Colombia launches regional peace committee in war-torn northwest

Colombia will launch a regional “committee for peace” to improve the reintegration process for hundreds of former FARC rebels in the war-torn Antioquia province.

The committee, launched Monday, is headed by Colombia’s national government, the governor’s office, and the four mayoral offices from the towns where FARC reintegration camps are located.

The first of its kind, this peace committee will address a number of challenges related to the peace process, including finding land for FARC members to farm with, providing work readiness and educational training to the ex-combatants and promoting reconciliation.

For now, the committee is looking to reintegrate 1,006 former combatants and 102 former FARC militia members in Antioquia.

The former combatants are expected to officially receive amnesty for their crimes of rebellion within the next two weeks.

Jairo Quintero, a FARC representative to the National Council for Reintegration, told newspaper El Tiempo the new committee will help promote productive futures for former combatants, while providing security guarantees to FARC members and community leaders.

How the FARC’s reintegration process is supposed to work

Colombia’s High Commissioner for Peace, Rodrigo Rivera, has claimed that his office will also work to provide security guarantees for social leaders at risk.

Antioquia’s new peace committee, he said, “will also work on the health of former guerrillas and implementing programs to prepare ex-combatants and communities for future development programs.”

Luis Perez, the governor of Antioquia, recently stated that more than 60 percent of FARC guerrillas want to become small-scale farmers.

Antioquia governor Luis Perez is a politician with a political career that has been stained by accusations of corruption and ties to criminal organizations.

To help allocate small plots of land to former guerrillas, a process that is part of the peace agreement, the national government will give approximately $650,000 to Antioquia’s governor’s office for “productive projects that benefit not only ex-combatants but also communities where the FARC’s reintegration zones are located.”

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Antioquia is the first of Colombia’s departments to operate such a peace committee.

According to the National Center for Historic Memory, Antioquia was one of Colombia’s departments hardest hit during the half-century-long armed conflict with the FARC.

FARC reintegration site in Ituango. (Image credit: David Graaff)

The department has over one million registered victims of the armed conflict, amounting to nearly 15 percent of the country’s whole.

The vast majority of victims are civilians. The most common victimizers have been paramilitary groups, followed by Colombia’s armed forces, then the FARC, according to the investigators.

Homicide, forced disappearance, landmines, extortion and sexual violence make up the most common cases of victimization.

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