Non State Actor to Congressional Contender
The Colombian FARC’s climb from rebel group to recognized political party.
After numerous decades of violent conflict, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) came together in a historic peace agreement in late 2016. Now, the non-state actor would like to participate in national politics. As part of the peace accord, the group is allowed to move forward as a nonviolent political party.
The Colombian congress passed legislation that grants the FARC at least five seats in the senate, as well as five seats in the lower house. The inclusion aids in the healing of the conflict-driven nation, providing a diversity of voices in the legislative process. Their journey from sworn enemy to sworn-in members of government spans a half century of war and peace.
The early years of the FARC were fueled by discontent of the imperial state and the motivation to fight for equality. They began in 1964 as the military wing of the Colombian Communist Party, forming in retaliation to the Colombian government’s repeated attacks on lower-class citizens. Over the years, their training strengthened as fast as their numbers, and they began moving towards natural resources and mid-size cities for economic growth.
In 1984, the government attempted their first peace deal with the guerrilla forces. The arrangement lasted from 1984 to 1987, resulting in a small political party in 1985 called the Patriotic Front. The deal rapidly dissipated after multiple assassinations and mass killings of party members as well as members of other leftist parties. Despite the death toll in the Patriotic Front, the FARC continued with criminal activity and ongoing negotiations with the government.
After two more decades of on-and-off negotiations, the two sides decided to talk real peace. The most recent negotiations were held over four years from 2012 and 2016 in Havana, Cuba. After completing the peace accord, a referendum was held to confirm public approval of the deal. The result was not expected.
The people of Colombia rejected the Peace Accord in a nationwide referendum on October 2nd, 2016. Voting “No” on the deal meant blocking the ratification of six years of negotiated terms, sending both sides back to square one. The percentage of naysayers was 50.2%, most citing a lack of justice for the victims of the organization. After a short time spent on revisions and modifications, the ratification was sent to the Colombian congress where it was approved.
With a transition to peace solidified and a road-map setting course, the two sides began their obligations to each other. The former rebels returned to the public domain. With caution and patience, the Colombian people accepted their fellow citizens back into their lives. The government began granting amnesty to those rebels who were not accused of war crimes, and they allowed the group the chance to evolve into a nonviolent political party ready to campaign by the coming elections in 2018.
The shift in ideological implementation came from a decision made at the latest guerrilla conference late last year in the Yari plains of Western Colombia. Until reforms are made to the party systems, the FARC has said they will remain a guerrilla force and slowly move toward a political force. The decision sounds unnerving, but holds only as a formality during the disarmament phase of the deal. Their dedication to the peace accord is steadfast, as long as the Colombian government puts up their end of the agreement.
The United Nations is currently assisting in the disarmament, or surrendering of weaponry, of FARC’s now inactive guerrilla forces. The deadline for complete surrender of all firearms is set for this month, but given the gravity of the handover and the extent of the UN’s ability, the deadline is flexible. The steps are as follows: surrender of the weaponry, safe storage and catalog of the armaments, disablement of the firearms, and safe disposal in a neutral location.
There has been no official transition to political party for the FARC yet, but they hope to provide a strong voice for their constituents come next year. Pending the outcome of the peace accord’s phases, currently in disarmament phase, the actor will have no issue bickering with right-wing parties in their congressional reprise.