Louis Kotra Uregei, an emblematic and radical figure in the independence struggle in New Caledonia, has died aged 71, announced the Union of Kanak and Exploited Workers (USTKE) in a statement.
Nicknamed LKU or “Loulou”, this representative of New Caledonian militancy died on Thursday night after a long illness.
Originally from the small island of Tiga, in the Loyalty archipelago, Louis Kotra Uregei founded USTKE, the very first independence union, in 1981.
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Three years later, the USTKE participated in the creation of the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS).
In 1988, the day after the hostage-taking in Ouvéa, which killed 21 people, Uregei had been part of the independence delegation sent to Paris to negotiate with the French State and signed the Matignon-Oudinot agreements.
While the USTKE became the second largest trade union force in New Caledonia, Uregei, known for his outspokenness and his radical methods, gradually moved away from the FLNKS and approached anti-globalisation circles.
‘Man of conviction’
In 2007, he founded the Labour Party, in the presence of José Bové, of which he would be the representative at the congress, from 2009 to 2019.
The independence party and member of the FLNKS Caledonian Union paid tribute on Friday to “an independentist leader, who did not mince his words . . . and who knew how to remind today’s generation of leaders where and how it had to be fought to be heard on the national and international stage”.
The French High Commissioner in New Caledonia, Patrice Faure, hailed the memory of “a committed activist and a man of conviction”.