The Columbia Peace Accords

By Johan Galtung

Bogotá, 30 Sep 2015

The accords were signed a week ago with still much work to do this coming half a year. 23 March 2016 is the deadline.

However, are they peace accords? Or absence of violence eliminating “that other army”, for Weber’s state monopoly on ultima ratio regis, even strengthening the government’s army? That Western concept of peace practiced recently in Sri Lanka and Nepal, against LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) and Maoists? Leaving untouched the problems that brought them into being unsolved?

And the word “peace” violated, as “conflict”, saying “post-conflict”, as if nothing more to solve. Words matter; handle them with care.

In all the Colombian conflict complexity, the focus is on only one conflict, between the violent parties: government and paramilitary fighting FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) and ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional)–not (yet?) on board. The 50-year-old war had turned against FARC; but without capitulation, nor victory, in sight. Negotiating an end to the war by dissolving the FARC army in return for normalcy, with participation in politics, came up. With a second focus on criminal justice for crimes committed. Given the monopoly, mainly FARC crimes, which included taking hostages and narco-traffic. And a third focus on compensation to victims. But how?

A traumatized country traveled the South African TRC, Truth and Reconciliation Commission road with Frederik de Klerk as guide. The result is a complex system called “transitional justice” of impunity in return for complete confession of crimes; the Catholic sinner rejecting the sins. And strongly opposed by those who want “criminal justice”, punishment.

There is much beauty in this model. The country has been hit by a disaster; we are all victims one way or the other. Work together, repair damage, compensate victims, for a new start. The discourse invoked when hit by a natural disaster; blaming, charging nature leads nowhere. Colombia is hit by a complex social disaster, and something can be done. The Colombian situation is not that desperate.

But violence and crime discourses are insufficient; add discourse identifying underlying unsolved conflicts. They loom like the china shop elephant: flagrant inequality, massive suffering at the bottom. Class with race exploitation in a country with 49% mestizo, 37% white, 10.5% African and 3.4% indigenous. The latter, 100% before the brutal conquista.

A focus on transitional vs criminal justice masks social justice.

Three major intellectual-political errors have been committed.

1. Trauma conciliation without conflict solution spells pacification;

2. Neglecting the root cause: the underlying structural conflict;

3. The approach is negative, focus also on the Colombia doing well.

In South Africa the root cause, the underlying conflict over race and democracy, had been solved with one-person-one-vote. Conciliation without the right to vote would have been only that, pacification.

In Colombia, the conflict by class and race has not been solved. The social distance makes Other an object to be killed or manipulated, not a partner in searching dialogues for peace. Moreover: the suffering at the bottom is intolerable; not to be tolerated by others.

The focus on crimes, victims, disappeared, is understandable, but so is a focus on the huge parts of Colombia doing well. How? Guess: by less misery. But misery spells apathy more than aggression. It is the range in-between that is most aggressive; upward, downward.

Prognosis: the deal Government-FARC–both white–may work; but social injustice conflicts unattended may explode in the face of both. Given the violence culture–conquistadores-poderes fácticos-oligarcos–the explosion is more likely to be violent than not. The acronym will not be FARC. The arms may be stronger; narco-smugglers know how.

FARC will be given access to constitutional political practices in a democracy. Yet, that democracy has so far not really addressed the issues. FARC, seen as criminals by many, and as traitors by some, will hardly be able to change this. Direct, quick action is needed.

Therapy: To alleviate suffering and reduce inequality the bottom has to be lifted up. Get started, of 32 departments select the 3 most miserable by low average lifespan and the 3 least violent; of 1119 municipalities select the 10% most miserable and 10% least violent.

For the most miserable focus on food-water-clothes- housing-health-education. Give credit to basic needs cooperatives with sales points, give the most miserable dignity by lifting themselves up, paying back, entering normal society. Imitate nature, multi-crop agriculture with aqua-culture. Use Marinaleda in Spain as model: expropriate unused land to a municipality with capacity to run cooperatives with people earning relative to number of hours input. The output was high and included inexpensive housing and kindergarten.

From the least violent learn why-how, give them praise and prize, make them zones of peace, ask them to adopt, help the most miserable. And the most violent: do not try to bribe them with economic benefits.

But does this not add up to admitting that FARC was right? They were not. Their violence was wrong and counter-productive. Their model was also wrong, a communist Soviet Union, collapsing from 1989. Nevertheless, their early identity with exploited, suffering people was right.

Enrique Santos, the president’s brother in El Tiempo 28 Sep 2015:

“We thought FARC was so beaten and demoralized that they would be prone to a rapid agreement. Not at all. They were hard-liners. And Timochenko /the FARC leader/: courteous, intelligent, loquacious“.

True conciliation, also being future-oriented, is cooperative. Could there be a basis for nonviolent Government-FARC cooperation with work for the people, making Colombia an example for the world?

Narco-traffic? Task for CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), negotiating with Anglo-America.

The role of Cuba? Santos: Guaranteed security, confidentiality.

The role of Norway? Guaranteeing legitimacy? Look at the Oslo Accords of 1993-94 now canceled by Palestine as worthless, given Gaza; the Sri Lanka catastrophe with Norway “facilitating”. Too much West.

Originally posted at Transcend Media Service here.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.


Subscribe to
TFF PressInfo
and Newsletter