The Colombian president has declared the end of the 50-year old conflict with former rebel group FARC, following the group’s handover of the last batch of its weapons under the United Nations (UN)’s supervision.
“With the laying down of arms… the conflict is truly over and a new phase begins in the life of our nation,” said President Juan Manuel Santos on Tuesday.
Santos made the announcement at a ceremony in the north of country, where FARC’s last lot of decommissioned weapons were being loaded to be sent away and melted.
Santos said this was the “last breath” of the conflict.
“This is truly a historic moment for the country,” he said. “We have been a republic for 198 years. Never had we had such a long conflict and today is indeed the last breath of that conflict.”
The FARC, or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, will officially transform into a political party.
According to the head of the UN mission in Colombia, Jean Arnault, a total of 17 containers of arms had been handed over by the group over the past year.
A senior FARC leader, Ivan Marquez, said at the ceremony that the former rebels “soon will be holding a founding congress for the new political party that will be called the Alternative Revolutionary Force of Colombia.”
“We do not want to break with our past. We were and will continue to be a revolutionary force,” he said.
Under a historic peace deal reached between Bogota and FARC last November, the group will be allowed 10 unelected seats in Congress until 2026.
FARC, in turn, started to withdraw its troops from their jungle and mountain hideouts and relocate them into UN disarmament camps. Some 7,000 fighters have demobilized and are to be reintegrated into the society.
For now, they will live in 26 demobilization camps, where the government would provide security, infrastructure, and medical support for them.
Some of the fighters, who were convicted in special courts of human rights violations, will serve short sentences and perform community services, such as removing landmines.
Bogota and FARC had been at war since the guerrilla movement rose to prominence in 1964. The conflict left more than 220,000 people dead, 45,000 missing, and almost seven million internally displaced.