WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

(AP Photo/Carlos Julio Martinez)

31 Oct 2019 | Commentary

Foreign Affairs: to Secure Peace in Colombia, Protect Ethnic Communities

Over three years after the signing of Colombia’s historic peace deal with the FARC guerrilla group, the October 29 killing of five indigenous leaders in the country’s southwest points to how armed groups are still carrying out brutal attacks against ethnic communities in rural areas left unprotected and neglected by the government.

By falling short in fully implementing the peace accords—including the agreement’s Ethnic Chapter, which commits to addressing the security, land rights, and human rights issues disproportionately affecting ethnic minorities—President Iván Duque’s administration has left Colombia’s indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities vulnerable to what feels like, at times, the continuation of a 52-year conflict that officially ended in 2016.

In a new article for Foreign Affairs, WOLA Director for the Andes Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli outlines the specific actions taken by the Duque administration to undermine full implementation of the 2016 peace agreement. Not only has this sparked new tensions with armed groups, by actively working to hobble the truth and justice provisions of the accord, the Duque administration is sending a message to illegal armed actors that they will enjoy impunity for crimes such as the murder of human rights leaders, Sánchez-Garzoli argues.

Counts vary regarding how many social leaders and human rights advocates have been killed since the signing of the FARC peace agreement, with the Colombian Ombudsman Office registering at least 486. Other parts of the country, such as the Colombian Pacific coast, are registering levels of violence and displacement unseen since the peak of the conflict (1999-2004), Sánchez-Garzoli notes.

“The Colombian government must collaborate with Afro-Colombian and indigenous leaders to fulfill the peace deal’s promise of investment, security, and justice for the rural communities hardest hit by the conflict,” Sánchez-Garzoli writes. “Failure to do so will risk erasing all of the progress that Colombia has made through its historic peace process.”

Read the article