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’s peace efforts with FARC dissidents and ELN remained fragile, armed group Gaitanista Self-Defence Force expressed interest in talks, and violence in countryside persisted at high levels.

Govt partially cancelled ceasefire with FARC dissidents, who responded with show of force. President Petro 17 March cancelled bilateral ceasefire with dissident Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) faction known as FARC-EP Estado Mayor Central (FARC-EMC) in Cauca, Nariño and Valle de Cauca departments along Pacific coast. Decision followed 16 March incident in Toribío municipality (Cauca), in which members of local FARC-EMC front fired at civilian population, killing elderly woman. In show of force, FARC-EMC 30 March posted video announcing creation of new regional bloc, which they said would work to consolidate armed group’s presence in Valle del Cauca, Huila, Tolima and Quindío departments, latter two being places where EMC has only recently established itself. Govt and dissidents set to hold extraordinary session 3 April aimed at de-escalating crisis.

Govt-ELN tensions persisted over regional dialogue, Gaitanistas agreed to talks. Tensions between govt and guerrilla group National Liberation Army (ELN) ran high over former’s plan to open peace dialogue in Nariño, initially set to include regional ELN front and other armed groups. ELN central command condemned initiative, accusing govt of trying to undermine group’s coherence; strong reaction laid bare deep fractures within ELN. National and local govt in Nariño 9 March inaugurated dialogue with civil society, but walked back plans to include armed groups. Meanwhile, Petro 18 March called on armed group Gaitanista Self-Defence Force to engage in talks or “be destroyed”; group next day accepted offer for dialogue, though next steps remain unclear. 

Confrontations between armed groups continued, exacting heavy toll on civilians. Notably, UN 15 March reported displacement or confinement of 7,000 people in Nariño, where FARC-EMC fronts clashed with separate dissident FARC faction Segunda Marquetalia and ELN. UN report on children and armed conflict, made public 25 March, found 61% increase in incidents of conflict violence affecting minors from 2021-2023, compared with 2019-2021. 

In another important development. Petro 26 March threatened to break off diplomatic relations with Israel if it doesn’t comply with UN Security Council resolution calling for ceasefire in Gaza (see Israel/Palestine).

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In The News

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

Elizabeth Dickinson

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

Bram Ebus

Consultant
9 နိုဝင်ဘာလ 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 အောက်တိုဘာလ 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 ဖေဖော်ဝါရီလ 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

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Elizabeth Dickinson

Senior Analyst, Colombia
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