The United Nations (UN) will not begin collecting weapons from Colombia’s demobilizing FARC rebels until next week . the international organization said Thursday.
Major General Javier Perez Aquino, who coordinates the operation on behalf of the UN, admitted that there have been several delays in the Colombian government’s preparation of FARC camps, but expects progress to be made next week in relation to the confiscation and storage of weapons.
“We are in 26 zones that are very far from populated areas, with complexities of all types,” he said. “We are in a process of communicating, planning, and coordinating. If God permits, in the coming week we will be able to clarify where we are.”
Perez said the storage process will begin only after every weapon has been identified and registered by UN officials, a process which will take several days.
Setbacks in the disarmament schedule are largely due to construction delays in many of the demobilization camps that had been scheduled for completion months ago, including areas for securely storing weapons.
In February, it was revealed that the Colombian government had contracted five unqualified firms to lead the construction projects. These shortcomings have delayed the entire demobilization process and increased tensions between all parties involved.
General Perez said that until all of the areas are ready, 52 temporary storage containers would be dispersed to the 26 camps depending on the number of demobilized rebels per camp.
Each container will be locked and monitored, and will hold 75 to 100 arms–a total capacity of 5,200 weapons for 6,900 guerrillas.
Once the FARC camps are ready, two large storage containers will be set up for each camp in areas measuring 15 by 30 meters to complete the disarmament process.
UN representatives have repeatedly voiced their concerns regarding delays in the construction of FARC camps.
In February, Jean Arnault, head of the UN Mission in Colombia, asked for a delay to the demobilization timeline in a letter to the FARC and the Colombian government.
The UN had initially planned to collect 30% of the rebel group’s weaponry by March 1. The final deadline for the collection of guerrilla weapons is May 29.
On Thursday, General Perez admitted that there are limiting factors outside of the UN’s control, but said that the UN Mission in Colombia was ready and able to complete the process by the May 29 deadline.
“The United Nations is in the position to maintain the 180 day timeline,” he said. “We have the logistical and technical capacity to do so.”
In November, the Colombian government signed a final peace agreement with the FARC, the country’s largest guerrilla group, ending a decades-long war that has killed 260,000 and displaced millions.
The UN was called to monitor the rebel’s disarmament process.