Colombia: A Farewell to Arms

Colombia President Santos Pins a Peace Dove on FARC Leader Jiménez Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Colombia President Santos Pins a Peace Dove on FARC Leader Jiménez Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The absence of peace in the last fifty years affected the normal lives in Colombia, a South American country in a vicious way. The government of Colombia had been fighting against the FARC rebels for the last half a century. The longest survived guerilla group FAARC engaged in a civil war against the Colombian government in 1964.

They killed tens of thousands people, abducted many thousands, raped and tortured countless women, and kidnapped children to feed the group’s child soldiers supply. During its era of terror, Bogotá, the capital of Colombia became the capital of abduction thanks to the FARC.

Former Colombian President Uribe unlike his predecessors had managed to weaken the FARC. FARC’s strength began to wane during the edge of his presidency. Now, after President Santos was elected in 2010, he began historic peace talks with the FARC to end the long insurgency of the group. The government of Colombia initiated a dialogue to reach an agreement with the FARC in Cuba. Finally in 2016 after years of talks, they reached a deal to end the bloody civil war in Colombia.

It was a historic moment for the Colombians, and the world was at awe with President Santos who brilliantly contributed to ending a civil war that continued for more than half a century and claimed thousands of lives including women and children. The Colombian President Santos was awarded the most prestigious prize of the world for his remarkable efforts. Mr. Santos received Nobel Peace Prize in 2016.

But what do the everyday Colombians feel about the peace process? It is unlikely that everyone in Colombia would be happy with the peace agreement between the government and FARC. The government of Colombia announced a referendum to be held in October 2016. Many of the polls before the referendum predicted a landslide victory for the Yes vote. The people of Colombia, however, voted against the peace accord. Under fierce public pressure, the government then changed or revised almost sixty topics of the peace agreement and submitted the revised accord to the Congress. The Colombian Congress passed the deal by 3 to 1.

The peace deal with FARC promises a fresh beginning towards a better future for everyone in Colombia. For the rebels of FARC, it is a new beginning. They now dream of participating in regular politics and normal lives. The peace accord has ensured them ten seats in two houses of the Parliament.  In June 2017, FARC rebels officially ended their existence as an armed group. The FARC rebels have handed over plenty of weapons to the UN. They want amnesty, security, and social integration as promised to restart lives as civilians.

A contemporary peace has been achieved in Colombia. But how long this country could hold peace is the worrying question. The half a century long hatred and anger within a vast majority of the Colombians haven’t faded away. More than fifty percent of the people rejected the peace deal in the referendum held last year. An intense pursuit of justice is still highly anticipated by many Colombians who believe that the peace accord is humiliating for Colombia and FARC rebels must be prosecuted. Many in Colombo cannot forgive the crimes committed by the FARC rebels in the past fifty years. Especially the afflicted people have reasons to demand justice for the lost or abducted ones. Moreover, the sincerity of FARC to the peace accord has been questioned after they delayed to hand over their weapons.

In Colombia, FARC has not been the only terror agent to threaten peace and stability. There are other armed militias like The National Liberation Army (ELN) still active in the country. The people led by the former Colombian President Uribe, who opposed the peace accord fear that if justice is not ensured, more terrorist groups like FARC could be encouraged to perpetrate more crimes given that amnesty is guaranteed at the end. The opposition leader Evan Duque already has threatened to tear apart the peace accord given that his party holds a majority in the next election when President Santos cannot participate anymore.

Security experts are worried about a power vacuum after FARC left insurgency. Given that other insurgent groups already exist in Colombia, they could move to take FARC’s place to create more anarchy. The security predicament of Colombia is way more than FARC. Drug dealing, mining, and extortion still reign in the country with looming rise in illegal crops cultivation, i.e., cocaine business.

The FARC rebels have their issues as well. As they want to participate in regular politics, unlike the other parties in Colombia, they will encounter fierce antipathy against their values and ideologies among the everyday Colombians. The fifty-year long hatred and anger will not just fade away with a historic peace accord. Moreover, many of the FARC rebels who handed over weapons in the Ninety’s were brutally killed afterward. FARC rebels didn’t forget that.

The peace made through the accords that brought President Santos a Nobel Peace prize is a historic achievement for the Colombians. But holding peace is tougher than achieving it. The future will witness if Colombians could keep the peace President Santos brought them.

About Masum Billah 37 Articles
Masum Billah is a Staff Writer for The GeoStrategists. A Graduate from the Department of International Relations at the University of Dhaka, Masum Billah is a human rights activist. He writes columns on human rights, foreign policy, and terrorism.
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