Colombia FARC rebels seal historic disarmament
MESETAS-Agence France-PresseColombia’s leftist FARC rebel force declared its disarmament complete on June 27 after half a century of war against the state, bringing an end to Latin America’s oldest armed guerrilla force.
“Farewell to war. Farewell to arms, welcome to peace!” said commander Rodrigo Londono, alias Timochenko, in a speech in the central town of Mesetas, the group’s historic base.
The move is a key part of efforts to end the territorial and ideological conflict under a 2016 peace accord.
The accord was narrowly rejected by Colombians in a referendum last year before it was redrafted and pushed through congress.
Since then, the process has been blighted by ongoing violence involving other armed groups.
United Nations monitors said on June 26 they “have the entirety of the FARC’s registered individual arms stored away.” That excluded some arms that were exempted for transitional security at rebel demobilization camps until Aug. 1.
Separately, the UN mission is destroying other weapons and munitions stashed in remote hiding places.
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos said “our peace is real and irreversible.”
“The laying down of arms is a symbol of the new country that we can be,” he said in a speech following Timochenko’s.
The former fighters are now due to make the transition into civilian life. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) aims to transform into a political party after a congress in August.
Critics such as conservative political leader Alvaro Uribe said the peace accord was too lenient on FARC members.
The FARC launched its uprising in 1964 to fight for land rights and protection for poor rural communities.
The conflict drew in leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary groups and state forces.
It has left 260,000 people confirmed dead, more than 60,000 missing and seven million displaced.
The FARC has pledged to use its assets to compensate victims.