FARC concentrating troops while Colombia military moving into rebel territory: UN

by Adriaan Alsema

Colombia’s FARC guerrilla group is concentrating its approximately 6,600 fighters in coordination with the United Nations while waiting for a resumption of a stranded peace process, according to the UN mission chief.

The UN, the FARC and the military agreed to proceed with the FARC’s concentration of forces as the military takes control of territories long controlled by the Marxist rebels, UN mission chief Jean Arnault told the international organization’s press service.

The UN’s initial mission was to verify and monitor the FARC’s demobilization and disarmament while the military and police took control of traditional FARC territories.

The process was stopped in its tracks after an October 2 referendum that rejected the peace deal, forcing President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC to present a changed deal before passing it on to Congress for ratification.

The unexpected referendum result created major uncertainty in rebel-controlled areas where authorities had already begun the highly delicate operation to assume territorial control and prevent other illegal armed groups from filling the power vacuum left by the FARC.

“Obviously, after the events of 2 October, the laying down of arms has been postponed until a new agreement is reached,” Arnault, who has been coordinating the FARC’s demobilization and disarmament with the warring parties since late 2014, told the UN’s press office.

“The concept of a ceasefire now is a bit different from the concept that had been approved a couple of months ago but, in the end, deals with a classic process of separation of forces, with the guerrillas concentrating their forces in about 50 or 60 locations, the army redeploying its forces and the UN Mission cooperating with the two sides, monitoring the separation of forces.

UN mission chief in Colombia Jean Arnault

The 50 of 60 locations mentioned by Arnault equates the number of FARC fronts that have long operated in much smaller sub-units to avoid air strikes or military offensives.

Presumably, each front is now moving its members to one point while the military proceeds to take over abandoned territory.

Once the peace process is revived, the guerrillas should move to 27 camps for their formal demobilization and disarmament.

In the meantime, FARC and government representatives will analyze proposals for changes to the deal in Cuba, where peace talks have been held since 2012.

The Colombian president has been talking to a variety of interest groups that promoted the rejection of the deal in order to seek their support for negotiated “adjustments and clarifications” of the signed peace deal.

Once Santos has obtained increased consensus he can either call a new referendum or send the amendment of the deal to Congress with the informal blessing of at least some of the initial opponents.


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