Sunday, April 09, 2017

17.8 - Update: progress on implementing Colombian peace accord

Update: progress on implementing Colombian peace accord

Next up, an Update on the progress of implementing the peace agreement between the rebel group known as FARC - in English, The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - and the government of Colombia to end a civil war that went on for more than 50 years. Nearly a quarter-million people were killed in the war and millions more were driven from their homes.

The settlement, which came last summer, was my choice for Good News of the year for 2016, a title that the peaceful, negotiated end of a 50-year-old war would seem to deserve.

With all that in mind, an Update is certainly not out of line.

Progress has been slower than hoped, delayed and delayed again, but it is progressing. In accordance with the agreement, former FARC fighters are making their way to UN-overseen camps where they are handing over thousands of weapons and other materials. Those weapons are to be stored in secure containers until they can be turned into three memorial statues.

Originally, the surrender of arms was supposed to have been completed by December 31, a date which proved to be hopelessly optimistic. It now is to be completed by June. So yes, implementation has been delayed - but it is happening.

There are still difficulties and resentments, some driven by the hard fact that the camps are not up to the standards promised in the accords, with some on each side grumbling that the other side is responsible for the delay in getting them fully ready.

A bigger threat, though, is found in reports that the Colombian military is trying to undermine the peace process by bribing FARC rebels heading for the camps to abandon the peace process and sell their weapons to the army rather than turning them in. If enough former rebels do so and do not go to the camps for demobilization, the agreement could fall apart, preventing FARC from participating in reconstruction and from becoming a legal political movement, a key part of the agreement.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International is reporting that violence is continuing in parts of Colombia because right-wing militias are moving in to areas vacated by FARC and committing what - this is my judgment, not AI's - are likely revenge murders, doing it even as the Colombian government refuses to recognize the existence of such paramilitary groups.

Finally, it should be noted that there is another guerrilla group, the ELN - in English, the National Liberation Army. The ELN is more radical than FARC but a fraction its size. Negotiations between government and ELN broke down, but are now being restarted.

Let's just hope that Colombia can continue on the rocky road down which it has already gone some distance.

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