FARC demobilization delayed as Colombia govt fails to provide basic infrastructure

(Image credit: AFP)

The demobilization deadline for Colombia’s largest rebel group FARC has been extended to January 10 as the government has failed to set up the camps where guerrillas are meant to hand in their weapons.

The FARC was supposed to demobilize more than 16,000 people before new year’s eve as part of a peace deal to end 52 years of armed conflict.

However, the encampments that are supposed to shelter the former guerrillas in many cases were never prepared for undisclosed reasons.

According to Medellin newspaper El Colombiano, of the five planned demobilization and disarmament camps in the Antioquia province, only one is ready. The other four do not yet exist.

“At the site where I am nothing has been done. Nothing. It’s a field and some cows,” Dutch FARC member Tanja Nijmeijer told Colombia Reports from the southwestern Cauca province where she is staying in a provisional pre-demobilization site with fellow rebels.

After weeks of claiming FARC guerrillas were moving into the so-called ZVTN sites, the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos was forced to implicitly admit on Wednesday that it had failed to prepare most these sites.

The monitoring commission consisting of a government, a FARC and a United Nations representative announced they had agreed to delay the demobilization that was initially scheduled to take place in the first week of October.

“To continue the work of preparing the terrains and the construction of camps, civilian workers contracted by the government will arrive at nine sites on December 31,” said the three-party commission.

The FARC’s 180-day demobilization and disarmament process is part of a major, 10-year national peace process that seeks to end more than 52 years of violence that has left more than 8 million victims.

While the guerrilla group transforms to become a Marxist political party, the government is set to embark on a series of political and rural reforms aimed at removing what are considered the main causes of the conflict, rural inequality and political exclusion.

Meanwhile, a transitional justice system for both guerrillas and members of the military is put in place to seek truth and justice over the mass victimization of Colombians.

Apart from the 16,600 FARC members, some 24,400 (former) state officials and 12,500 civilians who are either convicted or formally charged with war crimes will appear before this system.

The process is broadly supported in Congress with the exception of the Democratic Center party of former President Alvaro Uribe, who like the current president, is facing numerous war crime charges.

But Colombian society is strongly divided and agitated over the process that seeks to end a war the majority of Colombians were born in and, rather than in victory or defeat, ended in compromises that for many are hard to swallow.

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