On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Peace Agreement signed at the Colón Theater in Bogotá, Colombian capital, a France 24 team visited six regions of the country spread throughout the Colombian geography to learn how the implementation of the agreement between the Government and the ex-guerrilla of the FARC.
Colombia commemorates this Wednesday, November 24, the fifth anniversary of the Peace Agreement between the Colombian Government – then led by the former president, Juan Manuel Santos – and the defunct guerrilla of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC. Five years of fragmented peace, with a weak implementation of the points raised in the agreements and the main success, the demobilization and passage to political life of the largest and oldest guerrillas in Latin America.
With the agreements between the State and the FARC, more than 13,000 guerrillas chose to demobilize. However, according to UN data, only a little more than half, 54%, have been able to benefit from collective and individual production plans. Despite the lack of opportunities, according to the Indepaz observatory, 95% of those demobilized are complying with the agreements.
For the majority, especially those most affected by an internal war that lasted for more than 50 years and left at least 262,197 dead, according to the Observatory of Memory and Conflict of the CNHM, peace advances, but at slow steps. “There is a revolution of conscience in favor of peace, against war, and this marks a lot despite the fact that peace has not been completely built, that many difficulties have been encountered for the transition, for the implementation of the agreements, so that the Government is at the height of what the country needs, “Camilo González Posso, president of the Institute for Development and Peace Studies (Indepaz), told France 24.
In many Colombian territories, plunged into strong state abandonment, the conflict continues to affect the most vulnerable communities: peasants, indigenous people or Afro-descendants. Since the signing of the agreements, at least 1,270 social leaders, defenders of the land, human rights and indigenous people have been assassinated, according to the Indepaz organization. The war was especially cruel to women and the post-conflict perpetuates this form of gender violence, with at least 178 leaders and defenders assassinated since the signing in 2016.
According to data from the Victims Unit derived from the agreements, more than 4.4 million women were victims of the conflict; more than 28,000 have reported sexual violence, although the actual data would be much higher. “Violence against women in the conflict continues to be denied,” Yirley Velasco, a survivor and victim of this violence, told France 24 from El Salado in one of the worst massacres in Colombia’s recent history perpetrated by paramilitaries.
Colombia is, for the second year in a row, the most dangerous country for environmental defenders, including indigenous leaders, according to the latest report by the NGO Global Witness. “In most of the geography of the territories they have been affected by the dynamics of the war: displacement, extrajudicial executions, false positives, forced recruitment for the infant population, but also murders of social leaders,” the indigenous leader lamented to France 24 Misak Pedro Velazco, who points out that, in the department of Cauca, where the Misak de Guambía reservation is located, one of the most violated, “there is not a family that has not been touched by the armed conflict in Colombia.”
According to experts, this upsurge in murders has to do with the failure to comply with what has been agreed by the current government of conservative president Iván Duque. “The real will to implement is required”, highlights Gónzalez Posso, pointing to the “failures” and “obstacles” of some actors for the transition to peace.
This Wednesday, with the visit of the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, several events were held to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Peace Agreement. Guterres pointed out that the peace program was designed for a horizon of 15 years, so there are still ten years to go, pointing out that “the challenges are part of the peace processes.”
In Colombia, I have witnessed the efforts of ex-combatants to build new lives of peace and advance their socio-economic reincorporation.
It is of the utmost importance to redouble protection efforts to ensure that they can have this second chance at life. https://t.co/O2n2Mv9DKN
– António Guterres (@antonioguterres) November 24, 2021
At the headquarters of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), different key figures in the peace negotiations spoke to take stock of these years. From victims, to former President Santos, the current president Duque or the last leader of the FARC leadership, Rodrigo Londoño alias ‘Timochenko’, as well as the directors of the JEP, the Truth Commission and the Personnel Search Unit given by Disappeared (UBPD), the latter, bodies that emerged with the agreements.
Justice for peace, the epicenter of peace accords
Eduardo Cifuentes, president of the court or JEP, created to judge war crimes and crimes against humanity, defended the role of this transitional justice, one of the most controversial points of the agreement. “A jurisdiction that rests on genuine and spontaneous contributions really risks withering if fear becomes an obstacle to access to justice and the construction of peace,” he said.
Cifuentes also highlighted the importance of seeking reparation and truth for the families of the 6,402 ‘false positives’, as the victims of extrajudicial executions at the hands of members of the Colombian public force during the conflict are known.
Forced disappearance was one of the most repeated war tactics suffered by the Colombian population during the conflict. More than 100,000 people are still missing, according to the Truth Commission, in what constitutes a crime against humanity. “To live with the absence is to die in silence,” Yaritza Paniagua, a former FARC combatant and director of the FARC component in eastern Colombia, told France 24.
In her speech, the president of the UBPD, Luz Marina Monzón, pointed to implementation as the path to non-repetition: “The full implementation of the Agreement represents the generation of a favorable environment to effectively impact the situations that have maintained the conflict and thus walk in a certain way towards non-repetition “.
The director of the Truth Commission, Father Francisco de Roux, was more critical of the institutions: “It was not a peace for the FARC, it was the possibility of a great peace for Colombians, the peace that had to be put into motion. since that moment, generously. The ethical, political and structural transformation of this country “, adding that this” great peace “, despite the fact that the country saw a tranquility and a change after the agreement, the population has not arrived:” there was no between us human greatness for so much, we did not know how to unite “.
De Roux named some of the main problems in the country, which are suffered especially in Colombian territories where the absence of the State is still evident and which “allowed the coca war and illegal mining to penetrate the communities and territories that he left the FARC, the anti-personnel mines to return to the river basin, the destruction of nature and the terror of the communities. “
“The mines that we used to put in, now we remove them”
After five decades of conflict, there were more than 12,000 victims – of which 2,000 were fatal – by antipersonnel mines, 40% of those affected were civilians. “The mines that we used to lay, now we remove them,” Germán Balanta, a former guerrilla fighter, told France 24 a few days ago, before adding that the main objective is “to repair the communities that were in the middle of the conflict” through Let’s Humanize DH, the first demining organization made up entirely of ex-combatants.
Débora Barros, a victim of the armed conflict, recalled that “from the territories we follow and trust in the peace process. We need peace not only to be the signing of the Agreement, but to be seen in reality, in the improvement of the economy for the victims “. The first point of the Peace Agreement is the Comprehensive Rural Reform and perhaps encompasses all the country’s problems, since 75.5% of the municipalities are rural, despite the fact that only 32% of the population inhabits them.
Failure to comply with this point, from which the Land Fund is born, with only 33% fulfilled, has generated a strong malaise among the Colombian rurality and especially among those former farmers who took advantage of another of the points arising from the pact, the voluntary substitution of crops for illicit use. “The current government has been against the Peace Accords (…) the growing inequalities have affected the peasant more, when the peasant is the one who sustains the cities,” former coca grower Luis Eduardo Vaca, from Calamar, told France 24 Guaviare department.
98% of the farmers who took part in the program have completed voluntary eradication, but – when one third of the fifteen-year term for the full implementation of the program is reached – many farmers repeat the same thing: “it was a total lie.” While, in the last year, illicit crops such as coca have increased by 8%, according to the Kroc Institute.
Five years after a failed plebiscite and the final signing of the agreements on November 24, 2016 at the Teatro Colón in Bogotá, the challenges facing Colombia for the implementation of peace remain great.
“After more than five decades of conflict and aware of the suffering it caused … we have a moral obligation to ensure that this peace process is successful,” said Guterres. Despite all the obstacles, Colombians still long for a country without war.