Colombia-wait, what?

Since our post on the Colombia peace accords one week ago today, things have taken a dramatic turn, and then turned yet again. Here is a very brief overview linking many articles that can provide further background.

On Sunday, October 2, Colombians went to the polls to vote on the peace accords signed by the government and the FARC guerrillas. Although polls in the weeks leading up to the vote predicted the “yes” vote in favor of the accord would win handily, a combination of factors led to the “no” vote winning 50.2% to 49.8%. Many in Colombia and around the world were shocked by narrow margin, hopeful that after 4 years of negotiations the country was ready to write a new chapter.

One of the most impactful moments of Sunday was looking at the electoral map indicating where the “yes” vote had the most support—overwhelmingly in the regions that are most impacted by the conflict. Many victims came forward to vote for peace, conceding that the peace accords are not perfect, but they are exhausted by war and want no more. In the urban areas where people can be more insulated from the conflict, the “no” vote had more sway. Michael Joseph covers this in his blog post along with other helpful background.

Some say the vote was more about President Santos political capital and popularity, while others cite hurricane impacts on the coast that greatly impacted voter turnout. However, the reality of polarization cannot be denied, as many Colombians were and still are concerned about the FARC not serving time in jail for their crimes. Many in the “no” camp have reiterated that they are in favor of peace broadly, but had too many concerns about the provisions in the accord, not least the political participation of the FARC.

With the country plunged into uncertainty yet again, there has been a lot of speculation about what will happen as a result of the referendum vote. The ceasefire will continue, but it is not clear how long. The FARC were on the cusp of demobilizing, even destroying explosives on Saturday ahead of the vote, but now remain in precarious positions across the country, unsure where to go. Violence from other groups trying to claim territory from the FARC is a possibility. On Wednesday the leader of the most vocal opposition to the peace accords, former president Uribe, did meet with President Santos to discuss concerns about the accord. Santos has also been meeting with other groups to hear their objections and build understanding of what the accords do and do not contain.

And then in another twist, President Juan Manuel Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize today. Many are hoping this could refuel the momentum for peace after the shock and uncertainty following the referendum.

There will be much more to debate and discuss as the Colombian government figures out how to move the peace accords forward in a deeply divided country. For many advocates who have dedicated their lives to the work of peace and peacebuilding in Colombia it is another obstacle on the journey, but they carry on, for there is still much work to be done.


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