Peace Deal With FARC Rebels

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By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Up Front

Colombian government has signed a historic peace deal with FARC rebels, the largest insurgency group that had waged a war for over fifty-two years in the country.

This has happened as a revised drafted agreement between the government and the rebels because of a referendum last year that was rejected by the narrowest of margins by the people (50.2% said no, 49.8% said yes). Many FARC dominated areas, interestingly, had voted for the peace deal. It indicates that people in these regions are suffering in the war and want a better future.

The UN Secretary General, European Union, US Government and the Pope have backed the peace agreement. However, people like former Vice President of Colombia, Francesco Santos think otherwise. He believes that making a peace deal with rebels holding guns is wrong and they should be convicted on shorter, if not longer jail terms. There are also extremist views coming from his party, with some of his party associates believing that the “rebels should go back to the mountains.” It is a stance that encourages war which the incumbent President of the country believes as unacceptable.

War with FARC by Colombian government was often regarded as the last major conflict in the Americas. The conflict has finally deemed to be over as the last truckloads of decommissioned rifles were taken out of a remote camp in the countryside in Northern Colombia. The rebel group handed over as many as 8,000 weapons and 1.3 million pieces of ammunition after the negotiated truce.

Rebels will now transform into a political party, although they have not announced, which individuals will lead them in the future. They have now changed their group name to Revolutionary Alternative Forces of Colombia and aim to become a ‘voice for the voiceless’. They want to represent those who live in ‘abject poverty’ and for the ‘honest and good people.’ These former rebels who have turned to politics have also announced its 2018 election alliance with the Colombian Communist Party.

Colombia has historically suffered from the absence of big scale land reforms. Vast swathes of land were owned by elites and common peasants suffered at the hands of the barony.

The founders of former FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forced of Colombia) were small farmers and land workers, inspired by Marxist –Leninist philosophy and the Cuban Revolution. They had grouped together against staggering levels of inequality at that time. It was often branded as a rural guerrilla organisation. At their peak, about 20,000 men had picked up the gun for the group. They also had maintained their own support network.

Between 1948-1958, a term ‘La Violencia’ was used for a ten-year civil war. It was largely perpetuated by the assassination of a leading liberal politician, Jorge Eliecer Gaitan and return of Colombian Conservatives to power, who had seized agricultural lands of liberal- supporting peasants.

‘La Violencia’ period had lead to killing of 200,000 people, as both parties had organised its own guerilla military units. Some leaders transformed their ideology from liberalism to communism later. In the war, millions abandoned their homes and property, media services had failed and documented evidence of violence had become rare.

As for now, former FARC rebels will live in 26 demobilisation camps where they will be involved in peace building and development work. The former rebels also want to form a new professional soccer club. The group had also brought out more than hundred child soldiers, according to inputs received by International Committee of Red Cross. FARC rebels who had been convicted by special courts will avoid traditional prison sentences and will perform reparation work such as removing landmines from various areas.

President Juan Manuel Santos has been a winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to win an end to the hostilities. The deal grants amnesty to its ex fighters and the group will finally enter the electoral frays with 10 unelected seats in the Congress until the end of 2026.

The conflict claimed at least 250,000 lives and left around 60,000 people missing. Millions were displaced from their homes fleeing the bloodshed. Under the peace accord, the state presence in remote areas will lessen and efforts to increase food crop cultivation will begin. By reduction of state troops in areas where basic amenities like running water and electricity are scarce, the overall conditions will likely improve and make residents content.

As rebels will now live in transition camps, common Colombians believe that there are still inherent challenges ahead to transform the country into prosperity. The murder rate is very high in the country indicating the societal problems. Illegal cocaine production and influence of drug cartels is still rampant in Colombia. There is also a debate to lessen cocoa production in the higher realms of power, which will lead to a further decreased trade of the commodity.

To act against the current truce agreement, several paramilitary groups like ‘Autodefensas Gaitanistas’, have been distributing pamphlets in their areas of influence for a new declaration of war. The group believes that FARC peace deal is against the interests of Colombian people. 

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