Five years after the peace agreement, the Colombian town of Llano Grande is building a “family” composed of different parts-a global issue

This small village is an example of how to use peace and reconciliation—and determination—to build a new “family” from an old enemy.

UN news headed to the area ahead of schedule Secretary General, His two-day visit will begin on Tuesday, November 23.

Familia Llano Grande reads the mural at the entrance of this Colombian town, where ex-combatants, locals, soldiers and police coexist. Just five years ago, this was unthinkable until a peace agreement was reached to end the conflict between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (i.e., the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).

Family, various

All parties consider themselves the victims of a conflict that has lasted too long. They are now a “family” in a sense. One has its ups and downs, and the wound needs to heal, but in this case, the United Nations is providing help through so-called “reconciliation therapy.”

Peace “brings many benefits to farmers, communities, and public power. It is mainly used by the Llano Grande family. We take care of each other, we meet, and we see how we can help each other,” the army unit stationed on the side of the mountain where Llano Grande is located A member of said that he did not want to give up his name.

“Oh yes, now we are a family,” said 67-year-old Luzmila Segura, who remembers waking up in many fearful mornings during that period.

“You saw the armed men arriving. Oh, how terrible! God! We thought they were here to kill us,” she recalled, adding that armed guerrillas had attacked the mountainside village “multiple times” and even ransacked her. The small pasture in the country burned everything. She was forced to leave the farm and move to a nearby village.

But since the signing of the peace agreement, Ms. Segura smiled and said: “Now I feel very happy because they gave me the house. Now it is very peaceful here. We are all working together like a family. There is peace. [held] So far, everything is going well. everything at once. It has eliminated my fear. ”

She is now working at a new Arepas factory, which was started with the help of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

We are all “working for peace”

Carmen Tulia Cardona Tuberque runs the Arepas factory where Ms. Segura works. She said she prefers to talk about the present because the past was too painful. She avoided the details of her personal story, including a husband who lost his life in the conflict. Many people who stayed in Lannogrande and those who fled agreed with this sad statement.

“I believe this is a community. Despite many difficulties, everyone is working together today for the same goal, peace. You never thought this would happen,” she said, looking sadly at the horizon.

“The community has contributed a grain of sand to the people. As a community, we are here to support each other because harmony depends to a large extent on this,” she continued, adding that many people displaced by the fighting are returning Lannogrande, her face lightened slightly. “That’s something that motivates you very much.”

Similarly, Jairo Puerta Peña, a former combatant who joined FARC’s 14 years old “about 45 years ago,” now attends an architectural training course, and he said he also feels like a member of the Llano Grande family. “We all have the same goal: live better and work with peace of mind.”

After the morning training session, Mr. Peña detailed how his life has changed in the past five years: “Life in war is always walking, understanding, talking with the people, learning and training the army, so we don’t We will be killed in war. We have to face the enemy. After the signing of the peace agreement, life has become much calmer. Peace of mind… Staying with family, sleeping, eating, working… No more gunshots, bombs and helicopters loading troops sound.”

Ex-combatants struggle for a “normal” life

Mr. Penha’s friend and ex-combatant Efraím Zapata Jaramillo (Efraím Zapata Jaramillo) left Medellin’s construction work and went up the mountain with the FARC in Caqueta Province. “When he was only 21 years old, he explained how he took a rifle from the mountain and worked hard to reintegrate into society, “and have a normal standard of living like any Colombian.”

“All of us here, ex-combatants, non-combatants, police and the army, are big families fighting for peace. They no longer take up arms. This word should be our weapon; [and we should use it] Not only must we defend our rights, but also the rights of the Colombian people. Especially farmers abandoned by the country,” he said. With the help of the United Nations Development Programme, he sat in front of a sewing machine to make clothes for the community (UNDP).

Sitting next to him in the tailor’s workshop is Monica Astrid Oquendo, a young peasant woman. The peace agreement not only brought her peace of mind, but also brought many opportunities for learning and training, which benefited the community a lot.

“We are like a family because we share ideas and we share work,” she said.

With a tape measure hanging around her neck, Ms. Oquendo is excited about the handmade sweatshirts and polo shirts she made and the trench coat she is learning to make. They will be sold in valleys and other areas to protect motorcycle riders from the sun and rain.

Rural teachers help build families

When it was announced that 117 ex-combatants would be resettled to Llano Grande to reintegrate into society, Mariela López, a teacher at the town’s school, was terrified, but there was little doubt about what she thought would be the most beneficial for Llano Grande and Colombia. entire.

“On the first day I saw them again, I left. I went to town, where I sat down and cried. I said, if I don’t forgive, how can I talk about peace? But if I don’t forgive , Then it’s me who is injured. I said to myself, I don’t want any family in Colombia to live the life I have experienced. From today onwards, I will contribute at all costs so that the peace process can proceed so that Lanno Grande can achieve reconciliation,” she explained.

Later, when she met the ex-combatants, she changed his view of them: “We think that not only me, the ex-combatants are combative because of what we have experienced, but when they arrive, I I think they are pretty good, and-I want to apologize for what I have to say-I think many of them are also victims.”

The United Nations lends a helping hand

Located in the province of Antioquia, Llano Grande is a village with 150 inhabitants. It is also one of the territorial spaces for training and reintegration, facilitating the reintegration of ex-combatants into civil society while benefiting surrounding communities.

It is located on a property purchased and handed over to ex-combatants in Dabeiba City. It is estimated that in the province of Antioquia, 80% of the population has been involved in the armed conflict in Colombia. Historically, the area has been a stronghold of numerous armed groups strengthened by the illegal economy (illegal mining and illegal crop cultivation).

As UN News has shown us for everyone interviewed for this article, peace—and family—is made up of many elements: trust, reconciliation, reintegration, forgiveness, and hard work.

Since the signing of the peace agreement, United Nations Verification Mission in ColombiaTogether with the United Nations agencies and offices, we have been accompanying the Llano Grande family on their journey, so that the words in the agreement can take root.

This support is fundamental.

For Mr. Peña, because “it prevented the Colombian government from doing whatever it wanted with the agreement.”

For Ms. Segura, because “the community gave me a new home”.

For Ms. Cardona, because she has already started working in her Arepas factory.

For Mr. Zapata and Ms. Oquendo, because they made their own decisions in their garment workshop.

For Ms. Lopez, because she provided music programs, computers and desks for the children in her school.

In short, with the support of the United Nations, about 15 projects have been launched-from soap manufacturing to fish farming, to education, clothing making, animal husbandry and agriculture.

Some promises are not fulfilled

But, like the winding road through the dense verdant mountains of Grano Grande, the road to peace has many twists and turns, requiring determination to reach the ideal destination.

In fact, both Mr. Zapata Efraím and Mr. Peña pointed out that “some of the goals of the peace agreement have been achieved, while others have not.” Both pointed out that the government has not yet taken some key actions in the areas of housing, land and food.

At the same time, many of Llano Grande’s projects have stalled due to lack of funding or technology, and in some cases, even due to the lack of commitment of ex-combatants. In addition, since April 2021, there have been continuous delays and reductions in food supply, causing turmoil, and questioning the long-term sustainability of integration and reconciliation at the local level.

Llano Grande and similar communities have made great strides after the peace agreement, but there is still a lot of work to be done elsewhere.

Not far from Lannogrande is the city of Apartadó, where the government will hold a ceremony to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the signing of the peace agreement. The Secretary-General of the United Nations will attend.

There, the mayor’s office has begun to build a “basic highway connecting rural areas (where ex-combatants are located) and the city”, but currently does not have the resources to complete the project.

Some city government members warned that although there were no conflicts between ex-combatants, civilians, military and paramilitary personnel, there was no reconciliation; on the contrary, “everyone does their own thing and will not interfere with each other,” UN News was told .

In the same province of Antioquia, the Ombudsman’s Office issued 31 alerts related to homicides, attacks, threats, displacement and stigma of ex-combatants. Since 2017, the department has registered 30 homicides and 4 disappearances, the vast majority of which are men.

Finally, in other parts of Colombia, such as Chocó, the situation is said to be more serious. The United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) Said on Thursday that the situation was “worrying” and that “serious violations” were occurring.

Guterres in Colombia

During his visit, Antonio Guterres Meet with Colombian President Ivan Duque and other government officials, as well as the former leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army guerrilla movement.

He will attend the commemorative event and observe the peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts involving ex-combatants, communities and authorities. Mr. Guterres is also expected to meet leaders of the transitional justice system, victims of armed conflict, and leaders of Colombian civil society, including women, youth, indigenous and Afro-Colombian representatives, and human rights and climate activists.

Through this visit, the Secretary-General will summarize the major achievements and challenges in the peace process. He plans to send a strong message to encourage the continuation of this far-reaching and transformative peace agreement for the benefit of all Colombians.

This UN news article is related to United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia.

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