With significantly less powers than previously agreed with Colombia, the United Nations has begun the verification of a renewed ceasefire between the government and FARC guerrillas awaiting their demobilization and disarmament.
The UN was supposed to deploy more than 400 observers to monitor and verify the effective demobilization and disarmament of the FARC, but was stopped when Colombia’s voters narrowly rejected a peace deal with the 52-year rebel group in an October 2 referendum.
The shock vote stopped the peace process that had begun a few days before in its tracks, removed the faculties of President Juan Manuel Santos to execute the deal, effectively ended the UN’s mandate and left the FARC in disarray.
To prevent a possible mass desertion of FARC guerrillas or violent attempts of guerrilla rivals to overtake FARC territory, the UN, rebel leaders and the government agreed to request a renewed mandate for a mission that would allow the FARC to concentrate in “pre-grouping points.”
On Tuesday, the UN Security Council approved this new mission, but with significant less resources and a reduced mandate than before the October 2 referendum.
In spite of the reduced powers, the new mandate is “boost to Colombia’s peace process and a national consensus on a final peace agreement, to be reached as soon as possible,” The UN’s mission chief in Colombia, Jean Arnault, said last week.
Instead of permanently monitoring the FARC’s compliance to the bilateral ceasefire, the new mandate only allows the UN to make regular visits to the provisional FARC camps, Argentine General Javier Perez, the military commander of the unarmed UN observers, told press Friday.
FARC commander “Marco Leon Calarca,” said at the same press conference that some 300 guerrilla fighters have been trained to maintain order and security in the camps.
Unlike the old mandate, which gave the FARC 180 days to demobilize and disarm, the new mandate is indefinite.
“The United Nations will stay in Colombia as long as we are useful here, as long as the Colombians want us here.”
General Javier Perez
Perez said to be confident that the current bilateral ceasefire, which is valid until December 31, will be upheld as neither the military nor the FARC have carried out one alleged violation.
However, the FARC’s Central Command said last week that deserted guerrillas have possibly already begun extortion practices in the name of the FARC in the north of the country.
Calarca stressed that dissident or disobedient guerrillas will be expelled from the FARC after which they are no longer the organization’s responsibility.
“The agreement is between the government and the FARC, and the monitoring and verification mission has one objective; to verify the commitment of both sides. Other parties, whether they are dissidents or outside the FARC, are not our responsibility to monitor or verify.”
FARC commander “Marco Leon Calarca”
While the FARC’s approximately 6,600 fighters concentrate in the pre-demobilization camps, the military and the police will continue operations to assume territorial control over the large swaths of land previously controlled by the guerrillas.
We have many years of experience fighting illegal organizations and already have consolidation and stabilization plans to guarantee that the areas that could remain without FARC control will have state presence. Rest assured that the security forces will be there to guarantee the security of the civilian population.
Read Admiral Orlando Romero Reyes
While the UN, the FARC and the security forces try to maintain order, government and guerrilla negotiators returned to Cuba, where peace talks have been held since November 2012, to negotiate a revised deal that would allow the resumption of the FARC’s demobilization and disarmament.
Once this deal is ratified either by Congress or in a second referendum, the UN’s original mission to demobilize and disarm the FARC can be resumed and the peace process can continue.