Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos won the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for his efforts to end a 52-year-old war with Marxist guerrillas, a surprise choice and a show of support days after voters rejected a peace deal he signed with the rebels.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said Santos had brought one of the longest civil wars in modern history significantly closer to a peaceful solution, but there was still a danger the peace process could collapse.
The award excluded FARC guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, who signed the peace accord with Santos in Cartagena on Sept. 26.
Santos has promised to revive the plan even though Colombians narrowly rejected it in a referendum on Sunday. Many voters believedit was too lenient on the FARC guerrillas.
“There is a real danger that the peace process will come to a halt and that civil war will flare up again. This makes it even more important that the parties … continue to respect the ceasefire,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.
“The fact that a majority of the voters said ‘No’ to the peace accord does not necessarily mean that the peace process is dead.”
More than 220,000 people have died on the battlefield or in massacres during the conflict between leftist guerrillas, government troops and right-wing paramilitaries.
Millions have been displaced and many beg on the streets of the capital, while economic potential has been held up in the mostly rural nation.
“I infinitely appreciate from all of my heart this honorable distinction, not in my name, but the name of all Colombians, and especially the millions of victims that have been left by the conflict we have suffered for more than 50 years,” Santos, 65, said in a brief statement.
“Thank God peace is close. Peace is possible.”
Asked why Londono was left out, committee leader Kaci Kullmann Five said Santos had been central to the process.
“President Santos has been taking the very first and historic initiative. There have been other tries, but this time he went all-in as leader of the government with a strong will to reach a result. That’s why we have put the emphasis on president.”
She declined to elaborate on Londono’s role. Londono via Twitter congratulated Santos, and thanked countries including Cuba and Venezuela for supporting the process.