Colombia marks the five-year anniversary of the signing of the peace accords.
Colombia honored the five-year anniversary of the signing of landmark peace accords that brought an end to a nearly six-decade conflict that claimed tens of thousands of lives and left a legacy of violence on Wednesday.
Former combatants, victim representatives, government officials, and the UN’s top official gathered at the headquarters of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), a tribunal established to adjudicate the conflict’s worst crimes, which resulted in the deaths, injuries, kidnappings, and displacement of nearly nine million people.
Rodrigo Londono, a former commander of the now-defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group, told the gathering in Bogota, “We insist on apologizing to the victims of our activities throughout the fight.”
“Our comprehension of their anguish deepens daily in us, filling us with grief and guilt,” said the former fighter-turned-politician known as Timochenko in his battle alias.
Since the signing of the peace pact in 2016, approximately 13,000 guerrillas have surrendered their arms, but violence continues in many areas of Colombia, where FARC dissidents who rejected the deal continue to fight paramilitary and rebel groups as well as drug traffickers in the world’s largest cocaine-producing country.
In the last five years, about 300 former militants of the FARC, which has recently transitioned into a minority political party, have been assassinated.
Former President Juan Manuel Santos expressed “pleasure” that his successor and political foe Ivan Duque was there at Wednesday’s ceremony. Santos was given the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating with a rebel organization he had previously defeated militarily.
Duque has previously attempted to amend the peace agreement, which he and his right-wing party believe is overly lenient toward the FARC.
“The train of peace that so many people attempted to derail or halt is still running,” Santos added.
“President Duque has joined the peace train, as we have observed recently with great pleasure.”
Due to ongoing conflict between armed groups over control of drug crops, illegal gold mines, and lucrative smuggling routes, Colombia is facing its most violent time since 2016.
According to the Indepaz peace research institute, the country is home to 90 armed groups with a total of 10,000 members.
Over 5,000 FARC dissidents who refused to accept peace, 2,500 members of the National Liberation Army or ELN, the country’s last active guerrilla group, and another 2,500 right-wing paramilitary combatants are among them.
The United Nations warned last month that the country’s deteriorating security situation posed a “significant challenge” to the country’s 2016 peace deal.
On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a warning. The Washington Newsday Brief News is a daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C.