GP Insights # 46, 26 May 2019
Over concerns of the army’s human rights abuses in pursuit of armed groups, Columbian President Iván Duque on May 24 announced the appointment of an independent commission to examine the army’s commands and orders.
What is the background?
Despite the 2016 peace deal, at least 3000 rebels have rearmed as numerous promises were forgotten. Development of rural sectors has been undermined and ignored by the government. The primary selling point – the guarantee of safety and stability has crumbled. Since October 2016, over 500 activists have lost their lives, and over 210,000 have been displaced. The new PM, Ivan Duque’s desire to revise the accords and his government’s pursuit of the rebels had further fueled rebel sentiments. Under him, army revised orders aimed at doubling results against paramilitary, guerrilla and criminal organizations, thus escalating civilian casualties. Colombia’s military is notoriously famous for “false-positive killings” which increases combat body counts, thus ensuring a rise in ranks.
What does it mean?
The current human rights concerns become a pressing issue in the Colombian peace affair as it catalyzes the rearming by militants. Duque government’s promotion of unrepentant commanders and coming down heavily on the rebels through orders supposedly “misinterpreted by officers” and permitting actions despite doubts regarding targets’ criminality shakes the foundation of the hard-won peace. “60-70 per cent (exactitude)” is not enough when it’s a question of lives.
The continuing rural deprivation is also working against peace. Essential services and amenities remain dreams in countrysides where much of the war was fought. Consequently, new armed groups are filling FARC’s void. Before 2017, the majority of FARC’s funding had come from the drug trade. For the poor, coca remains the most favoured as the crop-substitution program hasn’t materialized. Today, the government’s core issue is money. During the peace deal, $45 billion was estimated to fulfil assurances over a period of 15 years. Then, however, the treasury enjoyed $100 per barrel of oil, today the values are a third lower.
As these economic, political and structural problems unfold, the complex Colombian peace achieved after five decades of conflict may deteriorate or stand the test of time.