The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts on negotiating a peace deal with The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC.

Despite last Sunday Colombians voted “no” to the proposed peace deal with the terrorist group, the president’s efforts are still recognized by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The Nobel organization hopes that the award will encourage Santos and the country to continue peace negotiations to finally bring peace to Colombians after more than 50 years of war with FARC.

The Nobel organization hopes that the award will encourage Santos and the country to continue peace negotiations. Photo credit: Alto Nivel
The Nobel organization hopes that the award will encourage Santos and the country to continue peace negotiations. Photo credit: Alto Nivel

On October 2, 2016, Colombia had a referendum to decide if Colombia agreed to the peace deal proposed by Santos and FARC leader, Rodrigo Londoño, alias Timochenko, to stop the war in the country. Through the vote, Colombians said “no” to the deal in an almost tied result: 49.79 percent of voters supported the peace agreement and 50.21 percent voted no, arguing the peace accord does not seem fair after all the crimes FARC has performed since 1964.

The Nobel Committee explained their decision saying that Santos’s effort to try to bring peace to his country is a historical attempt in one of the world’s longest-running conflicts. The war between FARC and Colombians has killed more than 220 thousand and has driven at least 7 million people from their homes running from the terrorist crimes.

The announcement of Santos’s award was a surprise because it was believed that after losing the referendum, the Colombian president did not have a chance to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The White Helmets, a rescue group that has helped over 60 thousand people in Syria, was thought to be the winner, but even after the referendum results, the committee still agreed that Santos’s work deserved the prize.

The Nobel Committee is conscious that Colombia did not support certain terms of the peace deal, but the decision to give the prize to Manuel Santos is an attempt to keep people motivated to continue with peace negotiations with FARC.

The current fragile cease-fire will expire October 31.

Kaci Kullmann Five, a former Norwegian politician who is now chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, stated that there is “a real danger” regarding the peace process coming to a halt and civil war starting all over again.

“We hope it [the prize] will encourage all good initiatives and all the parties who could make a difference in this process in Colombia,” said Kullmann

FARC wants peace, and they are willing to change some terms of the peace deal 

The peace award was only given to President Santos and did not include FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño. This might come as a surprise for some but not for many. Londoño -despite being behind FARC efforts to reach peace- is a guerrilla commander, and he is the leader of the rebel army that is considered a terrorist organization not only by Colombia but also the United States and other countries. Londoño is wanted in the U.S. on drug-trafficking charges.

Londoño posted on Twitter that he remains committed to peace. FARC sent a separate joint statement saying the group is willing to discuss “adjustments” to the deal. FARC soldiers had spent months preparing the first document, and they know the next one will include harsher penalties for those soldiers accused of kidnapping, drug trafficking, murder, and other war crimes.

This is the first time that the rebel army shows any signs to modify the 297-page agreement that was signed by Santos and Londoño on September 26. The one that was not implemented because voters did not agree on those terms. Protest signs against the peace deal read: “We want peace, but not like this.”

Santos award was an important moment for Colombia as a country because now, the country has two Nobel Prizes. The first one was won by novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 1982 for his novel “One hundred years of solitude.”

The Colombian president dedicated the prize to the Colombian people and the millions who have suffered the effects of the war. Santos said on a national-televised addressed Friday morning that the Nobel Peace Prize 2016 was for the victims of the bloodshed between FARC and the Colombian army.

He sent a message of peace, emphasizing his intentions to continue the negotiations with the group. Santos stated the award represents that there will be not one more victim of the conflict. He addressed the Colombian people saying the country must come together and unite to achieve peace and start to build “a stable and lasting peace.”

Former Colombia President Álvaro Uribe could be risking national peace with his speeches

Álvaro Uribe was Santos’s benefactor and predecessor, but now that the pupil has surpassed his master, Uribe has become an obstacle for Santos’s peace negotiations.

Uribe wrote on Twitter Friday that he congratulated Santos on his achievement as a Nobel laureate, but ended his post with a bitter message.

“I hope it [the prize] leads to changes to the accords that are damaging for democracy,” he said.

Former president Álvaro Uribe was behind the campaign that sought to stop the first peace deal due to the terms it established. If Uribe continues to push for a deal the rebels cannot accept; Colombia could lose its chance to live in peace.

Source: The Washington Post