Hundreds of Colombians rejoice over the signing of a historic peace deal between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC), after more than 50 years of conflict.
Colombia’s government and the FARC reached a peace deal in Havana on Wednesday to end a five-decade war that has cost thousands of lives.
Celebrating the deal, hundreds of people gathered in the capital, Bogota, waving the Colombian flag and cheering.
“I can die in peace because finally I’ll see my country without violence with a future for my children,” 57-year-old Orlando Guevara told the Associated Press news
“I’m so happy. It was time to end the war,” Reuters quoted Margarita Nieto, a 28-year-old accountant, as saying.
Colombia’s FARC lead negotiator Ivan Marquez (L) and Colombia’s lead government negotiator Humberto de la Calle (R) shake hands while Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez looks on, after signing a final peace deal in Havana, Cuba, August 24, 2016. (Reuters photo)
The peace deal was signed in the Cuban capital of Havana, where talks had been held for nearly four years between the Colombian government and the FARC rebels.
“The Colombian government and the FARC announce that we have reached a final, full and definitive accord … on ending the conflict and building a stable and enduring peace,” the two sides said in a joint statement read out in Havana by Cuban diplomat Rodolfo Benitez. “We don’t want one more victim in Colombia.”
The 200-page document consists of six agreements, including legislation on rural reforms, political and democratic participation, and bilateral ceasefire, demobilization of the guerrillas, illicit drugs, and reparation payments to victims.
As part of the agreement, FARC’s estimated 7,000 rebels will gradually hand over their weapons to UN observers over six months.
FARC will also formally end its existence as a guerrilla army and transform into an unarmed political movement.
The deal will be out to a national referendum on October 2.
Colombia’s president welcomed the peace accord, saying it has ushered in a new era for Colombians.
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos speaks during a Presidential address in Bogota, Colombia, August 24, 2016. (Reuters photo)
In a national address just after the announcement, Juan Manuel Santos, who was re-elected in 2014 on the promise of a peace deal with the FARC, said that the agreement marked “the end of the suffering, the pain and the tragedy of war.”
“This is a historic and unique opportunity… to leave behind this conflict and dedicate our efforts to building a more secure, safe, equitable, educated country, for all of us, for our children and grandchildren,” the president said.
Most opinion polls suggest that Colombians will back the deal but Santos will face fierce opposition from powerful sectors of the country who believe the only solution is to finish the FARC militarily.
The conflict has left more than 220,000 people dead, 45,000 missing and almost seven million internally displaced.