Vanuatu under state of emergency
Police monitor the capital, Port Vila, after ethnic violence leaves two dead.
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2007 11:46 GMT
Ethnic violence has been stoked after the recent death of a woman was blamed on witchcraft [AFP]

A state of emergency has been declared in Vanuatu's capital, Port Vila, after clashes between islanders killed two men and wounded 10 people, police said on Monday.


About 200 people from Tanna and Ambrym islands fought in Port Vila on Saturday after the recent death of a woman was blamed on witchcraft, said Willie Ben, a police superintendent.

One man was stabbed to death in the initial fighting on the outskirts of the capital. Another person was killed and houses damaged in retaliation later on Saturday night.


"A woman was killed a few weeks ago and some people blamed it on witchcraft," said Ben.

"Ethnic fighting broke out on Saturday ... and two people died and another 10 were injured."

Police said 140 people had been arrested before calm was restored to Port Vila.


State of emergency


A state of emergency covering the capital was declared by Kalkot Matas Kelekele, Vanuatu's president, late on Sunday and will continue for two weeks, said police.


"At the moment we do not impose a curfew or road checks but that will depend on the situation," said Ben.


Vanuatu's National Council of Chiefs said the government over-reacted in declaring a state of emergency.


"The state of emergency is like preparing for a cyclone that has already passed," said Selwyn Garu, the council's secretary general.


"The state of emergency thing will affect the country - I mean, tourism - for really no good reason at all. If you come to Port Vila now, it's peaceful, as if nothing has happened in the last few days."


Vanuatu, with a population of about 200,000 people, comprises more than 80 islands and lies about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to Australia.

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