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By Patrick Antoine Decloitre

SUVA, Fiji (Oceania Flash, Oct. 11) – A clash between members of rivals clans of Wallis Island, where tensions have been high since last month, has left a 21-year-old man dead.

The victim, known as Sosefo Tagatamagoni, was fatally attacked on Saturday by a member of the pro-King clan, who was armed with a bush knife.

He died in Wallis hospital on Sunday morning from a massive haemorrhage caused by knife wounds.

The fight is reported to have started in the village of Vaitupu, as the alleged assailant was coming back from a celebration ceremony in the island’s capital, Mata'Utu. He was arrested on Sunday by French police, with the assistance of traditional authorities, and immediately flown out of Wallis to neighbouring New Caledonia, where he has appeared before a court and has on Tuesday been remanded in custody, pending his trial, local media report.

Meanwhile, back on Wallis, the suspect’s residence, in an apparent retaliatory act, was destroyed by fire.

The victim was described as a member of the pro-reform clans on Wallis, who had recently challenged the authority of the King of Wallis, 87-year-old Tomasi Kulimoetoke. The challenge had prompted unrest on the French Pacific island territory.

Late September, it caused blockades for several days, including roadblocks and schools and public administrations had remained closed.

Last week, French-appointed negotiator Louis Lefranc left the troubled Pacific island of Wallis after staying there one week to broker a fragile truce between rival clans.

But Lefranc said negotiations he brokered earlier this month with rival chiefly clans said his mission was far from over.

"Many here have been deeply hurt," he said. "And one does not erase this in just one week. Much more time is required. And I believe the people of Wallis expect from their leaders that they display good sense, reason."

Lefranc stressed that late September, as the confrontation culminated, causing roadblocks and a brief occupation of the island's only international airport, Wallis had come very close to disaster.

The chiefly feud peaked late last month, when a chiefly clan describing itself as "pro-reform" attempted to crown a new King to replace King Kulimoetoke.

Pro-King clans erected roadblocks across the island and barred access to the only international airport, in the Northern district of Hihifo.

Lefranc's first move was to officially reiterate France's recognition of Kulimoetoke as Wallis Island's one and only King.

For the past two weeks, there have been signs of tension on the island: in the Mu'a district (South of Wallis), one day after Lefranc's departure, a mini-bus belonging to the chiefly clan was vandalised by an unidentified group of people. The Chiefly House (the Fale Puleaga) nearby also had all of its windows smashed. And the adjacent post office was also vandalised early on Sunday morning.

French police said they had so far received no complaints.

The week before, two French public companies executives on Wallis were targeted by unidentified vandals, who broke windows and smashed cars belonging to the local managers of French telecom company France-Câbles et Radio (FCR, which operates international telecom links) and reserve bank for overseas France (Institut d'Emission de l'Outre-mer, IEOM).

There was considerable damage to the body of the vehicles, which also both had their windows smashed last night in the residential district of Afala (near the administrative capital of Wallis, Mata'Utu).

October 13, 2005

Oceania Flash: http://newspad-pacific.info/?todo=main&type_news=2

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