Colombia could face a range of circumstances, not due to the Nobel Peace Prize itself, but to the processes of negotiation which have led to the Swedish Academy awarding President Juan Manuel Santos with the prize.
Some of these consequences could take place simultaneously. Others, however, are exclusive. Broadly speaking, the path towards peace could hold success or failure, which in either case would not be final. The subsequent peace process, to give a name for what’s to come, will experience both partial achievements and inevitable failures.
Half a year to disarm
The short-term scenario will see the process of disarmament and demobilisation of the 5,765 members which make up the FARC, according to their own census. This period is agreed to last a maximum of 180 days beginning on ‘D Day’- the name they have given to the first hour of implementation once the agreements have been signed- the 1st December 2016. The disarmament must be completed before June 2017.
As stated in the introduction to the peace agreement, this is a “technical procedure, which will be traced and verified by the Organisation United Nations (UN), who will also receive the totality of arms from the FARC-EP, which will be used to construct three monuments."
In effect, the Monitoring and Verification Mechanisms of the ceasefire and the surrender of arms- led by the UN, but also overseen by members of the Colombian government and the FARC- will be in charge of invigilating the process, and will play an important role in overseeing that the FARC make the transition from an armed group to a political party.
On the 10th December, when Santos is set to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the disarming and demobilisation process should be in its D+10 day. This is to say that the FARC’s troops will be relocating into ‘transition zones’ where they are required to stay until the end of 2016. Moreover, the FARC must begin sending information about all explosives (bombs, grenades, chemical weapons) in their possession, to the UN Mission before their destruction.
The success of this phase depends on the confidence of public opinion, which remains skeptical towards the sincerity of the peace process.
Implementing the settlements
Starting from now, Congress will take on their most important and historic role since the referendum and legalization which consolidated the agreement with the FARC.
The new peace document will have to be converted into the most concise laws possible. This is how the State will set in stone their concrete agreement with the FARC. It is also how they will guarantee the guerilla’s side of the compromise is kept, assuring that there is no turning back.
The legislation includes clear time periods. The first phase of the current legislation terminates on the 16th December. The second will run up until the 16th March next year. Facing this tight timing, the government’s wildcard was to call for extra sessions and present their projections of these new laws in a message of urgency. The reason for this is that the prioritised laws had to be approved swiftly, in order to ensure the FARC of their legal certainty whilst they lay down arms.
Without a doubt, this will be a marathon process. Not only because of the fragility of the ceasefire, but also in order to avoid overlapping its implementation with the height of the 2018 elections, in which, most probably, many ministers will be hoping to be reelected.
It’s no secret that in this whole process, the most fragile part, after overcoming the difficulties of negotiation, is the implementation of the agreement. It is also the moment which defines the success or failure of all that has been negotiated.
There are at least 10 urgent laws for the first phase of implementation. The first of these authorises an amnesty to privates who have not been involved in serious crimes or crimes against humanity.
In summary, these laws are only related to the crimes of the rebels. The issue of transitional justice also comes into this law, in this case, the ‘Special Peace Jurisdiction’ will be in charge of investigations and sentencing of crimes committed by all parties during the armed conflict.
Due to its complexity, the ’Special Peace Jurisdiction’ requires various legal developments, such as the creation of the ‘Search Unit for Disappeared People’ and the Truth Commission. On top of this, laws must be established for the separate treatment of those who committed crimes related to illegal agriculture, but not for those involved in illegal organisations, for example in the case of rural families who economically rely on coca cultivation.
Congress will also be required to hold delicate, controversial discussions prohibiting the extradition of members of the guerrilla, and about the constitutional reform which would open the road for the FARC’s transition into a political party.
Also of high importance within the first 15 days, is the issue of integrating a temporary article into the Constitution, which would oblige the State to comply with the agreement, no matter who is head of the government nor their ideological position. The article should be in force until 2030.
Once these laws are approved, each one will need to be regulated. What’s more, each government body involved in implementation must assume their role. If this is done, Colombia will prove its capacity for institutionalism.
Peacebuilding and land disputes
The biggest challenge, which in the end could prove to be the greatest achievement, is that of consolidating territorial integrity.
If the awarding of Santos’ Nobel Peace Prize intensified national polarity, one can only expect that the implementation of the peace agreement will have the same effect. These divisions will put the aspired stability and durability of the agreement at risk.
A possible outcome is that the ELN will remain armed. Negotiations with this armed group have proved to be sluggish and drawn out time after time, due to the deferred release of hostages who still remain in their hands.
Discussions with this armed group, who are the second largest in the country, about the peace process, were announced in March. After plans froze, they were forced to begin negotiations instead in November, in Quito. However they did not take place, as ex-congressman Odín Sánchez Montes de Oca was not released from captivity.
Throughout these moths, ELN hostilities towards the national military and national energy infrastructure have not ceased.
Whilst the ELN represent a challenge towards solving the conflict politically, the main security threat to the country, both rurally and in cities, are criminal groups.
These organisations, such as the ‘Gulf Clan’ (‘clan del Golfo’, also known as ‘clan Úsaga’), pose double the amount of danger. This is because of their military strength and territorial control, and on the other hand because, as successors of demobilised paramilitary groups, they are considered to be possible perpetrators of terrorist attacks against leftist leaders in various areas of the country.
The political movement, ‘Marcha Patriótica’ states that sinces 2012, 128 of their militants have been killed. According to its records, 70 victims will have been claimed in 2016. Furthermore, these attacks will have intensified after people in the cities mobilised in favour of peace after the result of the 2nd October plebiscite.
The gravity of these situations is reflected in the recent history of extermination carried out by the Patriotic Union party, which emerged in the peace process with the FARC which was put forward by ex-president Belisario Betancur in the mid-80’s.
Avoiding the recycling of violence- a concept used by the journalist María Teresa Ronderos in the face of the paramilitarism phenomenon- is the main challenge to the peace process, which is now entering a more complex and divisive phase.
And then, the 2018 elections
In barely two years’ time, another government will take power in Colombia, with a new Congress in charge of legislation. As a result, 2017 will see the prelude to an intense presidential campaign between two main factions: the Centre-left, in alliance with the government and in support of the peace process; and the Centre-right, in the limelight after the plebiscite and endlessly critical of the agreement with the FARC.
Within this duality there are so many parties and nuances, that anything could happen up to this point in terms of alliances and divisions. Even so, there is no doubt that the future of the peace process with the FARC- and perhaps with the ELN- will set the tone for the elections. In this sense, whether voters will favour one side or the other is not only a question of preconceived judgements- as expressed in the ballots on the 2nd October- but also of what happens in these first days of implementation of the historic peace agreement.
It is clear that the current relevance of the peace process reflects much more than simply ballot boxes. But it is also certain that the next government will have to take on the most critical and delicate phase in constructing what has come to be called the ‘post-conflict’, which signifies no more than a country beginning to come together in strength and modernity.