Any peace talks between the government and rebel group FARC must involve civilians since neither government nor FARC can count on much credibility among the Colombian people.
The fact that virtually nobody has confidence in the goodwill of the FARC is common knowledge. The rebel group has caused too much pain and suffering to count on the support of many.
Having said that, Colombia’s political class can count on almost the same amount of popular support because of the chronic corruption, nepotism and its tendency to use the electorate for personal interest or economic gain.
As a good friend told me in plain paisa, “neither one has ever shown to give a shit about me. The politicians and the guerrillas will probably cut a deal, divide the pieces of the pie and we’re left with nothing.”
While my friend fully agreed peace talks were vital for the country to move forward and to stop the killing, he felt that he personally had little to gain and — based on past experiences — he felt his personal grievances about what the FARC and army had done to him, his family and his town were likely to be ignored. Consequently, he felt he is going to be sentenced to live and die with the pain inflicted by the armed conflict he never asked for.
While I personally am not as cynical as my friend — I have not lived the conflict as intensely as he has and as a foreigner am more detached to the situation — I do think his complete lack of trust in politics is reasonable and must be taken into account. My friend is one of many who have no confidence in the goodwill of either rebels or politicians.
For outsiders it may seem redundant to say, but Colombia belongs to Colombian people, not to its politicians and certainly not to its illegal armed groups.
It’s actually not reduntant to say, because Colombia’s politicians and armed groups seem to regularly forget who the country really belongs to.
In fact, politicians and armed groups have the bad habit of completely disregarding the people and abusing citizens to serve them and their interests.
The FARC have shown a complete disregard for the Colombian people by killing, raping, kidnapping, mutilating civilians with landmines, and by allowing children to enter its ranks and be killed for principles the kids couldn’t even understand. The guerrillas have held the people of Colombia hostage as a means to achieve some political goal only they had affinity with. The rebels have left an incredible amount of sorrow, impotence and anger in the hearts of Colombians.
Colombia’s politicians in turn have shown a complete disregard for the Colombian people by stealing, by bribing and intimidating the electorate to get elected for personal gain, by allowing the army to massively kill its own citizens, and by abusing the democratic system to deform justice and be above the law.
If these two groups are going to make a deal, it is not likely to count on popular approval, especially not after the demobilization of the paramilitary AUC that left hundreds of thousands of families landless and in complete insecurity about what has happened to their tens of thousands disappeared loved ones.
With the demobilization process of the AUC, victims were ignored, humiliated and sent home to spend the rest of their lives in grief while the paramilitaries and politicians walked away with large sums of money, vast plots of stolen lands and businesses.
We can not allow this to happen again. We can not allow the armed actors now discussing a peace deal to ignore the Colombian people again, because if we do, we are condemning generations of Colombians to unbearable frustration and grief and are allowing criminals to walk away with their gains.
To avoid this, to not shove some peace deal down the Colombians’ throat, and to allow the people of this country to somehow overcome all they have lost in this senseless war, mechanisms must be found to actively involve the people — who never asked for this war and in some cases were simply born into it — in defining the terms of negotiations, approving the agreement, achieving justice and finding ways to bring closure.
If we don’t, we may have a deal between politicians and rebels, but we will not have peace in the hearts of Colombians.