ELN Ceasefire Positive Step for Colombia and its Ethnic Minorities

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Washington, DC — The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a leading research and advocacy organization that advances human rights in the Americas, welcomes the start of a temporary bilateral ceasefire between the Colombian government and guerrilla group the National Liberation Army (ELN) that will last between October 1, 2017 to January 12, 2018.  We applaud Norway, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Cuba and Venezuela for their commitment as guarantors of the peace negotiations.

The bilateral ceasefire is the first step to resolving Colombia’s second longest running internal long conflict. It serves as a trust-building exercise that WOLA hopes will lead to a definitive ceasefire. An end to the ELN conflict is required for Colombia to achieve a more complete and sustainable peace. The cessation of hostilities greatly advances peace negotiations and improves security for civilians. It will help minimize further displacements and humanitarian emergencies that affect indigenous and Afro-Colombian peoples in the country’s Pacific Coast.

Armed confrontations between the ELN, the armed forces, and other illegal armed groups have detrimentally affected the lives of many Colombians. With this agreement, the ELN commits to stop hostage-taking, attacks on roads and oil installations, the use of landmines, and recruitment of minors. At the same time, the government pledges to improve much-needed protection for community leaders, as well as prison conditions for some 450 rebels. A Monitoring Verification Mechanism (MV&V) that includes representatives of both parties, the United Nations, and the Catholic Church will verify the agreement.

WOLA is particularly encouraged by the fact that this ceasefire will include a regional monitoring mechanism in the Choco. Such a mechanism is based upon a long-standing Humanitarian Agreement Now proposal made by our partners the Inter-Ethnic Forum of Choco (FISCH), women, indigenous and victims organizations. The regional mechanism includes nine measures that will greatly benefit the security and negative situations faced by ethnic communities in this region. It also established a regional dialogue table that will be led by Afro-Colombian and indigenous leaders.

The inclusion of Afro-Colombian and indigenous leaders through the Ethnic Commission in the FARC peace process that led to the Ethnic Chapter in those accords was key to guaranteeing these communities’ rights. It is our expectation that a similar process with ethnic minorities with take place not only in Choco but at the national level in the ELN process.

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