Global Peace is Possible: From Rwanda to Colombia


Despite the hurdles, the times of despair and hopelessness and just when it seems like everything has gone to smithereens, the world has beaten the odds time and time again and proven its resilience. From post-World War II reconstruction in countries like Germany to the most recent signing of a peace pact between the FARC rebels and the Colombian government ending a 5 decade war, the world has shown that peace is possible; but it takes the will to achieve it and the determination to keep it.

Rwanda is a country that has made immense strides post war. In July 1994, the country was a shell of a nation with 800,000 people killed and millions displaced from their homes. Its institutions, systems of government and trust among its people were all destroyed. The country was desperately poor, without skilled labour and resources and had a demoralised and divided population.[1] The country is one of the most environment friendly in the world; with its elimination of plastic bags[2]; one of the most progressive in terms of leadership by women, particularly in Parliament and has contributed to international peacekeeping efforts.[3] On 27th April 2016, H.E. Louise Mushikiwabo, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Republic of Rwanda stated that the concept of dignity and self worth has guided her country’s choices and its path of rebuilding. She emphasised on the importance of balancing justice with reconciliation in the immediate post genocide era.[4] It took blood, sweat and tears and victims having to relive the genocide through the cases tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Colombia’s conflict is said to have began in either 1964 or 1966 when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was founded and which went on to be the leading guerrilla threat to the Colombian State.[5] The origins of the conflict, however, go back to the period of what is known as ‘La Violencia’ (1948 – 1958) in which a mutually destructive conflict between the Liberals and the Conservatives took place.[6] The period ended after a constitutionally – sanctioned power sharing agreement between the Liberal and Conservative parties. But the accord eliminated political competition and any political activity outside the two options were often repressed.[7] This led to the rise of guerrilla groups that sought a political voice. Contributors to the county’s high level of violence are its evolution as a highly segregated society, split between traditionally rich families of Spanish descent and the vast majority of poor Colombians, many being of mixed race.[8] The result was the development of left-wing insurgents, with two main groups – the FARC and the National Liberation Army. State presence has also always been weak leading to a war on multiple fronts with those caught in the middle being the civilian population that was often deliberately targeted.[9] The war led to massacres, cases of torture, disappearances and displacement of people.[10]

Many also believe that the conflict with the FARC, along with the handful of other armed leftist insurgencies that have existed throughout the last 50 years, can be attributed to the individual choices and actions of those groups seeking wealth and power.[11]

After 4 years of negotiation between the President Juan Manuel Santos led government and the FARC, a historic agreement was on Monday, September 26th signed between the rebels and the government, where the rebel leader Timoleon Jimenez, known as Timochenko, apologised to all victims of the conflict.[12] The country today (2nd October 2016) is set to decide in a referendum whether or not to accept the peace pact and have it made law. President Santos said that the citizens would have the final say. The aim is to give legitimacy to the process and create trust in the people. It is widely believed that the country will vote ‘yes’. The FARC say that they are willing to renegotiate even if the country votes ‘no’. What worries Colombians is where the money from the rebel group’s illegal activities will go and mainly whether the FARC leaders will face justice.[13]

The FARC has said that it would declare its assets – thought to include land as well as mining and transport investments in a totally open manner and will pay reparations to the victims.[14] The Colombians also have a very cynical view of the FARC and think that they are simply a criminal gang. Further, they feel that justice will not be done since for as long as the FARC leaders simply confess their crimes to a Tribunal, they will probably get a couple of years of community service and no prison time.[15]

The country voted to reject the peace deal with the FARC rebels with the ‘no’ side of the referendum winning by a narrow margin.[16] Though President Santos had previously said that a ‘no’ vote would mean that the country is plunged into chaos again, the far that the country has come and the willingness of the FARC to renegotiate should both be deemed beacons of hope. It is argued that the deal was too lenient and former President Alvaro Uribe, who led the ‘no’ campaign said that though all Colombians want peace, the deal needed corrections and that they wanted to contribute to the accord and be heard.[17] The President, speaking shortly after the result was announced said that a previously announced ceasefire would hold and that both sides would meet in Havana, Cuba to decide on a way forward.[18]

Evidently, the attainment of peace is not an easy process. It is not easy for those affected to simply forgive, forget and move on. Colombia has shown that sacrifices have to be made and that determination and willpower is key in achieving peace.

 

 

[1] Tony Blair, ’20 Years After The Rwanda Genocide, Rwanda is a Beacon of Hope’ The Guardian (Sunday 6th April, 2014) https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/06/rwanda-genocide-beacon-hope-healing-nation accessed 2nd October 2016

[2] Meghan Werft, ‘How Eliminating Plastic Bags in Rwanda Saves Lives and the Economy’ Global Citizen (September 22nd 2015) https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/how-eliminating-plastic-bags-in-rwanda-saves-liv-2/ accessed 2nd October 2016

[3] Wilson Center, ‘Rwanda 22 Years Later : Progress, Challenges and Opportunities’ https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/rwanda-22-years-later-progress-challenges-and-opportunities accessed 2nd October 2016

[4] Ibid

[5] Peace Direct, ‘Colombia: Colombia Conflict Timeline https://www.insightonconflict.org/conflicts/colombia/conflict-profile/conflict-timeline/ accessed 2nd October 2016

[6] Peace Direct, ‘Colombia: Conflict Profile; The Origins of Conflict in Colombia’

[7] Ibid

[8] BBC News, ‘Q&A: Colombia’s civil conflict : Why has Colombia long suffered high levels of violence’ 27th May 2013 http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-12447532 accessed 2nd October 2016

[9] Ibid

[10] N 8

[11] Joel Gillin, ‘Colombia Reports: Understanding the Causes of Colombia’s Conflicts: Political Exclusion’ January 5th 2015, http://colombiareports.com/understanding-causes-colombias-conflict-political-exclusion/ accessed 2nd October 2016

[12] BBC News, ‘Colombia Peace Deal: FARC Rebels ‘to Pay Reparations’http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-37532506 accessed 2nd October 2016

[13] BBC Radio, BBC Weekend, 2nd October 2016 at 10:14 a.m. EAT

[14] N 12

[15] ‘After 5 Decades, Colombia and Rebel Group FARC to Sign Peace Treaty’ September 26, 2016, http://www.npr.org/2016/09/26/495435912/after-5-decades-colombia-and-rebel-group-farc-to-sign-peace-treaty

[16] BBC News, Colombia Referendum: Voters reject FARC Peace Deal, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-37537252, accessed 3rd October 2016

[17] Ibid

[18] N 16

Hawa Gaya

Hawa Gaya

Lawyer, lover of the environment and a beliver in peaceful dispute settlement
Hawa Gaya

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