Colombia guerrilla group FARC’s final National Guerrilla Conference is not just attended by rebel representatives and press, but also desperate family members seeking a sign of life of loved ones who went missing in the war.
Newspaper El Colombiano talked to two women, who had traveled to Yari, Caqueta looking for family members who have been missing for more than 14 years.
The women reportedly are among a group of civilians who are hoping that the guerrillas will help them find out whether their loved ones are still alive or where they are buried.
One of the women, called “Lucelly” after she asked to remain anonymous, told the newspaper she had walked more than six hours from her home in San Vicente del Caguan in the hope to receive information on her son, who disappeared 14 years ago after being taken by a guerrilla unit.
“I still keep his clothes,” Lucelly said, even though her missing son would now be 28 and not fit any of the pants and shirts he wore before disappearing at age 14.
“I keep the best memories from when he was a child and I had to punish him. Still then he was very sweet and sometimes he would come home and hug me from behind. It hurts not knowing of him,” the woman told the newspaper.
After hours of wandering around the campsite where the FARC is holding its conference, Lucelly received the worst news a mother could hear.
“They killed him,” a guerrilla told her Sunday.
In tears, Lucelly demanded more answers, saying she refused to leave the FARC camp until she was told where the body of her child was so she could give him a proper burial, but to no avail.
Most guerrillas told her and other desperate family members they were not authorized to talk to civilians.
Most civilians at the site knew that. The bilateral ceasefire agreement between the FARC and the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos prohibits the FARC to be in contact with the civilian population until after their disarmament.
A second woman, the 42-year-old “Margarita,” received no information at all on her brother, who disappeared 15 years ago after being forced by guerrillas to join their group.
“They took my brother and I know nothing. I have asked everywhere and they have told me nothing. That’s why I came here, to ask and them to tell me something,” Margarita told El Colombiano.
“I’m desperate,” she added almost redundantly.
The FARC is accused of having forcibly recruited thousands of children. The armed conflict the group has been engaged in has additionally left 45,000 people, like Margarita’s brother, missing.
The guerrillas will formally sign a peace agreement on Monday next week, more than 52 years after the group was founded and before most of its members were even born.
After that, a Transitional Justice Tribunal and a Truth Commission will be in charge of clarifying the truth for Margarita and the 8 million other victims the conflict has left.