Published: Wed, June 28, 2017
World Media | By June Phelps

Colombian rebels have handed over almost all weapons

Colombian rebels have handed over almost all weapons

This last handing over of weapons was supervised by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, the supreme commander of the FARC, Rodrigo Londono, and the head of the UN Mission in Colombia, Jean Arnault.

Separately, the United Nations mission is continuing to extract and destroy other weapons and munitions stashed in remote hiding places which the FARC have identified and surrendered to the monitors. But experts at Notre Dame University's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies say the one-gun per fighter ratio seen in Colombia could be one of the highest in the world, far greater than the levels of disarmament seen in recent guerrilla conflicts from Guatemala to Nepal.

"The FARC, the most powerful and oldest guerrilla force in Latin America, will cease to exist", he said in a speech in Paris.

"Today is a special day where we replace words where once there were weapons and I can say that because of this momentous day it has been worthwhile being the President of Colombia".

The accord was narrowly rejected by Colombians in a referendum past year before it was redrafted and pushed through congress.

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The peace agreement is a landmark event in Colombia's history as it attempts to conclude Latin America's longest-running conflict that has spanned well over 50 years and taken almost 260,000 lives.

The peace deal removes Colombia's largest security threat, but there are concerns that criminal gangs and the much-smaller National Liberation Army will fill the void once the FARC pulls out of rural areas it has traditionally dominated.

But the process has been blighted by ongoing violence involving other groups.

Presidential elections are scheduled for next March and as stipulated in the peace accord signed previous year, the FARC will receive five seats each in the Senate and Congress, helping to cement the group's evolution from a military to a political force. In addition, it also claims that 77 out of 900 clandestine arms caches operated by FARC rebels have been found and emptied.

The ELN started talks with the government in February, but has been blamed for ongoing confrontations with state forces and kidnappings.

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Some of them will get amnesties or reduced sentences for crimes committed during the conflict.

The FARC and the government have also promised to stamp out the rampant drug production that had fueled the conflict for decades.

It kidnapped two Dutch journalists on June 19 and freed them five days later.

Colombia's civil conflict erupted in 1964 over land rights. That was blamed on a fringe extremist group, the Revolutionary People's Movement (MRP).

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