September 26 was an historic day for Colombia. After more than 52 years of war, the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia signed a peace agreement.
But it’s not the end of the road. This Sunday, 2 October, the people of Colombia must decide if they support this peace. They will be asked to vote yes or no to the question: "Do you support the final accord to end the conflict and build a stable and lasting peace?”
For those watching from the outside, it’s hard to comprehend why the Colombian people might vote ‘no’. But this conflict has raged for half a century, generations of Colombians have grown up knowing nothing but war, and many have lost loved ones at the hands of rebel and government forces. It has created huge divisions in society, entrenching a culture of mistrust and polarisation.
But alongside this scepticism, there is also hope. Reconciliation is essential for lasting peace, and long before this deal was signed, the country began to make peace with the past. The Colombian peace processes has been one of the most innovative of its kind, putting a special emphasis on truth,justice and reparations, and giving victims on all sides the opportunity to input into the peace talks. A ‘yes’ vote will be another positive milestone in this process of peace.
If the county votes for peace, both the government of Colombia and the FARC will still have a long way to go to convince the population that they are sincere about implementing the peace deal. Both parties will need to live up to their commitments whilst managing expectations for rapid change. As part of the peace deal, FARC will become a political party, and the political system will have to adjust to become more inclusive.
FARC’s transition from an armed force to a political movement will be a challenge – but the conditions are right for the transition to be a success. FARC has a strong internal structure and its members are supportive of the peace process. They will play a major role in designing and leading the reintegration of their own combatants.
Colombia now has a unique opportunity to leave behind the legacy of more than five decades of armed conflict. There are still many challenges ahead for the Colombian people, but supporting this historic peace deal on Sunday will be the first step towards building a peaceful, more inclusive society.
Director of Conciliation Resources' Colombia Programme, Kristian Herbolzheimer has shared his thoughts on the way ahead for Colombia in a number of media interviews.
- Read Kristian’s article in Open Democracy about the missing actors in the peace process.
- Listen to Kristian discuss the peace deal on Sputnik