Today Colombians are voting to approve or reject the peace accord between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas. This agreement was signed on August 24 and its considered historic by most critics.

The referendum took place with unfriendly climate conditions and irregularities in some areas of the Guajira, where several voting centers did not open as scheduled due to the effects of Hurricane Matthew in the area. President Santos publicly shared his “yes” vote.

People celebrate the signing of a historic ceasefire deal between the Colombian government and FARC rebels at Botero square in Medellin, Colombia. Photo: Reuters

“We in Colombia have to adopt this culture of non-violence, all of us can be protagonists in this historic change taking place in our nation,” said Santos while leaving his voting center.

Yes or No

Colombians will be asked whether they are for the deal that ends hostilities with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or if they reject it. 13 percent of registered voters will be enough to ratify the agreement, which in the Colombian population database translates into almost 5 million people.

“Do you support the final accord for the end of the conflict and the construction of stable and lasting peace?” is the question Colombians answered today. The referendum ended around 5:00 p.m. local time.

Polls taken before this referendum revealed that most Colombians favored the yes. The implementation of the agreement will require structural reforms and a considerable investment to respond to violence’s consequences.

This deal decided to end hostilities between the forces through demobilization, opened the possibility to allow FARC’s participation in the political arena, improve rural development to repair damages, mechanisms to respond to the irregularities of the illicit economy and solutions to the victims. On the other hand, if Colombians reject the agreement, the agreement will no longer continue.


Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. Image Credit: CCTV-America

What happens after the deal? 

Considering previous polls’ results, most people is getting ready to live the “agreement-era.” A reintegration process is going to be managed by a High Commission. This process will include the demobilization of the armed groups and their new political participation in Colombia.

Involvement in the Constitutional Assembly and local politics are among the areas that will be open to former members of the FARC.

Regarding reparation and restitution, the agreement aims to implement transition justice mechanisms to respond to the victims and the victims’ families’ needs.

Transitional Justice as a way out

Transitional justice refers to the set of judicial and non-judicial measures that have been implemented by different countries in order to redress the legacies of massive human rights abuses. These measures include criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations programs, and various kinds of institutional reforms.

Transitional justice is not a ‘special’ kind of justice, but an approach to achieving justice in times of transition from conflict and/or state repression. By trying to achieve accountability and redressing victims, transitional justice provides recognition of the rights of victims, promotes civic trust and strengthens the democratic rule of law,”  according to the International Center for Transitional Justice.

About 6 million Colombians were affected by the prolonged conflict, more than 220,000 died during the war, and the index of internally displaced people is among the largest worldwide. But also, the other side of the conflict is the considerably large amount of individuals that received benefits as a result of the FARC forces’ activities and operations and whether these people will collaborate with the transitional justice process.

Rebels soldiers of the 32nd Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia take a break at their camp in the jungles of Putumayo, Colombia, on August 11, 2016. Image Credit: AP Photo/Fernando Vergara.

About the FARC 

The guerrilla movement has existed since 1964 and is the leading actor of the Colombian armed conflict. Initially, the movement sustained a Marxist-Leninist force to promote a political project in the Colombian government.

However, the group used military tactics and illegal activities to gain power and achieve their goals -including kidnap, ransom, illegal mining and distribution of illegal drugs- which created severe tensions in the country that led to the longest and roughest armed conflict in the history of the Nation.

Colombian governments approached the war in different ways. Manuel Santos, the Colombian president, initially continued the armed offensive against the Revolutionary movement. In 2010 the conflict was violent, but the approach changed around 2013 where the peace started to be an option.

Authorities decided to work on peace talks to disarm the movements, but the FARC forces kept performing violent attacks, as well as some armed responses executed by the government. It was this year that both the Colombian government and the FARC discussed a ceasefire.

Source: Washington Post