A displaced indigenous community on Monday returned home to western Colombia despite warnings that the area remains unsafe.
As part of the Colombia government’s program to restore land to people displaced by armed conflict, 127 people of the Embera Chami indigenous group were given back their land in the towns of Pueblo Rico and Mistrato in the Risaralda Department. They had been living as refugees in Bogota for over ten years after being driven from their land by the armed conflict, according to RCN Radio.
The national indigenous organization [ONIC] last week expressed grave concerns about the security of the returnees. The ONIC communique claimed that security problems still exist in the area, in particular uncleared land mines and ongoing military operations. It also mentioned the lack of infrastructure and resources for the returnees.
The communique asked for the return to be delayed.
“Unfortunately the return process for the Embera Chami has been formulaic…and has not taken into account the actual context and conditions or been based on a process of consultation with the affected population and indigenous authorities.”
Governor Carlos Alberto Botero, however, dismissed the concerns.
“All state agencies have [given] guarantees for the return of the indigenous people,” said Botero.
If the Embera Chami restoration fails, it could reignite a debate over whether the administration of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is fully committed to implementing its landmark legislation.