After decades of conflict in Colombia, rebels, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the county’s government has reached an agreement to lay down arms. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC Commander Rodrigo Londono signed the Agreement in Havana in an event attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Norwegian Foreign Minister, and the Presidents of Cuba, Venezuela and Chile. As per the agreement, the rebels will lay down arms within 180 days of final peace deal, which is being expected to be concluded within weeks. In addition, the two sides have reached an agreement to create temporary transition zones and camps for the estimated 7,000 rebels, and a provision that no civilians will be allowed to enter FARC camps, guaranteeing rebel security. They also reached an agreement where UN monitors will receive all groups’ weapons.
The conflict that has been going on for 50 years has left more than 220,000 people dead and displaced around 7 million people, reported the BBC. President Santos stated, “Colombia got used to living in conflict [where] we don’t have even the slightest memories of what it means to live in peace.” After the deal he hopes “a new chapter … that brings back peace and gives [the country’s] children the possibility of not reliving history” will come into his country. FARC leader Londono on the other hand assured Colombians that they “are going to do politics without arms.”
The negotiation for the peace agreement has been going on since 2012. Alessandro Rampietti, a reporter at Aljazeera, stated that the agreement is “truly a historic… and it shows the two sides were able to reach a deal on the most sensitive points still standing in the very long peace negotiations.” The negotiation owed its effectiveness for focusing on addressing social problems rather than disarmament. Witnesses to this, the Guardian reported that the negotiators primarily focused on tackling “the sharp inequality and lack of development in Colombia’s rural areas, one of the banners of the FARC, when it first began to take shape as a group of peasant leaders demanding social justice in the mid 1960s.” As a result, Gonzalo Sánchez, director of Colombia’s Centre for Historical Memory, regarded the negotiations as the first in history “that has dealt with the root of the problem that has led these guerrilla groups to emerge in the first place.”
With the FARC, the Government of Colombia has also negotiated peace deals with the Quintin Lame, the M-19 and the Ejercito Popular de Liberación (EPL), rebel groups that are by far less powerful than FARC.
However, a deal on implementing the agreement still needs to be settled by the two sides. The final peace deal also requires approval through a referendum. In addition the government has to get under way another negotiation as the National Liberation Army, another smaller group that has been fighting as long as FARC, insisted on separate peace talks.
The conflict in Colombia started in the 1960s where FARC came out of the rural uprising for land rights. Over the decades, the conflict has drawn in various groups including drug gangs, leftist rebel groups and right-wing paramilitaries.
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