Historical handshake between President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC’s leader Rodrigo Londono, Alias “Timochenko”
It was September 23rd of 2015, after a very late flight from Lima I landed in Bogotá. Exhausted from the conference and travel I lied down to watch the news of the Pope being in Washington DC (ironically, since that is where I live since the past 16 years). Much to my surprise, all local channels were covering an historic announcement from La Habana, Cuba. This is the island that was chosen to host the negotiations between Colombian government representatives and FARC leaders (Colombia´s oldest insurgent organization) to untie six decades of a very complex internal armed conflict. This was important, as the topic agreed was a very “thorny”: the issue of establishing and agreed upon justice mechanism for crimes committed during the context of the internal conflict.
Imagine my joy to know that President Juan Manuel Santos also announced a 6 month deadline to end the conflict. I was actually in my country on the day of such an historic announcement and I felt the joy of working over more than two decades for peace and change in Colombia was happening. I have been living abroad for over 16 years.
Since August 2012, delegations of the Colombian Government and FARC leadership have been tirelessly working to end and unravel over 50 years of conflict, 220.000 casualties and over seven million internally displaced people.
To have a successful agreement ALL items of the agreement must be agreed upon or NOTHING will accomplished. In Spanish sounds better: “Nada está acordado, hasta que todo esté acordado”. The agreements achieved are many, and while this is neither a linear nor a perfect process, here is a an example of the agreed points thus far: Victim Reparation, Transitional Justice (already mentioned above), Land Restitution/Agrarian Reform, Political Participation, Traffic and illicit cultivation of crops.
If a five-decade conflict is complicated (to say the least), peace is not easy either. March 23rd came and went and there were still pending issues, despite mayor advances. Pressure from far-right political forces, a plummeting approval rating for President Santos, efforts to collect signatures to “end the peace”, and even a civil resistance movement to “end the peace”, (I know, Colombia is probably the only country where civil resistance is used to promote an anti-peace message). These were, among others, aggravating pressures at the national level. However, there are also positive signs such as the resolute support of the U.S. Government in Colombia’s peace process as well as a the support of the international community in achieving an end to this painful chapter of our history.
Today, June 22nd feels a little like that September 23rd morning I told you about earlier. Another press release from La Habana, this time announcing the Agreement for Bilateral and Definitive Cease Fire and Laying Down of Weapons. The signing of this paper marks TODAY the last day of war in Colombia. The paper, to be signed tomorrow, marks the end of six decades of conflict and will be witnessed by Venezuela’s head of State, Maduro; Chile’s president Michelle Bachelet; El Salvador, Salvador Sanchez; and Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina. Ban Ki-Moon, UN secretary general will be there as well as other UN high level representatives.
Watch the news here:
Certainly a day to remember. A celebration. But not the end. Its a beginning and lucky the decades of research and lessons from other countries and accumulated evidence of decades of research in the fields like Conflict Resolution, Peacebuilding, Development have been taken into account to prepare Colombia’s post-conflict architecture. Nevertheless, much remain to be seen. I am overenthusiastic about the celebration today, but cautiously optimistic as I know how hard it is to fund and sustain a durable peace after the lights of the party have been turned off and the donors and funders move on to the next big thing.
I hope not only for a successful reintegration of Colombia’s insurgents into the political, economic, cultural life of the country. I expect for victims to be repaired but heard and taken into account for future policy-crafting. Lastly, I hope that the country deeply reflects and designs policies that directly address the causes that lead to this conflict to grow and continue for so long. All of us, whether we took up on arms or not, need to enter a peace agreement. We have to learn or re-learn to live and accept diversity, to heal and move on. To teach future generations, like Germany does, NOT to repeat this.
For now, let’s salsa in joy but starting tomorrow, the real work (of building the peace) starts.
For more information: