In November 2016 the government and FARC rebels signed an agreement ending five decades of guerrilla war. To consolidate this achievement, the state must redress the inequalities that sustained that conflict as well as make peace with Colombia’s last major insurgency, the ELN. 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 ELN talks to drug trafficking to Colombia’s relations with its troubled neighbour, Venezuela.
On 27 October, Colombia will hold its first local elections since a 2016 peace agreement between the government and FARC rebels. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Elizabeth Dickinson explains what is at stake politically and why so much violence has accompanied the campaign.
Govt faced widespread protests over discontent with funding for higher education, pension reform, urban inequality, and perceived failure to advance 2016 peace agreement with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), while killings targeting indigenous communities continued. Hundreds of thousands joined largely peaceful national strike 21 Nov; ahead of action, govt deployed army in Bogotá and other major cities; national labour union reported house raids against several civil society and student leaders 19 Nov. Police in Bogotá fired teargas 21 Nov, some clashes reported with protesters. Dozens of public transport infrastructure sites damaged or destroyed and shops looted 21-22 Nov; three people reported killed in Valle del Cauca province in looting incidents. More than 100 people arrested, hundreds of civilians and security personnel injured; night-time curfew imposed in Bogotá 22 Nov and Cali 21 Nov. Violence rose from 22 Nov; three police killed in bomb at police station in Cauca, south west 22 Nov; eighteen-year-old killed by tear gas canister 23 Nov. Second national strike held 27 Nov; one protester reportedly seriously injured in Bogotá. Govt 24 Nov began National Dialogue to calm tensions, but strike organisers criticised content and structure; protesters planning continued demonstrations gave Presidency thirteen-point program of demands 26 Nov. Defence minister resigned 6 Nov following controversy over deaths of eight children in bombardment on FARC dissident camp late Aug, adding to previous accusations that military commanders pressured soldiers to increase their kill and capture numbers. Indigenous communities in Cauca continued to suffer assassinations as armed groups attempt to move into their autonomous territory for illicit economic and criminal activity; at least five killed late Oct-early Nov. Govt 4 Nov announced “shock” strategy in response, including additional 2,500 military personnel and fast-tracking development and employment initiatives in area; fearful of increasing militarisation, consortium of national human rights organisations broke off contact with govt. Mass displacement and forced community confinement continued in several areas; fighting between National Liberation Army (ELN) and Gaitanista criminal cartel displaced more than 2,000 in Alto Baudó, Chocó in west, 16-18 Nov.
Three years after the FARC peace deal, Colombia’s Pacific region has seen surges of both dissident guerrilla activity and drug-related crime. To better aid this historically neglected area, the state should expand its presence, speed up development projects and improve educational opportunities for all.
Talks in Havana with the ELN, Colombia’s last insurgency, are advancing at a slow pace. Backed by international actors, the current government and guerrilla negotiators should aim for rapid progress in negotiations to minimise the chance of a sceptical incoming president abandoning the peace process.
Colombia’s president-elect campaigned on a pledge to “modify” the 2016 peace with the FARC guerrillas, despite its goal of reducing the rural inequality underlying that insurgency. The new government should steer clear of hardline policies that alienate the countryside and hinder the ex-guerrilla's path to civilian life.
Colombia’s 2016 peace accord has brought over 10,000 FARC fighters to the cusp of civilian life, but in their wake rival armed groups are battling for control of vacated territory and lucrative coca crops. In order to roll back booming drug production and expanding non-state groups, the Colombian government should provide local farmers with alternative livelihoods while developing grassroots security and local governance.
Revised and ratified after its shock rejection in October 2016’s referendum, Colombia’s peace agreement still lacks sustainable political support. Reversing public distrust will need swift and effective implementation of the accord – including full apologies for past crimes and the visible handover of weapons by insurgents.
To convert August’s historic peace deal into a durable end to 52 years of conflict, the government and FARC rebels must redouble efforts to achieve a full cessation of hostilities, a successful plebiscite, and UN-monitored ceasefire and weapons handover process.
The string of assassinations of indigenous leaders in Cauca illustrates some of the fundamental tensions at the center of the debate about protection for human rights defenders in Colombia.
As long as each side [in Venezuela] pursues a winner-take-all approach, they are less willing to make concessions and a deal will remain elusive.
A former FARC negotiator and member of its Central High Command, alias Jesús Santrich, abandoned his security detail on Saturday night and has since gone missing. Who is he, why is there talk of scandal and what does this mean for Colombia’s peace process? A thread
It’s essential that the state will take responsibility for [FARC fighters] basic needs so that they can become an integrated part of Colombian society. [The healthcare issue] raises the fundamental question that goes through the whole implementation of the peace process, which is: how much has the Colombian state oversold itself?
El Eln [colombiano] estuvo en consultas internas hasta el martes pasado y si en esas reuniones acordaron hacer un desescalamiento podríamos estarlo viendo en este momento.
Increased prices can be charged to [Venezuelan] migrants because of their sheer desire to cross [the border to reach Colombia].
Two years ago, Crisis Group found that major threats to Colombia’s peace process with former guerrillas all intersect in the Pacific coastal district of Tumaco. Our Colombia analyst Kyle Johnson made it his mission to find out more.
Colombia’s fragile peace is threatened by rural violence and the humanitarian burden of hosting Venezuelan refugees. In this excerpt from its Watch List 2019 – Second Update, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to sustain strong support for the implementation of the 2016 peace accords.
Watch List Updates complement International Crisis Group’s annual Watch List, most recently published in January 2019. These early-warning publications identify major conflict situations in which prompt action, driven or supported by the European Union and its member states, would generate stronger prospects for peace. The second update to the Watch List 2019 includes entries on Colombia, Ethiopia, Iran and Libya.
After Bogotá’s deadliest bombing since 2003, the government is likely to crack down hard on Colombia’s last guerrilla group, the ELN. In this Q&A, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Colombia Kyle Johnson says any new military campaign should distinguish between ELN factions and is unlikely to inflict a lasting defeat on the rebels.
Crisis Group’s third update to our Watch List 2018 includes entries on economic reforms in Libya, preserving the fragile quiet in Syria’s Idlib province, addressing the plight of civilians in eastern Ukraine, supporting Colombia's uneasy peace process and averting violence in Nigeria's upcoming elections. This annual early-warning report identifies conflict situations in which prompt action by the European Union and its member states would generate stronger prospects for peace.