Colombia's peace process is repeatedly accompanied by setbacks. These, however, are not on the account of the guerrilla organization FARC. Instead, the government falls short of its goals.
And another day that will someday go down in the Colombian history books. On Wednesday, what seemed unthinkable years ago began in the South American country: the disarmament of the roughly 7.000 fighters of the leftist guerrilla organization FARC. The trial is expected to last until the end of June, when the fighters will have become ex-rebels.
Before that, the guerrilla leadership had already achieved another remarkable success. Almost all members of the individual units found themselves in the transition zones provided for this purpose. The men and women apparently trust the words of their own leadership and the promises of President Juan Manuel Santos that they will indeed get a fair shake in the peace process.
"We are ready on 1. "We have decided to start disarming in March, but it is also a give and take on both sides and we expect the state to keep its word," FARC spokesman Pablo Catatumbo told the daily El Tiempo earlier in the week. An international United Nations observer commission is monitoring the disarmament; as recently as Tuesday, the UN once again backed the peace process in a statement.
Construction of transitional camps progresses sluggishly
While the FARC has achieved the small miracle of almost completely integrating itself into the peace process – just 200 to 300 rebels want to continue fighting – the Colombian government has repeatedly fallen short of the goals it set for itself. The construction of the transitional camps sometimes lacked basic necessities such as water and medical supplies.
"The problem begins when they arrive in the assembly zones and often find only excavators and piles of earth instead of wooden houses and simple toilets. This means that after almost five years of negotiations, the government was and is not prepared to fulfill its obligations," says Hubert Gehring of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Bogota, criticizing the slow pace of work in the 23 collection zones. It is not a good sign if there are already problems, Gehring said.
On the other hand, he sees an "obvious baby boom" in the FARC as positive. It is a hopeful sign that the leadership appears to have moved away from "the practice of decades of forced abortions within its own ranks".
Attacks on human rights activists and activists
More serious than the government's organizational problems, however, are the recent assassinations of human rights defenders, activists and local politicians close to the FARC, presumably perpetrated by paramilitary groups or criminal gangs. If the state does not succeed in protecting its citizens, the dissolution of the FARC will not change anything for the better for many people in the countryside, Gehring said. Since the signing of the peace treaty at the end of last year, nearly two dozen contract killings have been committed; the clearance rate tends toward zero.
The Catholic Church in Colombia also takes a critical view of recent developments. "The conclusion of peace talks with FARC guerrillas and the subsequent disarmament of guerrilla fighters has led to a power vacuum in many rural regions of Colombia. Areas previously under the influence of FARC fighters are now being taken over by paramilitary groups and drug traffickers," says the bishop of Apartado, Hugo Alberto Torres Marin. "The Colombian state has abandoned the people in the rural areas."
Aid agencies are also calling for stronger protection measures: "There will be no lasting peace in Colombia unless the state takes targeted action against paramilitary groups and better protects the civilian population," says Philipp Lang, Colombia officer for Caritas International.