Peace accords signed between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known as FARC, have ended a half-century conflict that killed 260,000 people and displaced another six million.
But it does not mean an end to Colombia’s violence. FARC’s smaller revolutionary cousin, the ELN, or National Liberation Army, has agreed a temporary ceasefire but has not yet laid down its weapons. Neither do the peace accords disband the rightwing paramilitaries who carried out the bulk of the killings during the civil war. They have transformed into criminal gangs that control significant swaths of territory in which the state has little presence.
Hardest hit by the strife are Colombia’s remotest regions, areas typically inhabited by indigenous people and Afro-Colombians. The fighting is over control of illegal industries, from drugs to mining and extortion – businesses that both the FARC and ELN have been heavily involved in. The fear is that, unless the government can extend services and development to these regions, demobilised former guerrillas will head back to the bush and the lure of these lucrative activities.
There is still significant domestic opposition to the agreement negotiated by the government and FARC over four years of talks in Cuba. But the peace deal does offer hope; that a more representative political system can be built, which opens space for the endemically marginalised, and a process of national dialogue and reconciliation can begin.
But it will be a lengthy and difficult journey for Colombia, with many potential pitfalls and spoilers to contend with.
TOP PHOTO: Colombians queue to vote in the plebiscite on the peace deal