinea-Bissau is a win for West Africa and for Africa.”
In a statement issued by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, President Buhari joined other Heads of State and Government of Senegal, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso to celebrate the country’s 47th independence anniversary.
“I feel delighted because this is my first official visit to Guinea Bissau since my assumption of office in 2015 and because I am here to join you, brotherly people of Guinea Bissau, as you celebrate this great day with renewed hope and aspiration.
“I am truly grateful for the warm reception accorded me and my delegation, since our arrival in this city.
“As you mark your freedom as a nation “free forever’, let me seize this opportunity to salute all Bissau Guineans both at home as well as in the Diaspora, for the strides you have made as a country.Permit me to say Parabens!Congratulations!” Buhari was quoted as saying.
The President said he was proud of the support Nigeria provided to the West African country in the previous elections, adding that helped to entrench democracy.
According to him, Nigeria’s deployment of troops under the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea Bissau played an important role in maintaining peace and security.
While congratulating President Umaro Sissocco Embalo, the government and people of Guinea Bissau on the country’s independence anniversary, Buhari prayed for continued growth and prosperity.
He also expressed good wishes for greater achievements in the years ahead for the West African country.
President Buhari recalled that when Guinea Bissau declared its independence from Portugal on September 10, 1974, it brought the Portuguese colonization to an end after a protracted struggle for freedom.
“It is fitting on this august occasion to remember your forebears and to celebrate them for the sacrifices they made for you to be free.
“The highest tribute we can pay them is to build on the gains of independence.It is my sincere prayer that your country will continue on the path of national cohesion, growth and unity,” he said.
Buhari thanked President Embalo for being a good host to Nigerians resident in the country, saying “colonial boundaries will never break the bond of kinship that binds us.”
As DR Congo marks 60 years of independence from brutal colonial ruler Belgium, some are lamenting how little progress has been made since in a country caught in a “vicious cycle of instability and poverty”.
Belgium’s King Philippe took the unprecedented step this week of expressing his “deep regrets” for the abuses suffered under his country’s yoke until the Democratic Republic of Congo broke away on June 30, 1960.
But many leaders in DRC have given a damning appraisal of what has happened in the country since.
“After 60 years of independence, the assessment is without doubt: we have shamefully failed. We have not been able to make Congo a more beautiful country than it was before,” said Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, the archbishop of Kinshasa, in a country where the powerful Catholic Church has been deeply critical of the government.
In a sermon on the 60th independence anniversary, the cardinal also lambasted “the succession of autocratic regimes”, “the culture of impunity” enjoyed by those in power, and the poverty suffered by many in DR Congo.
“We have collectively failed,” he summed up.
– ‘Mafia’ political class –
President Felix Tshisekedi gave a speech on Monday in which he said that “over 60 years, we have gradually allowed our political class to turn into a sort of mafia”.
“The average Congolese has lost 60 percent of their wealth in the last 60 years,” he said.
“Our road network is only 10 percent of what it was in 1960 and the rail network 20 percent.”
He also denounced a “political class which is struggling to tear this nation out of a vicious cycle of instability and poverty.”
Belgium meanwhile has been riven with debate over its colonial record during the worldwide anti-racism protests following George Floyd’s death in police custody in the United States. Protesters have graffitied or torn down several statues of Belgium’s colonial-era king Leopold II in recent weeks.
Looking to redress the historical imbalance, the Belgian city of Charleroi on Thursday named a street after Congolese independence icon Patrice Lumumba.
His son Guy-Patrice Lumumba told AFP that it was a “balm for the heart, it’s a recognition of our father’s fight”.
Lumumba, who became the country’s first prime minister on June 30, meanwhile had an entire town named after him — Lumumbaville — in central DR Congo.
Belgium’s colonisation was considered brutal even by the 19th-century standards, with historians saying that millions of Africans from areas in what is now DRC were killed, mutilated or died of disease as they worked on rubber plantations belonging to Leopold, king from 1865-1909.
The scars remain, with two-thirds of the population living below the poverty line.
“I want to express my deepest regrets for these wounds of the past whose pain is reawakened today by the discrimination still present in our societies,” Philippe said in a letter to Tshisekedi on Tuesday.
– Reparations call –
Tshisekedi on Monday paid tribute to Philippe, “who, like me, seeks to reinforce ties between our two countries without denying our shared past”.
He also sought to soothe tensions regarding Belgium returning Congolese cultural artifacts such as masks and statues that were looted during colonisation.
Not all were so conciliatory.
Prominent grassroots group Lucha (for “Struggle for Change”) said that DRC is still waiting for “an official apology and concrete action to restore as much as possible of the looted heritage, to carry out material and/or symbolic reparations, and teach the true history to new generations.”
The call for reparations was echoed by Lambert Mende, the spokesman of Tshisekedi’s predecessor, ex-president Joseph Kabila.
“People should be willing to repair the damage in terms of investment and compensation with interest. That’s what we expect from our Belgian partners,” he said.
A group of pro-democracy activists published a “Manifesto for a New Congo” on Tuesday saying that “successive regimes and leader have proven to be new predators”.
They also pointed to the complicity of “neo-colonialists and imperialist forces” siphoning up the country’s vast mineral riches.
As 1960 dawned, sub-Saharan Africa braced for historic change: that year, 17 of its countries were destined to gain independence from European colonial powers.
But six decades on, the continent is mired in many problems. It is struggling to build an economic model that encourages enduring growth, addresses poverty and provides a future for its youth.
Here are some of the key issues:
Africa’s population grew from 227 million in 1960 to more than one billion in 2018. More than 60 percent are aged under 25, according to the Brookings Institution, a US think tank.
“The most striking change for me is the increasing reality of disaffected youth… a younger population that is ready to explode at any moment,” Cameroonian sociologist Francis Nyamnjoh told AFP.
“They are hungry for political freedoms, they are hungry for economic opportunities and they are hungry for social fulfilment .”
Joblessness is a major peril. Unemployed youths are an easy prey for armed groups, particularly jihadist movements in the Sahel, or may be tempted to risk clandestine emigration, often at the cost of their lives.
The continent’s population is expected to double by 2050, led by Nigeria, Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Poverty and inequality
The proportion of Africa’s population living below the poverty line —- less than $1.90 (1.7 euros) per day —- fell from 54.7 percent in 1990 to 41.4 percent in 2015, according to the World Bank.
But this average masks enormous differences from one country to another, exemplified by Gabon (3.4 percent of the population in 2017) and Madagascar (77.6 percent in 2012).
“The inequalities between countries are as extreme as in Asia and the inequalities within countries as as high as in Latin America, where landless peasants coexist with huge landowners,” said Togolese economist Kako Nubukpo.
Christophe Cottet, an economist at the French Development Agency (AFD), pointed out that inequality in Africa is “very poorly measured.”
“There are notably no figures on inequalities of inherited wealth, a key issue in Africa.”
Mega-cities and countryside
Recent decades have seen the expansion of megacities like Lagos and Kinshasa, typically ringed by shantytowns where people live in extreme poverty, although many medium-sized cities have also grown.
More than 40 percent of Africans now live in urban areas, compared with 14.6 percent in 1960, according to the World Bank.
In 1960, Cairo and Johannesburg were the only African cities with more than a million residents. Consultants McKinsey and Company estimate that by 2030, about 100 cities will have a million inhabitants, twice as many as in Latin America.
But this urban growth is not necessarily the outcome of a rural exodus, said Cottet.
“The population is rising across Africa as a whole, rather faster in towns than in rural areas,” said Cottet.
“There is also the problem of unemployment in towns — (rural) people have little interest in migrating there.”
Lost decades of growth
Growth in Africa slammed to a halt in the early 1980s, braked by a debt crisis and structural adjustment policies. It took two decades to recover.
Per-capita GDP, as measured in constant US dollars, shows the up-and-downs, although these figures are official and do not cover Africa’s large informal economy: $1,112 in 1960, $1,531 in 1974, $1,166 in 1994 and $1,657 in 2018.
“If you do an assessment over 60 years, something serious happened in Africa, with the loss of 20 years. But there is no denying that what is happening now is more positive,” Cottet said.
The IMF’s and World Bank’s structural adjustment programmes “broke the motors of growth,” said Nubukpo, whose book, “L’Urgence Africaine,” (The African Emergency) makes the case for a revamped growth model.
The belt-tightening programmes “emphasised the short term, to the detriment of investments in education, health and training.”
New thinking needed
Africa has a low rate of industrialisation, is heavily dependent on agriculture and its service sector has only recently started to emerge.
“We have not escaped the colonial model. Basically, Africa remains a producer and exporter of raw materials,” said Nubukpo.
He gave the example of cotton: 97 percent of Africa’s cotton fibre is exported without processing — the phase which adds value to raw materials and provides jobs.
For Jean-Joseph Boillot, a researcher attached to the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs, “Africa is still seeking an economic model of development.”
“There is very little development of local industries,” he said.
“This can only be achieved through a very strong approach, of continental industrial protection — but this is undermined by the great powers in order to pursue free trade.
“The Chinese, the Indians and Westerners want to be able to go on distributing their products.”
Lack of democracy, transparency and efficient judicial systems are major brakes on African growth, and wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, said the experts.
Of the 40 states deemed last year to be the most world’s most corrupt countries, 20 are in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Transparency International.
“Africa is not developing because it is caught in the trap of private wealth and the top wealth holders are African leaders,” said Nubukpo.
“We must promote democracy, free and transparent elections to have legitimate leaders who have the public interest at heart, which we absolutely do not have.”
Nyamnjoh also pointed to marginalised groups — “There should be more room for inclusivity of voices, including voices of the young, voices of women.”
A wave of sub-Saharan African countries became independent in the 1960s, 17 achieving self-rule from colonial Belgium, Britain and France in 1960 alone.
Portugal’s colonies would only break free in the 1970s and it took other nations, such as Eritrea, even longer to re-establish their sovereignty.
Here is a breakdown of African decolonisation according to colonising power.
In 1957 Ghana became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to win independence.
Britain tackled the independence of its other territories case by case. Nigeria and Somalia became independent in 1960 and in 1961 it was the turn of Sierra Leone and Tanganyika, which became Tanzania after merging with Zanzibar three years later.
Uganda followed in 1962; Malawi (formerly Nyasaland) and Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia) in 1964; and The Gambia in 1965.
Kenya declared independence in 1963 after a brutal crackdown on Mau Mau fighters who battled colonial rule from 1952 to 1960.
Botswana and Lesotho were independent in 1966; Swaziland and Mauritius in 1968; and the Seychelles in 1976.
In 1965 Rhodesia’s white-minority government unilaterally proclaimed independence, which was not recognised by Britain or other countries. A guerrilla war achieved black-majority rule in 1980 and the country was renamed Zimbabwe.
In 1958 General Charles de Gaulle called on France’s colonies to choose between joining a Franco-African Community or winning immediate independence. Only Guinea opted for self-rule, declaring independence weeks later.
Fourteen French colonies broke away in 1960: Cameroon in January followed by Senegal, Togo, Madagascar, Dahomey (Benin), Niger, Upper Volta (Burkina Faso), Ivory Coast, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Mali and then Mauritania in November.
The process was often difficult, with independence movements facing a harsh ripost from French authorities, for example, in Madagascar where 10,000-100,000 were killed in a clampdown on a 1947 uprising.
The Comoros islands gained independence in 1975, except for Mayotte which decided to remain part of France. Djibouti followed in 1977.
Congo, today’s Democratic Republic of Congo, was literally the personal property of Belgian King Leopold II for 23 years before becoming a Belgian colony.
It became independent in 1960, after riots in Leopoldville, today called Kinshasa. Two other Belgian colonies became independent in 1962 under the names of Rwanda and Burundi.
Five years after gaining autonomy, Equatorial Guinea became independent in 1968.
In 1975 Spain ceded Western Sahara to Morocco and Mauritania, despite opposition from Polisario Front separatists who declared it as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in 1976.
Three years later Mauritania gave up its portion of the disputed territory and it was annexed by Morocco. In 1991, after a 16-year war, Morocco and the Polisario concluded a UN-backed ceasefire.
Today the Western Sahara is the only territory on the African continent whose post-colonial status has not been settled.
Portugal’s dictatorship resisted liberation wars in its colonies of Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde in the early 1960s.
But after it was overthrown in 1974, all four countries achieved independence as did the other Portuguese colony of Sao Tome and Principe.
South Africa — first a Dutch and then a British colony, and independent since 1910 — was from 1948 ruled by a white-minority apartheid regime which ended in 1994 with the election of its first black president, Nelson Mandela.
South Africa took over Namibia from Germany after World War I and continued to administer the territory even after a UN mandate was withdrawn in 1966. After a 23-year struggle, Namibia became independent in 1990.
The former Italian colony of Eritrea was in 1952 federated to Ethiopia, which annexed it in 1962. It proclaimed its independence in 1993 after a 30-year independence war.
Spain’s Supreme Court on Monday sentenced nine Catalan leaders to prison terms of between nine and 13 years for sedition for their role in a failed 2017 independence bid.
The long-awaited verdicts were less than those demanded by the prosecution which had sought up to 25 years behind bars for former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras on grounds of rebellion.
Spain has been bracing for weeks for the court’s ruling, with tension mounting steadily and police sending reinforcements to Catalonia where separatists have pledged a mass response of civil disobedience.
Former Catalan regional Carles Puigdemont called the sentences an “outrage.”
“100 years in all. An outrage. Now more than ever, by your side and those of your families. It is time to react as never before,” tweeted Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium to avoid prosecution.
The 12 defendants, most of them members of the former Catalan government, were put on trial in February for their role in the banned October 1, 2017 referendum and the short-lived independence declaration that followed it.
“The Supreme Court condemns Oriel Junqueras to 13 years of prison… on grounds of sedition and the misuse of public funds,” the ruling said, handing 12 years to three other former regional ministers.
Former parliamentary speaker Carme Forcadell was handed 11 years and six months in jail, while two influential Catalan civic leaders, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, were sentenced to nine years prison.
Only three of the 12 leaders, who faced lesser charges, escaped jail time and were handed a fine.
Junqueras served as the main defendant after his boss, Puigdemont, fled to Belgium.
The government is hoping the long-awaited ruling will allow it to turn the page on the crisis in the wealthy northeastern region where support for independence has been gaining momentum over the past decade.
But the separatist movement is hoping for just the opposite: that the anticipated guilty verdicts will unite their divided ranks and bring supporters onto the streets.
– Activists gear up to protest –
Activists from the region’s two biggest grassroots pro-independence groups, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Omnium Cultural, have urged followers to rally on the evening of the verdict.
In the coming days, demonstrators will march from five towns towards Barcelona where they will congregate on Friday, when a general strike has been called.
Activists from the radical CDR (Committees for the Defence of the Republic), have also promised “surprises”. On Sunday they briefly occupied the main train station in Barcelona before cutting traffic on a main avenue of the city.
Anti-riot police have been discreetly deployed to Catalonia but the interior ministry has refused to give numbers.
For many, the situation has brought back memories of tensions in the street in the run-up to the October 1, 2017 referendum which was marred by police violence, and ahead of the short-lived independence declaration of October 27.
In recent weeks, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has made it clear that his government will not tolerate any violence, warning he will not hesitate to renew a suspension of Catalan autonomy, as happened two years ago.
The situation is worrying the main Catalan business lobby which said although the verdict would have a “significant emotional impact”, it was important the response avoided disrupting “business activity or social cohesion”.
– Sedition not rebellion –
By definition, the most serious charge of rebellion is “rising up in a violent and public manner” to, among other things, “declare independence for part of the (Spanish) territory”.
Sedition, however, is “rising up publicly and in turbulent fashion” to “prevent by force or in an illegal way” the law from being applied, or the application of an administrative or legal decision.
The trial comes just weeks before Spain heads to the polls for its fourth election in as many years, putting the Catalan question once more at the centre of the political debate.
Although Sanchez’s government is hoping the trial’s end might give fresh impetus to dialogue, Junqueras’ leftwing ERC party has said it would not be possible without an “amnesty” for “political prisoners and those in exile”.
The Senior Pastor of Covenant Christian Center and Convener of The Platform, Poju Oyemade, has called on Nigerians not to allow their religious orientations or leanings to create division in the country.
Speaking at the Covenant Place, Iganmu to mark the nation’s 59th Independence Anniversary, the cleric asked citizens to instead use their religious beliefs as tools to appeal to the conscience of both the leaders and followers.
“The religion of this nation must not be used as a divisive tool but a tool to appeal to the moral conscience of men.
“We have heard from them that know that when men gather to steal public funds, the issue of tribe and religion is not taken into consideration,” he said.
He added that “the seed of our dream for a better Nigeria requires nourishment from this earth, institutional knowledge gathered all over the years.”
He recalled that when former United State President Barack Obama was launching his campaign for the presidency in 2006, he acknowledged the importance of faith.
The realisation that faith is important, according to Pastor Oyemade, perhaps explains why America is technologically and economically advanced.
“I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in and around people. If we are going to speak to the people where they are, we must understand that Americans are religious people.
“90 percent of Americans believe in God, 70 percent are affiliated to organized religion and that 38 percent call themselves committed Christians. This is probably the most advanced society in the world,” he said.
NIGERIA’S DAY OF FREEDOM IS AT THE DOOR, SAYS VP OSINBAJO
*Says: the noise we hear are last gasps of our nation’s defeated foe
REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE 59TH INDEPENDENCE DAY INTERDENOMINATIONAL CHURCH SERVICE, AT THE NATIONAL CHRISTIAN CENTRE, ON THE 29TH OF SEPTEMBER, 2019
God had promised, through the mouths of His trusted prophets, that He is giving us a New Nigeria! May I announce to you today that God is ready to take us into the Promised Land, the new Nigeria.
And we must remember that God, the Almighty God is the builder of nations, that God controls the destinies of nations and its people. Psalms 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness. The world and those who dwell therein.”
God promised the children of Israel that He would take them from bondage, suffering and slavery into the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
By the hand of Joshua, God brought His promise to pass. They got to the Jordan and as their feet touched the water, the Jordan was separated and they walked on dry land all across the Jordan.
They got to Jericho, a well-fortified city and they did not fire a shot, they brought down the walls of Jericho by a shout. Thereafter, when they were about to take the Promised Land, after Moses had asked that some go and spy out the land, some of those who went to spy said that it would be impossible to take the city, impossible to enter the Promised Land. However, Caleb and Joshua had a different spirit, and they said that because God had promised and because He could do it, all the problems were just bread, mere bread to be eaten by the children of Israel.
God has promised us a new Nigeria, a peaceful Nigeria, a prosperous Nigeria, a Nigeria where justice and equity shall prevail, a united Nigeria, where the different tribes and tongues are not wedges of separation, but the joyful textures of our togetherness. God is ready to fulfill His promise.
We stand outside the new city, the Promised Land, the new Nigeria; like the spies sent by Moses to spy out the Promised Land, some are saying, “Ha! It is impossible, Nigeria cannot change, the ethnic and religious divisions are too deep, corruption cannot end, politicians are too selfish and mischievous.”
Yet, like Caleb and Joshua, we declare that these problems are merely bread for us, we will enter the Promised Land!
The new Nigeria is here, and each and every one of us, our families, our friends, all of us, will eat the pleasant fruits of this land.
God Almighty has taken away the protection of the enemies of this nation. He has taken away their powers, the noise we hear, the turbulence we experience, are the last gasps of a defeated foe. The day of freedom is at the door.
As with Abraham, we in the words of Hebrews 11:10 wait for the new Nigeria, which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
As we wait, we declare in the words of Psalms 46:8-11 -“Come, behold the works of the Lord, who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. Be still and know that I am God! I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”
The Pacific islands of New Caledonia voted Sunday to remain part of France in an independence referendum that showed support for Paris in one of its many far-flung but strategic outposts.
Some 18,000 kilometres (11,000 miles) from the French mainland, New Caledonia is home to a quarter of the world’s known supplies of nickel — a vital electronics component — and is a foothold for France in the Pacific where China is increasing its influence.
On the final count, 56.4 per cent of people had rejected the proposition that New Caledonia becomes independent, a clear but smaller-than-expected victory for loyalists to the mainland.
French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his “immense pride that we have taken this historic step together” in a televised address to the nation, adding it was “a sign of confidence in the French Republic, in its future and its values.”
Despite being an archipelago of islands, New Caledonia is sometimes referred to in France as “the pebble” and is home to about 175,000 people.
Turnout was high for the vote, at more than 80 per cent.
But there are fears the referendum could inflame tensions between indigenous Kanak people, who tend to favour independence, and the white population which has settled since France annexed the islands in 1853.
Several cars were burned and a couple of incidents of stone-throwing were reported late Sunday, local authorities said, but the vote was otherwise peaceful.
Tensions in New Caledonia boiled over into ethnic strife in the 1980s which claimed more than 70 lives.
It led to the 1998 Noumea Accord which paved the way for a steady devolution of powers, as well as Sunday’s referendum and possibly two others before 2022.
“The Kanaks have become aware that they need to show their determination to be free at last,” Alosio Sako, head of the pro-independence movement FLNKS, said after the results were announced.
Polls had forecast a bigger victory — of between 63-75 per cent — for the “no” campaign.
“We’re a short step away from victory and there are still two votes to come,” Sako added, referring to the other two referendums which are possible under the Noumea Accord.
In recent years, France has faced protests and calls for independence in several of its overseas territories, which are a legacy of the country’s colonial history and are sometimes dubbed “the confetti of the French empire”.
French Guiana in South America and the Indian Ocean archipelago of Mayotte have been rocked by major protests over living standards and perceived neglect.
Closer to home, the Paris government also faces renewed calls for independence from nationalists on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, which have been rebuffed by Macron.
Balancing China in the Pacific?
The 40-year-old French leader had largely stayed clear of the campaign in New Caledonia, but during a visit to Noumea in May he declared “France would be less beautiful” without the territory.
He also raised concerns over increasing Chinese influence in the Pacific, where Beijing has invested heavily in Vanuatu, a territory which broke from France and Britain in 1980.
Accusing the US of “turning its back on the region in recent months”, Macron said China was “building its hegemony step by step” in the Pacific — suggesting an independent New Caledonia could be Beijing’s next target.
Australia has also expressed concerns about China’s activities in neighbouring island states — which the Lowy Institute think-tank estimates received $1.78 billion in aid from Beijing from 2006-16.
Separatists had urged Kanak voters to choose self-determination for Kanaky, their name for New Caledonia, and throw off the shackles of the “colonial” authorities in Paris.
The Kanak community is economically disadvantaged compared with the white population and plagued by high school dropout rates, chronic unemployment and poor housing conditions.
But indigenous people make up less than 50 per cent of the electorate and some Kanaks back staying part of France, not least due to the 1.3 billion euros ($1.5 billion) the French state hands to the islands every year.
Going it alone, “I’m not sure we have all the assets we’d need to succeed,” said Marc Gnipate, a 62-year-old pensioner.
Dambazau said the Federal Government is committed to promoting national unity, economic growth, social and political development based on democratic principles.
He explained that in the past 58 years, the nation has made a lot of progress and positive impact not only on the lives of its citizens but also on infrastructural development as well as international relations.
While congratulating Nigerians on the anniversary, the minister appealed to the citizens to sustain efforts made by the current administration in preserving the country’s unity.