Colombia Signs Historic Peace Deal Ending Half a Century of War

Telesur | 26 September, 2016

  • Colombia’s decades-long armed conflict is over.
    Colombia’s decades-long armed conflict is over. | Photo: EFE
    The next step in Colombia’s journey toward peace will be the Oct. 2 plebiscite asking voters to approve the pact.

    In a historic ceremony, the Colombian government of Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC-EP formally signed a peace deal Monday, ending 52 years of armed conflict.

Over 15 heads of state, 25 foreign ministers and heads of multilateral organizations attended the moving ceremony that took place in the coastal city of Cartagena.

All dressed in white, people applauded the peace delegates as they came on stage, chanting “Yes, we did it!”

After a minute of silence paying tribute to the victims of the conflict, an orchestra played the Colombian national anthem, which even Chilean President Michelle Bachelet sang along with the crowd.

Then a chorus of women from Boyaca, a town located in the mostly Afro-Colombian department of el Choco and known for the 2002 Boyaca Massacre, sang, “We want peace, health and education in our countryside.”

Following the formal signature of the peace deal, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon spoke first, thanking the work of guarantor countries Cuba and Norway during the two years of negotiations in Havana, as well as Chile and Venezuela for their support. “Long live the peace, long live peaceful Colombia!” concluded the secretary.

Then FARC-EP head Timoleon Jimenez, known as Timochenko, welcomed the deal, yet insisted that social justice will be crucial to making peace a reality in the country.

“We will comply with the agreement and hope that the government does the same.”

This concern, reflecting the more general fear of FARC-EP rebels across the country, took an unexpected illustration when a military plane was launched in the air and interrupted his speech.

Timochenko looked up in the air with a half-worried, half-amused look, then jokingly said, “this time they are not here to bomb us”—Santos later confirmed the military plane was part of the ceremony in order to “celebrate peace.”

“In the name of the FARC-EP,” Timochenko apologized “to all the victims of the war for all the pain caused.” “We are entering politics without arms. Let us all prepare to disarm our minds and our hearts,” added the FARC-EP leader.

Then Santos concluded the ceremony, condemning the “violence that has brought poverty and inequality to our country and hindered our development.” He repeatedly thanked the police and armed forces of the country for their efforts during the conflict.

He concluded by urging Colombians to vote “Yes” in a plebiscite to be held on Oct. 2. Polls indicate the deal will be approved by a wide margin despite a campaign led by current Senator and former President Alvaro Uribe, a staunch conservative, to reject the agreement.

Colombia’s peace accords with the FARC-EP, the largest rebel army with a current membership of more than 7,000 combatants, brings an end to 52 years of civil war that has claimed the lives of 220,000 and victimized some 8 million Colombians.

SOURCE: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Colombia-Signs-Historic-Peace-Deal-Ending-Half-a-Century-of-War-20160926-0025.html

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