Colombia’s Indigenous peoples say their rights continue to be violated, and their land stolen, in spite of the peace deal signed last November between the government and FARC rebels.
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At a ceremony to mark World Indigenous People’s Day, Luis Fernando Arias, a leader of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, ONIC, recalled that this was the first time in five decades that the date had been celebrated in a climate of relative peace.
"We would have hoped," he went on, "that with the end of the conflict with the FARC-EP, that terrible night would have ended" for the country’s Indigenous peoples. "Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case. Indigenous lands are still being fought over by paramilitaries, the ELN, the military, dissidents of the FARC, drug gangs, mutlinationals and big infrastructure projects planned for our reserves and ancestral lands."
#SOMOSINDÍGENAS de Antioquia Embera, Guna Dule y Senú juntos caminando por los senderos de la #Paz, la #Unidad y la #Resistencia. pic.twitter.com/9A03U6Qiq8
— OIA (@OIA_COLOMBIA) August 9, 2017
Arias said that in the last year Indigenous communities have continued to suffer targeted killings, threats, displacement from their land and the effects of anti-personnel mines.
He called on the government to implement the chapter of last year’s peace agreement on ethnic rights, which promises consultation and coordination with Indigenous peoples, and on Colombia’s second guerrilla group, the ELN, not abandon their peace talks in Quito until a comprehensive deal is reached which also guarantees the participation of Indigenous peoples.
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According to Arias, signing peace deals will not bring the changes the country needs, "unless society as a whole and its Indigenous peoples are given the power and participation to put an end to this history of terror and death on our lands."
A member of the United Nations Peace Mission in Colombia, Raul Rosende, told the Indigenous leaders gathered for the celebration in Bogota, that without the active participation of the country’s Indigenous peoples, "there would have been no peace process."
ONIC is the main Indigenous organization in Colombia. Its leaders are planning a nationwide "Minga", or collective action, in October, to press for complete implementation of the peace accords and the rights that they entail.