Colombia

In November 2016, the government and FARC rebels signed an agreement ending five decades of guerrilla war, yet peace remains elusive as new armed groups have stepped in to compete for territory and illicit businesses. To defend the gains of the peace process and stop a new cycle of conflict from taking hold, the state must redress the inequality underlying social discontent, make peace with Colombia’s last major insurgency, the ELN, and design security strategies that put protecting people first. Crisis Group has worked on Colombia’s conflicts since 2002, publishing over 40 reports and briefings and meeting hundreds of times with all parties in support of inclusive peace efforts. We monitor the FARC deal’s progress and carry out field research on issues ranging from new patterns of armed conflict to Colombia’s relations with its troubled neighbour, Venezuela. 

CrisisWatch Colombia

Unchanged Situation

Govt-ELN talks faced setback following ceasefire renewal; violence remained high across countryside. 

Govt-ELN talks faced challenges despite ceasefire renewal. After challenging discussions in Cuban capital Havana, govt and guerrilla group National Liberation Army (ELN) 5 Feb announced extension of bilateral ceasefire for further six months. Agreement includes unilateral commitment from ELN to end kidnapping for ransom and to release all those detained. Days later, however, group’s western front 10 Feb launched armed strike in Chocó department along San Juan, Sipí and Cajón rivers in order to block advance by rival armed group Gaitanista Self Defense Forces. New crisis erupted 20 Feb when ELN recalled its negotiators for consultations, accusing govt of trying to undermine national talks by sponsoring regional dialogue initiative in Nariño department; ELN’s central command objects to involvement of local ELN front in a regional process, as it undermines group’s coherency at national dialogue. Sides 26 Feb reaffirmed commitment to continue negotiations despite disagreement. 

“Total peace” efforts with FARC dissidents and other groups continued. Govt 1 Feb signed agreement to open talks with dissident Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) faction called Segunda Marquetalia. Separately, tensions mounted between govt and second dissident faction already in talks, known as FARC-EP Estado Mayor Central (FARC-EMC); FARC-EMC 15 Feb issued communiqué accusing security forces of advancing on its troops in Buenos Aires town, Cauca department (along Pacific coast). Meanwhile, two criminal groups in Buenaventura city 5 Feb extended truce; agreement includes crucial provision allowing for creation of monitoring mechanism. 

Gaitanistas clashed with army. Violence intensified mid-Feb between Gaitanista Self Defence forces and military, which is escalating pressure campaign against group. Clashes 16-17 Feb left five soldiers dead along border between Antioquia and Bolívar departments. President Petro 17 Feb issued ultimatum to group, saying security forces would dismantle it if forces are not willing to demobilise. 

Petro faced criticism for slow implementation of coca substitution programs. Major civil society and farmer’s organisations from Catatumbo region, home to some of Colombia’s highest density coca crops, 11 Feb sent letter to Petro urging his administration to accelerate coca substitution programs; protests likely if there is no govt response.

Continue reading

In The News

21 feb 2024
The trend of violence against ex-combatants [in Colombia] is a strong deterrent to disarmament. AP

Elizabeth Dickinson

Senior Analyst, Colombia
7 feb 2024
Violence in Colombia has long come from combats between illegal groups, and from the pressure they exert on civilians. AP

Elizabeth Dickinson

Senior Analyst, Colombia
5 feb 2024
State presence [in Panama] overly focuses on border control and does not prioritise the protection of migrants. The Guardian

Bram Ebus

Consultant
9 nov 2023
The ELN [in Colombia] has made very clear they have no intention of ceasing their economic activities which includes kidnapping. Financial Times

Elizabeth Dickinson

Senior Analyst, Colombia
31 okt 2023
By the time the Colombian state signed a peace accord with the former FARC rebels [in 2016], kidnapping nearly disappeared … But in recent years that trend has reversed. The Sun

Elizabeth Dickinson

Senior Analyst, Colombia
8 feb 2023
None of the armed groups [in Colombia] will give up anything significant unless they are under military pressure. The Economist

Elizabeth Dickinson

Senior Analyst, Colombia

Latest Updates

Our People

Elizabeth Dickinson

Senior Analyst, Colombia
Elizabeth Dickinson

Subscribe to Crisis Group’s Email Updates

Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.