Saturday 3 December 2016

Colombia peace deal to end 52 years of hostilities to be signed this month

Published 03/09/2016 | 06:21

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos with Cuba's President Raul Castro during a ceasefire signing ceremony in Havana in June (AP)
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos with Cuba's President Raul Castro during a ceasefire signing ceremony in Havana in June (AP)

Colombia's president has announced he will sign a peace deal with the country's main rebel group later this month.

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Juan Manuel Santos said the signing ceremony with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) will take place in Cartagena on September 26.

"This is perhaps the most-important announcement I've made in my entire life," he said.

Last week, his government and the FARC reached a historic deal bringing to an end 52 years of hostilities by Latin America's largest insurgency.

The agreement must still be endorsed by Colombians, who will vote on the accord in a nationwide referendum on October 2.

The signing of the 297-page agreement will trigger the gradual demobilisation of the FARC's estimated 7,000 fighters.

Under the terms of the accord, FARC units must deploy to 28 rural areas across the country where they will turn their weapons over to a United Nations-sponsored mission over a period of six months.

As part of the accord, rebels who confess to war crimes will be spared jail time and ordered to carry out community service in areas hard-hit by the conflict.

The rebels' future political movement will also be given 10 seats in congress for two legislative periods lasting until 2026. After that they will have to demonstrate their political strength at the ballot box.

Even before the deal's final ratification the government and rebels are taking steps to wind down the conflict.

On Friday, negotiators in Havana, Cuba announced that beginning on September 10 child soldiers under the age of 15 will begin leaving guerrilla camps.

The minors will be handed over to representatives from Unicef and taken to temporary shelters run by the government. It is unclear how many child soldiers the FARC has.

The move follows a decision this week by the rebels and the government to declare a definitive ceasefire ending all hostilities in a conflict that has taken 220,000 lives and displaced more than five million people.

AP

Press Association

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