The president of Colombia
is due to sign a peace deal with the leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC) to bring more than 50 years of war to an end.
President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Timoleon Jimenez, known as Timochenko, will sign the accord at a ceremony in the city of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast later on Monday, the government said.
The ceremony will be attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State John Kerry and some of Latin American leaders, including Cuban President Raul Castro.
“The signature of the deal is simply the end of the conflict,” Santos told BBC. “Then the hard work starts: reconstructing our country.”
The deal will be implemented only if approved by a majority of Colombians in a national referendum to be held next Sunday.
Santos said he was “very, very confident” that most Colombians would vote in favor of the accord, adding that “peace is the victory for everybody.” He said if the majority of Colombians reject the deal, the conflict would start again.
After four years of negotiations to put an end to the country’s five years of insurgency, the two sides eventually reached “a final, full and definitive accord” on ending the conflict on August 24.
Under the deal, the rebel group will formally end its existence as a guerrilla army and transform into an unarmed political movement.
Colombian navy soldiers gather outside a church where President Juan Manuel Santos will attend a mass before signing the deal with the FARC in Cartagena, on September 26,2016. (Photo by Reuters)
FARC has committed to hand over its weapons to UN observers during six months after the peace agreement is signed. The rebel group’s estimated 7,000 fighters will also reintegrate into civilian life.
EU Ambassador in Bogota Ana Paula Zacarias said the bloc will temporarily suspend the FARC from its list of terrorist organizations and definitively remove it from the blacklist after a six-month review process.
The Marxist guerrilla group, which took up weapons in 1964 to fight against deep economic and social inequalities, now controls large swathes of Latin America
’s third most-populous country.
The decades-long conflict has left as many as 260,000 people dead, more than 6 millions displaced and 45,000 others still missing.
Colombia’s second-largest rebel group, the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN), announced on Sunday to hold fire ahead of the referendum.
The leaders of the group have publicly expressed a wish to engage in their own peace negotiations with the government but Bogotá has yet to begin planned peace talks with the group.