Colombia and FARC set to trade-in 52-year-old conflict for peace | News | DW | 03.09.2016
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Colombia and FARC set to trade-in 52-year-old conflict for peace

President Santos has announced the peace agreement with the FARC will be signed on September 26. The brutal insurgency left more than 220,000 people dead, while another 5 million were left homeless or displaced.

A half-century old insurgency is set to come to an end in Colombia on September 26.

That's when President Juan Manuel Santos and long-time foe Rodrigo Londono, known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, will shake hands and sign the agreement in Cartogena.

"This is perhaps the most-important announcement I've made in my entire life," Santos said in a speech.

The government and the FARC reached the historic deal to end a 52-year-old conflict with South America's largest insurgency, last week. More than 220,000 people were killed in the fighting, and another 5 million were displaced.

After the peace deal is signed, a public referendum will follow on October 2. Voters will be asked to respond yes or no to a single question: "Do you support the accord that puts an end to armed conflict and constructs a stable and durable nation?"

Despite that gauzy wording there is opposition to the accord, most notably by two of Colombia's former presidents, including the popular right-wing hard-liner Alvaro Uribe. Unlike Uribe, Santos made reaching a peace agreement with the rebels a priority.

Still, the nation remains deeply divided, although opinion polls generally suggest Colombians will back the peace deal. There is heated debate about kind of justice the rebels should face and how they should be incorporated into society.

The process of disarming

The 297-page peace accord details the terms for a gradual demobilization of the FARC's estimated 7,000 fighters. It calls for the fighting units to redeploy to 28 rural areas across the country where they will gradually hand over their weapons to a United Nations-backed mission over the ensuing six months.

Rebels who confess to war crimes will be spared jail sentences, but will be forced to carry out community service in areas hard-hit by the fighting.

The political trade-off for the FARC is that they will be given 10 seats in the 268 seat bi-cameral congress for two election cycles through 2026.

After that the FARC's political strength, or weakness, will be determined at the ballot box.

Both sides are already taking steps to wind down the conflict, even before the agreement is ratified.

One of the grimmer aspects of the seemingly never ending conflict was the use of child-soldiers.

Beginning September 10th soldiers under the age of 15 will begin leaving guerilla camps. They will be handed over to UNICEF representatives, and taken to government-run shelters.

How long they will stay there is unclear, as is the number of child soldiers fighting for the FARC.

bik/bw (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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