The Colombian Government and the FARC rebels, The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, told the media that they have reached an agreement on a ceasefire, and how disarmament would take place. This will effectively end the armed conflict, which claimed about 220,000 lives, and displaced almost seven million. In a joint statement in Havana, where peace talks have been taking place for more than three years, the Colombian government spokeswoman, Marcela Duran provided a brief on what had been agreed upon.
She said, “The national government and FARC delegations inform the public that we have successfully agreed a definitive and bilateral ceasefire, the laying down of arms, security guarantees and the fight against organized crime units.”
FARC commander, Carlos Lozada posted on his Twitter page, “…this horrible night may end and the path of peace and light may open on Thursday 23 June we will announce the final day of war.”
A number of issues have been agreed upon by both sides. These include rural reform, tackling the illicit drugs trade, the rebels’ political participation, and how crimes during conflict would be dealt with. In this final agreement, both sides have committed themselves to stop using weapons by entering into a permanent, verifiable, bilateral ceasefire.
Moreover, this agreement also cleared the path for a final peace treaty, which is expected to be signed this coming summer. After shaking hands with the Commander of FARC, the Colombian President, Juan Manual Santos, declared “This means no less than the end of the FARC as an armed organization.”
Back in Colombia, thousands of supporters gathered in Bogota, breaking into cheers as the signing ceremony was happening in Havana.
This agreement states that after a final peace treaty, which is expected to be signed during the summer, the FARC’s 7,000 troops and roughly 8,600 civilian militias must gather inside 31 concentration zones around the Colombian countryside. Then, they will have 180 days to turn in their weapons to United Nations officials who will monitor the demobilization process. Moreover, the FARC will help with the demining operation, which is a significant operation for a country with the second highest number of landmine victims in the world after Afghanistan.
This agreement formalized what has already been happening on the ground. The FARC stopped combat operations 11 months ago, which resulted in a significant drop in violence, whilst the Colombian army has halted its bombing raid on rebel camps. Jorge Restrepo, the head of the Bogota-based Centre for Conflict Analysis, told the Time, “The war has basically stopped [11 months ago].”
The FARC has plans to form a leftist political party and protect demobilized guerrillas. It is a crucial point for FARC since they had attempted to enter politics in the 1980s, which ended in disaster when the right-wing paramilitaries killed about 3,000 members of the Patriotic Union, a FARC-backed party.
In a recent interview by the Time, the Farc negotiator said “The FARC has always wanted to practice legal politics but the Colombian oligarchy would not let us. They destroyed the Patriotic Union.”
However, the transition into a civilian political party will be a long, hard path for the FARC, due to its involvement in drug trafficking, kidnapping for ransom, and extortion. Colombians are angry over provisions that will allow FARC leaders, who are accused of war crimes, to avoid prison. Instead, those who confess and agree to compensate their victims will serve sentences of five to eight years in loosely guarded environments, such as farms or agricultural co-ops.
These provisions also hurt the image of President Santos. Despite making history in Havana, and possibly grabbing the Nobel Peace Prize, his approval rating is just 21 percent. This could be trouble for him when the referendum is held this fall to allow Colombians to either accept or reject the pending peace treaty. Critics, such as the former President Alvaro Uribe, claims that Santos has sold out to the guerrillas and is urging Colombians to vote “no” this fall.
President Santos said with all smile, “Peace has been made possible. Now, we have to build it.”