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Colombia: Indigenous movement says YES to peace

October 2 2016
Today it is up to the Colombian people to choose between war and peace. A public referendum will decide the fate of the Peace Agreement, which after 4 years of negotiation was signed between the Government and the left-wing guerrilla movement Farc on Monday

The Colombian indigenous movement recommends voting yes to end 52 years of a civil war that has cost more than 250.000 lives and displaced around 6,5 million people out of a 49 million population.

Living in remote parts of the national territory, Colombia’s approximately 1,5 million indigenous peoples have been heavily affected by the war. Many indigenous territories have been used by both sides of the conflict as battlefields, refuges and fields for illicit cultivation of coca, which has financed the operations of both the guerrilla and paramilitary groups.

The Peace Agreement was officially signed on 26 September by Colombian President Juan Manual Santos and Farc´s Commander in Chief, Rodrigo Londoño “Timochenko”, who agreed to continue to disagree on the country’s economic development model, but now with words instead of bombs and bullets.

If confirmed by today’s referendum, peace is expected to pave the way for an increase in foreign investments and economic growth rates. Given the current neoliberal and extractivist model for economic development, peace could potentially pose another danger to the territorial control and environmental well being of indigenous peoples.

For indigenous peoples in Colombia, an end to the armed conflict is only the first step to regain control over their territories, which remain threatened by mining and oil extraction and related problems of water shortage and contamination.

In the very final days of the peace negotiations in Havana, indigenous and Afro-Colombian peoples achieved to include an "ethnic chapter into the Peace Agreement. It guarantees their constitutional and internationally recognised rights and defines safeguards, including their right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent and participation in the implementation of the peace agreement.

At its forthcoming congress from 8-14 October, the national indigenous movement, ONIC, will discuss how to strengthen indigenous peoples´ territorial autonomy and unity in a (hopefully) post conflict era.