The desertion of dissident FARC rebels to other organizations after, and even before a potential peace accord with the government is “very likely,” a conflict expert confirmed on Friday.
According to Hans Rouw, DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration) expert at Dutch NGO IKV Pax Christi, the differing motivations and specialties of FARC fighters will lead to at least some fragmentation if a peace accord is signed in Havana.
“Some soldiers will specialize in drug trafficking and kidnapping, while others may be more politically motivated trying to further the group’s agenda,” Rouw told Colombia Reports in the first of a two-part interview.
“It is therefore very likely that splinter groups will exist after the period of negotiation,” added Rouw.
According to the expert, it is even possible that fragmentation of the rebel group occurs before, and not after an eventual peace accord with the government.
“The majority of soldiers will feel represented in Havana, while some may feel that the concessions made no longer represent their interests,” Rouw said.
“If FARC members do not care about the ideology of the group, they will look to continue with their income generation despite what happens during negotiations.”
Throughout the conflict, the guerrillas have predominantly operated in areas lacking state presence. To avoid these areas becoming targets of rival armed groups post demobilization, Rouw argued that it is essential the government, and not simply the army ensures its presence in these regions.
“In a post-conflict Colombia it is essential that the Colombian state takes care of the citizens of these regions, ensuring that they are not caught in the crossfires again.”
“Development, rule of law, the capacity for someone to file a complaint and something actually happen with it, these basic services should be provided,” added Rouw.
Throughout negotiations, the rebels have maintained their willingness to lay down, but not surrender their weapons.
According to Rouw, this is ultimately because the FARC lack confidence in other armed actors who are not demobilizing.
“Whatever the group’s interests and principles after disarmament, if they are attacked by other armed groups, the military or the police, they will want to have weapons available to defend themselves.”
If the FARC were to demobilize without surrendering a single weapon however, Rouw believes that this “would not sit well with Colombian society.”
“Symbolically at least it would mean that the FARC are ready to trick the government. What is needed is a careful balancing act,” added Rouw.
Rouw’s opinion is similar to that of other experts, who have also warned for a criminalization of FARC elements, particularly those involved in illegal, but lucrative businesses.
- Interview with Hans Rouw (IKV Pax Cristi)