Colombia: The Rejected Peace Agreement that Received the Nobel Peace Prize
Updated: Feb 10
“We must rebuild Colombia, starting with ourselves, our hearts, put resentment aside, put hatred aside, put envy aside. The only thing that those attitudes accomplish is to sow violence and sow death and suffering.”
– Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos
Yellow, blue and red constitute the Colombian flag. The yellow color symbolizes sovereignty and justice, the blue color loyalty and vigilance or more beautifully described the country’s contact with two oceans (Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea). Finally the color red represents the valor shown and the blood that was spilled during the war of independence from Spain. But considering the violent civil wars that the country has experienced, it would be in place to increase the portion of the red color in the flag.
Ever since they gained independence from Spain in 1810, Colombia has experience no less than seven civil wars (!). In the late 50’s, just a few years after the civil war called “La violencia” ended, Colombia experienced an increased support in the extrem left wing/marxist movement, similar to many other Latin American countries did. It is during this period that the communist/marxist movement FARC was founded.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were tiered of the economic inequalities that the country was experiencing and were hoping to create a decentralized state, redistribute land back to the poor and reduce the influence of multinational corporations.
In order to gain more wealth, recognition and influence in the country, FARC started to use terrifying methods. They started to gain wealth from drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion, and these were only three of the tools they used to frighten and convey a message of terror.
Between 1964 and 2016 the war between the guerrilla group FARC and the Colombian state claimed over 220 000 lives.
The Peace agreement between Colombia and FARC
So when the Colombian President Santos announced that he was creating a peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC, opinions among the Colombian population were scattered. The President explained that the members of FARC had agreed to surrender their weapons, form a legitimate political party, end their involvement in drug trafficking, address the human rights abuses caused over the last five decades and end a civil war that had prolonged through the entire life span of a generation. A generation that had never experienced peace in Colombia.
But in exchange they would gain representation in congress for at least the next two years, former members would not go to jail (instead serve their sentence through social work) and receive financial support from the Colombian government.
After four years of negotiation between 2012 and 2016 in Havana, Cuba, the Colombian government and the leaders of FARC finally reached an agreement and signed one of the most awaited and revolutionary agreements in modern history. The picture of President Santos and FARC leader Timoleon “Timochenko” Jimenez shaking hands covered the front page of news papers all over the world. The former Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon attended the ceremony and Santos even received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016.
Everybody were celebrating reaching this milestone and ending a civil war lasting more than 50 years, all that remained was a referendum where the Colombian people would vote and make the agreement “official”. But nobody predicted what happen next. Only 49,8% voted in favor of the peace agreement, which meant that the agreement did not go through! After more than five decades of war, more than 220 000 deaths and four years of negotiation, still more than half of the population of Colombia voted no!
How was this possible and what happens next?
Many nej-sayers claim that the FARC members received a far too generous offer and needed to be punished far worse for their inhuman actions. Perhaps some wounds run too deep and no matter how much you work on it, you just cannot stop the bleeding. The people that voted no, where mainly divided into two groups. The first group where among the richest people in Colombia who were afraid that the political party represented by the FARC members would have a left wing influence on the rest of the congress, which would not benefit their own agenda. Second group, we have the people on the other side of the spectrum, the poorest people. They felt a sense of injustice because they had been living at a minimum standard of living but still remained law abiding citizens for their entire life. Without noticing any real change. But for the people who had been part of FARC for decades, would now receive government founding and be given the opportunity to live a “normal” life, while their situation remained unchanged.
But Santos did not let this misjudgment stop his ambitions plan to end the longest ongoing war in modern history. The agreement was slightly changed and both FARC and the Colombian government remained loyal to the agreement. At the end of February 2017, FARC had handed over all their weapons and the agreement could slowly be implemented.
An amazing achievement and a step in the right direction, but one cannot claim that peace has reached the streets of Colombia. Other guerrilla groups are now increasing their influence, after the vacuum of power that FARC left behind. The instability and uncertainty will probably remain in Colombia, but this agreement has showed that Colombia is moving in the right direction and has provided Colombia with the most needed gift to keep aiming and fighting for a peaceful country, hope.