Millions displaced. Tens of thousands maimed by landmines. More than 220,000 killed. The war waged between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla and Colombia officially ends Thursday, in Havana, Cuba, with a binding and immediate bilateral ceasefire. This has been the official announcement 48 million Colombians received early Wednesday, after President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed that he would be in Cuba alongside international dignitaries, representatives of the guarantor nations, the United Nation’s Secretary General Ban-Ki moon and FARC’s maximum commander, alias “Timochenko” – Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri.
After five decades of internal conflict with FARC, the bilateral ceasefire marks the end of all hostilities with the oldest guerrilla group in the world and effectively closes a drawn-out, bloody chapter in Colombian history.
Among the state dignitaries who will participate in the official announcement from Havana Thursday are: Cuba’s Raúl Castro, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, the Dominican Republic’s Danilo Medina, San Salvador’s Salvador Sánchez, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende and Venezuela’s embattled Nicolás Maduro.
Representing the U.S is Bernie Aronson, Special Envoy for the Colombian Peace Process.
During four years of peace negotiations with FARC and which began with exploratory talks in Oslo back in 2012, the bilateral ceasefire ends one of the world’s oldest conflicts with the 12,000-strong guerrilla.
From the very start of the talks, FARC’s decision not to demand a demilitarized zone as a pre-condition for negotiating marked a fundamental change in their position and a departure from the talks in the Caguán between Conservative President Andrés Pastrana and the then maximum commander of FARC, alias “Tirofijo” – Manuel Marulanda Vélez.
From their first encounter at the peace table in Havana, Cuba, both sides took the bold step to negotiate in “good will” and without the presence of the media.
FARC and the Colombian Government agreed to “disagree,” yet kept to the objective that the end of the half-century long conflict would entail a “laying down of arms.” The parties also set out to “build a stable and lasting peace” with “uninterrupted direct talks.” These early objectives have now been met, despite difficult moments which strained the viability of the talks, such as when FARC attacked a military garrison in Cauca, in April 2015, killing 11 soldiers and the Colombian Army quickly retaliated with a strategic air strike.
One issue which was very clear and non-negotiable in both sides of the peace camps: the conflict would continue until the final point of a six-point Agenda was reached – “Cessation of hostilities and abandonment of arms.”
Even though FARC announced the indefinite extension of a Christmas 2014 truce which became a unilateral ceasefire, Colombia’s state security forces have been war with FARC until the Executive ordered otherwise. Most Colombians never imagined this to be possible. Most Colombians have never lived in their country at peace with FARC.
But the Executive order to stop all confrontation and “silence all rifles” is now official and to be sealed Thursday June 23 at 12 noon in Havana.
The final peace accord will be signed in a protocol ceremony on Colombia’s 206th Independence Day, July 20th.