Nearly 1,900 people have been forcibly displaced from their homes this year by illegal armed groups in western Colombia, according to a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The report claims that illegal armed groups, as well as a lack of adequate governmental infrastructure and response, are responsible for the number of families in the Valle del Cauca and Choco provinces facing a dire situation of forced displacement.
Many of the families, the report says, have fled to the port city of Buenaventura (Valle del Cauca), where “a humanitarian response is made difficult due to a [lacking] local capacity.”
According to the report, authorities in Buenaventura developed a “contingency plan” in 2016 to prepare for the potential mass arrival of displaced families, but the plan has still not been implemented.
The district [of Buenaventura] does not have a place to keep families in even the most minimal dignified conditions. There are also issues in terms of access to health, education, food, etc.
Many of the displaced families arriving in Buenaventura come from Afrodescendant and Wounan indigenous communities, and the UN claims “the general lack of knowledge for the application of a differential ethnic focus” among officials in the city “is jeopardizing and complicating the life situation of these [displaced] populations.”
According to the report, criminal groups vying for control in territories previously controlled by the FARC rebel group have committed “massacres, threats, forced recruitment, and other forms of armed violence” causing families to leave their homes.
In addition to the numbers of forcibly displaced families, at least 500 families in the Pacific region are confined or restricted to their homes due to actions of armed groups.
The State must guarantee, beyond the presence of the Armed Forces…the presence of civil authorities to monitor and evaluate the conditions of return, and to generate conditions that will allow for the Rule of Law.
In one of the worst documented cases of displacement this year, members of the ELN leftist rebel group entered the town of Carra, Choco on March 25, killing five individuals for unknown reasons and causing 61 individuals from the town to flee.
Situations like the incident in Carra are supposed to be prevented according to the peace deal between the Colombian government and former Marxist rebel group FARC, which requires the government to ensure that territories the FARC formerly controlled remain free of illegal armed groups.