Colombia's FARC rebel group has officially declared its disarmament complete following half a century of war against the state. The ceremony marks the end of Latin America's longest contemporary conflict.
After more than 50 years of armed conflict with the Colombian government, the leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have officially handed over their weapons in accordance with last year's peace deal.
The handover was marked with an official ceremony in Colombia, attended by President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londono at a camp near the municipality of Mesetas in the department of Meta, at one of the group's demobilization camps.
"The FARC has committed to tell the truth and make reparations," Santos, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for helping forge the accord, said on Twitter. "There will be justice and guarantees for all victims."
FARC commander Rodrigo Londono, better known as "Timochenko," said in a speech that the peace deal means "farewell to war, farewell to arms - welcome to peace!"
UN mission chief Jean Arnault, meanwhile, confirmed that 6,803 FARC fighters had turned in "the entirety of the FARC's registered individual arms" - a total of 7,132 weapons. The number, however, excluded some arms that were exempted from the deal for transitional security at rebel demobilization camps until August 1.
Transition into civilian life
The FARC peace deal is seen as a key part of ongoing efforts to end the territorial and ideological conflicts in Colombia. The accord had at first been narrowly rejected by Colombians in a referendum last year before it was redrafted and pushed through congress.
The former FARC rebels are now due to make the transition into civilian life in Colombia, and their movement will transform into a political party after a congress slated for August.
Some of them will get amnesty or reduced sentences for crimes committed during the conflict.
The FARC has pledged to use its assets to compensate victims. However, critics such as conservative political leader Alvaro Uribe said that the peace accord was too lenient on FARC members.
Not a guarantor of peace
The FARC and the government have also promised to stamp out the rampant drug production that had fueled the conflict for decades. The state promised to develop alternative sources of revenue for growers of coca - the raw ingredient used in the production of cocaine.
UN envoy Jean Arnault (center) attended the ceremony alongside Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (left) and FARC leader Rodrigo Londono (right)
The conflict has left at least 260,000 people dead, more than 60,000 missing and seven million displaced. Peace with the FARC, however, is unlikely to end violence in Colombia as other combatant groups like the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Revolutionary People's Movement (MRP) continue their armed struggle against the government.
Santos meanwhile says he wanted to seal a "complete peace" by reaching a deal with the ELN, which has some 1,500 members.
The ELN started talks with the government in February, but has been blamed for ongoing confrontations with state forces.
ss/gsw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)