After weeks of delays, the United Nations observers confirmed on Tuesday that Colombia’s FARC rebels will begin disarming on Wednesday.
The start date of the three-step demobilization process had been challenged by the FARC after both the UN and the guerrillas had observed the government had failed to adequately facilitate the demobilization of the country’s largest and oldest rebel group.
However, after intense talks between the government, the FARC and the UN observers, the guerrillas agreed to begin their disarmament.
“The registration of weapons that are in the demobilization zones will begin under the supervision of the United Nations on March 1,”said the chief of the FARC’s peace negotiation team, “Ivan Marquez.”
However, the disarmament of the guerrilla group will not go ahead exactly as it was planned. According to the schedule agreed in Havana, the FARC should surrender 30% of their weapons to the UN on March 1.
It is still unclear how many weapons constitute that 30 % of the FARC’s arsenal. Unlike regular armies, the FARC did not have an exact database of its fighters and weapons.
“It is the beginning of the process,” the spokeswoman for the UN Mission in Colombia, Carolina Azevedo, told Colombia Reports. “There’s no date for the 30%.”
The failure of the government to make the provisions promised for FARC demobilization has caused tension between the two sides.
According to the original plan, the guerrillas should have gathered in special demobilization zones by the end of 2016.
The FARC’s heavy weaponry and militia members transport weapons should have been delivered to the transition camps under the UN supervision by the same time.
A month later, FARC’s explosives that could not have been transported should have been destroyed.
It was planned that the FARC would hand over 30% of their arsenal on March 1 and further 30% by the end of that month.
The complete disarmament of the guerrilla group should conclude by June 1 f all the deadlines outlined in the agreement are met.
The last FARC fighters however only arrived to the 26 special demobilization zones on February 19, almost two months later than planned and they found that the camps – the government’s responsibility – were not finished.
There also was confusion over how many guerrillas would actually demobilize. The list that the FARC handed to the government’s Office of the High Commissioner for Peace, turned out to be missing most of the pregnant FARC members.
“We have to adjust the the beginning of the process. The 180-day deadline for complete disarmament is upheld”, the High Commissioner for Peace Sergio Jaramillo said.
This is exactly what the Head of the UN Mission in Colombia Jean Arnault suggested last week in the light of the delays. But while the guerrilla group welcomed the proposal, the government reacted angrily, scolding the UN Mission for its failure to prepare the containers for the storage of the FARC’s weapons.
On Monday, the government still insisted that the disarmament process would go ahead on Wednesday as planned.
“The agreed deadlines will be met,” Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin said during the UN Human Rights Council session.
Wednesday’s FARC announcement just confirmed the doubts that there had been around over the feasibility of the March 1 goal.