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Colombia signs ceasefire deal with last guerrilla group

Colombia signs ceasefire deal with last guerrilla group

BOGOTA: Colombia’s government and last remaining major rebel group signed a bilateral ceasefire on Monday ahead of Pope Francis’ visit this week, an agreement seen as a significant step towards negotiating a permanent peace deal.

The deal struck in Quito, Ecuador, where talks with the National Liberation Army, or ELN, have been taking place since February, goes into effect on Oct 1.

Under the ceasefire, the rebels agree to suspend attacks on infrastructure, kidnappings and recruitment of minors. In exchange the government has vowed to boost protection for social leaders who have recently come under attack and develop a programme that would provide humanitarian aid to rebels, among other measures.

The government’s chief negotiator called the ceasefire, signed five years to the date after a framework agreement that kicked off peace talks with the FARC, “historic”. “This is the first agreement of this nature that the government has signed with this guerrilla group in more than 50 years,” Juan Camilo Restrepo said in a statement. “And it constitutes the first step towards advancing a definitive peace.”




Over five decades of conflict involving the two rebel movements, the army and right-wing paramilitary groups have resulted in more than 260,000 deaths, the disappearance of tens of thousands of people and the displacement of six million.

Under the earlier deal between the government and the FARC, the group has turned over its weapons and is in the process of reorganising as a political movement to compete in elections next year. But negotiations with the more ideological and less centralised ELN have been slower since exploratory talks began more than three years ago.

Unlike the FARC, which financed itself through involvement in Colombia’s flourishing drug trade, the ELN funds its insurgency mainly through kidnappings and extortion.

The ELN, whose founders included radical Roman Catholic priests, is believed to have about 1,500 active fighters.

The ceasefire will be verified by independent observers, the United Nations and the Catholic Church.

Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2017

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