As Colombia continues to suffer from several ongoing conflicts, around 1,300 people were forced to flee their homes in the first 25 days of 2019, with one social leader killed every three days, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
“Colombians who see social leaders and civilians killed every other day are losing their faith in any prospect of peace. Families are struggling to carve out a normal existence for themselves and everyday people are forced to flee their homes to escape the extreme violence in their communities,” NRC country director in Colombia Christian Visnes said in a press release on Monday.
Colombia: A bloody start to 2019 as a social leader has been killed every three days. Government & non-state armed groups must increase efforts to protect people and make sure the hard won peace agreement is not sacrificed https://t.co/e0tug2XWKK
— Jan Egeland (@NRC_Egeland) January 30, 2019
The Colombian government has more than 4,000 leaders with state protection measures and their killings are the result of conflict over illicit crops, primarily coca plants, within Colombia, Visnes told The Globe Post.
Last year, around 145,000 people were displaced from their homes, according to the NRC. Thousands are in need of humanitarian support as well, with food, clean water, and education among the most needed resources.
“In 2018, in a change from earlier years, the humanitarian impact due to a convergence of emergencies related to the conflict, an increase in armed violence, and the occurrence of disasters, resulted in more than 5.1 million people in need in different sectors and regions of Colombia,” Visnes said citing data provided by international organizations and U.N. agencies.
Unrest in Colombia has been exacerbated by an influx of Venezuelans evading or escaping conflict resulting from the recent unrest in Venezuela’s political structure, with current President Nicolás Maduro being challenged by self-proclaimed interim President Juan Guaidó, who has been supported by the United States.
“The influx of Venezuelans has accelerated a shift of resources away from Colombia’s conflict-affected and internally displaced persons, as the government, international donors and humanitarians mobilize to respond to the new challenges,” Visnes explained.
“Colombia needs significant international assistance and attention to both crises, and the appropriate institutions and organizations to implement them. Without these supports, there are serious risks of jeopardizing the peace implementation process and Colombia’s ability to continue to respond effectively to the needs of people in need of humanitarian assistance.”
After the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP) guerrilla movement, which had been operating since 1964, agreed to a peace deal with the Colombian government three years ago, a power vacuum emerged resulting in violence.
The situation has caused the International Committee of the Red Cross to reevaluate the legal situation and legal definition of the conflict due to the uprising of various militant groups in the absence of FARC-EP. It has determined that there are currently five non-international armed conflicts occurring within Colombia.
Of the five that have been directly identified, four are taking place between the Colombian Government and militant groups – the National Liberation Army, Colombia’s second-largest leftist guerilla group, the Popular Liberation Army, a Marxist guerilla group actively fighting to control a drug hub, Gaitanist Self-Defense of Colombia, a neo-paramilitary and drug trafficking group, and the Eastern Bloc of FARC-EP, which refuses to acknowledge the 2016 peace agreement.
In addition, there is the fifth conflict between the National Liberation Army, which continues to fight against establishment troops while also calling for peace talks, and the Popular Liberation Army.
Check out the interactive heat map made by UVRN member @javier_osorio's research group. It tracks mentions of #HumanRights-violating groups (government, insurgents, criminals) in #Colombia between 1988 and 2017, based on the reports of @NocheyNieblaBD @CINEP_PPP https://t.co/RspsgEh7qh
— Urban Violence Research Network (@Urban_Violence) January 30, 2019
The NRC said it was difficult for the International Committee of the Red Cross to assess the ongoing conflict due to the lack of clarity on the activities and modus operandi of the groups who are involved.
Some of the violent situations that do not reach the criteria to be defined as armed conflict include the violence in the cities of Medellín, Buenaventura, Cali, and Tumaco as well as the use of force during protests like that of the Agricultural strikes and other recent demonstrations that have turned violent.
“The hope for achieving lasting peace should not be abandoned by the public and Government nor should the latest acts of violence be allowed to destabilize the progress made so far. The rights and special needs of IDPs [internally displaced people] and refugees must be recognized and ensured during the peace accord implementation and beyond,” Visnes said.