Although a peace agreement was signed between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on November 24th, many aspects of the conflict are far from over. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has released a report urging the government to take more action in demobilizing FARC child soldiers, clearing activated landmines, and addressing threats to public figures, as well as displacement within cities.
The ICRC agree, amongst many other organizations, the peace deal with FARC has already significantly decreased the impacts of this multi-decade-long insurgency. According to the Colombian government, since FARC’s founding in 1964 as the military wing of Colombia’s Communist Party, the cost of a human life has greatly increased. In total, 6.9 million people have been displaced, 260,000 dead, and another 86,000 missing, in what was one of the world’s longest-running armed conflicts. Now, as the country is making strides towards peace, demilitarizing and introducing FARC members back into society, there are still three rebel groups that remain active in Colombia: the next largest being the National Liberation Army (ELN) followed by the smaller Gaitanista Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AGC) and the People’s Liberation Army (EPL).
The head of the ICRC delegation in Colombia, Christoph Harnisch, stated “the agreement will not be enough to bring violence in Colombia to an end. Building a country at peace requires everyone to make an effort and can take decades. Colombian society as a whole must be more determined to tackle the humanitarian challenges. The tragic experiences of the millions of victims of the conflict warrant greater impetus for the peace-building process.”
As a consequence of the peace agreement, in areas that FARC has abandoned, violence has been spreading rapidly by gangs and rebels to retain their posts. Post locations are incredibly valuable to these different groups, as they often house illegal mining and the farming of coca. It is expected for there to be a power vacuum in situations such as this, however, the government has been incredibly slow to send promised military forces to these areas, leaving civilian residents caught in the cross-fire. With the unsafe environments and continuing assassinations of public figures in these communities, some residents have even asked that ELN take control of their regions.
Additionally, displacement of individuals persists in Colombia; the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a report on Friday that, “Violence continues to uproot thousands of people in Colombia, despite a peace agreement signed last November.” It then went on to state that fighting for territorial control has displaced 3,549 people (913 families) since the beginning of 2017. Last year, there were over 11,300 people displaced.
There is no doubt that the peace agreement between FARC and the Colombian government has been significant in opening up peace negotiations with other rebel groups, such as the ELN. However, unless the government translates what is written in the armistice into actuality, the people of Colombia will continue to suffer under this seemingly perpetual violence that has claimed many lives and displaced countless others.
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