Open wounds: French nuclear tests at Moruroa and Fangataufa, Ma’ohi Nui 1966-1996

Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC, 2019.

Fifty years after the French tests in Moruroa and Fangataufa, 540 cases of people suffering from cancer are reported every year among our population of 280,000 inhabitants, and so many stillborn infants and deformed children. Isn’t that proof enough that the French nuclear tests were not as clean as the state claims?

The Maohi people contributed to the influence and supremacy of France in the world as laboratory mice, and is this how we are thanked – by filter laws for compensating nuclear victims?

I would say that we have come back to square one, the year 1966 when General De Gaulle promised the Maohi people “an extraordinary and bright future”. And it’s true, they exploded a bomb over the heads of the inhabitants of the Tuamotus. If I may say so, what I consider really revolting on the part of military officials was the first test on 2 July 1966, when the population of Mangareva was left to the mercy of the fallout.

They prepared the feast for the event, but unfortunately the guests of honor did not come: they had all left for Tahiti. There were goodhearted military personnel who, before the tests, recommended evacuating the populations of certain islands likely to be affected by the radioactive fallout, including Mangareva. However, those at the highest levels of the military decided that this would be out of the question since it would cause political and psychological problems. The first test contaminated Mangareva. Imagine what the 45 that followed did. . .

We would like France to recognize the serious misdeeds it committed with regard to the Maohi people and the damage it has done to the environment. We call upon France to recognize that it is thanks to the Maohi people that it has become a great nation in the world. Similarly, we also call on France to recognize the dignity and sovereignty of the Maohi people, a people willed by God, a free people in a free country. It must live up to its motto: liberty, equality, fraternity, otherwise what is the point of promoting this?

This is the fight we are waging within the United Nations, a call for the great nations of the world to be aware of the detrimental effects of French nuclear tests on the health of our population and our environment, which have been completely ignored by the state. We will continue this fight until justice and truth prevail for the victims of nuclear power, former workers and those entitled to compensation. May God and our Ancestors help us. Mauruuru.

This text is the sixth of a series of blog posts highlighting different reflections and experiences of those who are calling for an end to nuclear weapons. Learn more:

"75th anniversary of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki: has your country ratified the UN treaty?", by Jennifer Philpot-Nissen (15 June 2020)

"Kiritimati and the Bomb: A Tale of Two Churches", by Becky Alexis-Martin (6 July 2020)

"Recollections of an ecumenical pilgrimage to Japan, for the 70th anniversary of atomic bombing (2015)", by Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm (15 July 2020)

"Japan’s churches urge nuclear-free world", by Rev. Renta Nishihara (20 July 2020)

"Nuclear weapons are no good for the Pacific—and no good for the world", by Rev. James Bhagwan (27 July 2020)

About the author :

Rev. Francois Pihaatae is the president of the Maohi Protestant Church, in French Polynesia. He has previously served as general secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches.