Dutch FARC rebel Tanja Nijmeijer: More work to be done in Colombia

Colombians march for peace, freedom and an end to the armed conflict, 20 July 2008 (Photo: Marco Suárez/Wikimedia Commons). (Colombians march for peace, freedom and an end to the armed conflict, 20 July 2008 (Photo: Marco Suárez/Wikimedia Commons))

After over 50 years of fighting, a peace agreement was reached in Columbia between the FARC guerrilla movement and the government. "This is a definitive break with the war", Dutch guerrilla fighter Tanja Nijmeijer said in a first reaction to the Volkskrant. But she adds that this is not set in stone and there still more work to be done.

Following a conflict that claimed some 220 thousand lives and sent 7 million Colombians fleeing, almost four years of negotiations led to a bilateral cease-fire in June. A major breakthrough. Since then the warring parties have been working on the final details of a peace treaty, which is set to be announced around 1:00 a.m. Friday, Dutch time.

"This is still only an announcement", Nijmeijer, whose been involved in the negotiation since the start, warned from the Colombian capital of Havana. "The FARC must still consult wit its followers, and the agreement has yet to be signed. But we assume that the political participation of the FARC without weapons will be possible."

The FARC is a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla movement that was born out of dissatisfaction with the extreme inequality in Colombia, according to the newspaper. This peace agreement includes fairer land distribution and social projects in the poverty-stricken countryside. The treaty also includes that the government will address far-right paramilitary groups and give FARC room to participate as a political party in the elections.

In return, FARC promised to lay down their weapons within six months of signing the treaty. The guerrilla fighters will move into so-called peace zones and account for their crimes in front of a truth commission. They also promised to stop drug trafficking and other illegal activities.

International third parties, like the United Nations, will make sure that both parties keep to the agreements.

Within the next two weeks FARC will organize a national conference and present the treaty to its fighters, asking them to accept it. The treaty for peace in Colombia will then be signed, tentatively scheduled for September 23rd.

A week or two later there will be a referendum so that the Colombians can say whether or not they agree with the treaty. The outcome of this is uncertain, according to the newspaper. While the government is doing everything in its power to convince the citizens to vote for, there is a strong against camp led by former president and senator Alvaro Uribe.

Uribe and his supporters accuse the government of "delivering the country to the narco-terrorists". Their biggest problem is the justice, or lack thereof, in the treaty. The negotiators agreed to establish a special peace court, in which guerrilla fighters who confess their crimes will not go to prison, but will go to designated regions to help rebuild the country. A number of human rights organizations, like Human Rights Watch, are also critical about this measure.