Colombia: ‘Not everything here is rosy’

By Erika Guevara Rosas, directora para las Américas de Amnistía Internacional
26 November 2018, 14:43 UTC

Two years ago, the signing of the Peace Agreement between the FARC-EP guerrillas and the Colombian state inspired a sense of hope among the communities most affected by one of the cruellest conflicts in the region. The Alabaos (traditional songs of solidarity) sung by the women of Bojayá in Chocó – one of the areas most affected by violence – were one of the ways people showed their support for this process.

The Alabaos singers are a symbol of peaceful resistance and their presence at the historic signing of the Agreement sent a strong message of reconciliation. Their songs, full of both pain and hope, included calls for the non-repetition of violence in their territories and the women raised their voices to ask that the victims of the armed conflict in the country not be forgotten.

But the words of a courageous woman human rights defender from Chocó, referring to the slow implementation of the Agreement, also continue to resonate: “Not everything here is rosy ". The "comprehensive peace", which the victims of the armed conflict have supported and built little by little, remains elusive.

Rural areas, which have historically borne the brunt of the armed conflict in Colombia, continue to experience many forms of violence and a concerted response from the current government to put an end to this has yet to materialize. There is an increasing sense of hopelessness. Day after day, the authorities continue to turn their backs on the victims. Two years after the signing of the Agreement, progress remains slow and the responses to victims' requests are encountering increasing obstacles.

President Duque states that he will continue implementing the Agreement, as long as some points are reviewed. This decision is inevitably reflected in the weak response of national and local authorities to put the Agreement into effect. Meanwhile, entrenched political forces representing private interests in the Congress continue to defend the status quo and seek to shield high-ranking officers in the military from accountability for their involvement in serious human rights violations.

It seems that in Colombia the authorities prioritize sterile debates over putting all their resources into protecting the lives of individuals and communities. Protection is not only about guaranteeing the individual security of people who are at risk; it also requires that the authorities prioritize the fundamental rights to health, education, decent work and all the conditions that enable people to live a life of dignity and with social justice, as set out in the 1991 Constitution and reiterated in the text of the Peace Agreement.   

The deficit is clear. People defending human rights in their territories continue to be killed. At the same time, more people are becoming victims of forced displacement, as is the case of the more than 1,000 people driven from their lands in Catatumbo by fighting between the ELN and the EPL guerrilla groups and the lack of an effective state response. Paramilitary groups continue, as before, to operate with total impunity. Numbers alone cannot convey the damage this is causing to the social fabric of the country.

At this point it is important to call for continued vigilance. Social movements must continue to demand justice. Students must keep up the momentum. The Indigenous Peoples of Chocó, who organized their Minga (a broad call for Indigenous Peoples to demonstrate about an issue of collective concern) – Minga por la vida – must not falter, and the Alabaos singers must continue to inspire those fighting for justice and comprehensive reparation for the victims.

The Peace Agreement was only the start of the process of constructing peace in the country. There is still a long way to go and the guiding light through all of this has been, and will remain, the aim to guarantee the rights of the victims.