The Colombia-FARC Peace Agreement Is Falling Apart

Former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (left) and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño (right) signed a 2016 peace agreement overseen by former Cuban President Raul Castro (center) ( Image )

Former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (left) and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño (right) signed a 2016 peace agreement overseen by former Cuban President Raul Castro (center) (Image)


In September 2016, the government of Colombia and Marxist rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a landmark peace accord. The agreement ended a devastating five decade-long armed conflict that left 220,000 dead, and displaced over five million people. The international community was quick to congratulate the conclusion of hostilities. Then-UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon heralded the pact as “bidding farewell to decades of flames and sending up a bright flare of hope that illuminates the world.” Juan Manuel Santos, former President of Colombia, was even awarded the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize. Despite the fanfare that occurred three years ago, there are serious signs that the Colombia-FARC peace arrangement is failing and hostilities will reoccur. 

Troubles arose just one week after Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño inaugurated the peace treaty. Colombians narrowly rejected the accord in a surprise referendum result. Opponents argued that the government provided too many concessions to the paramilitary group. Voters were concerned with plans to reserve parliamentary seats for FARC, and to grant amnesty to former guerrilla fighters. While a revised treaty was ratified afterwards, concerns emerged over whether the Colombian government could remain a credible partner of the agreement. 

The election of Colombia’s current President, Iván Duque, further compounded these fears. Duque, a conservative outsider, pledged to modify the treaty. His candidacy was endorsed by controversial ex-president Alvaro Uribe, the main proponent of the “no” campaign in the 2016 referendum. As president, Iván Duque has since reneged on portions of accord, and has increased provocative airstrikes against militia groups. Trust between FARC leaders and the government of Colombia has fallen under the current administration, jeopardizing the future of the peace agreement. 

The failure of both parties to adhere to provisions of the peace agreement has weakened its effectiveness. The treaty between the government and FARC contains 578 stipulations, many of which have been neglected. The government of Colombia has inadequately invested in rural communities formerly under rebel control. Promises to provide basic services — clean drinking water, functioning school systems, and access to healthcare — have fallen through. The disarmament of most members of FARC under the treaty has left former rebels vulnerable. Paramilitary gangs and violent drug-traffickers have killed hundreds of demobilized guerrilla fighters. The inability of the Duque administration to protect former FARC members has led to claims that the government is not meeting treaty obligations. 

 The actions of certain FARC members, conversely, threaten the livelihood of the peace accord. A small minority of rebels have not disarmed, and around 20 groups have refused to recognize any attempts at reconciliation. Guerrilla fighters are also participating in the cocaine trade, despite the presence of a government crop-substitution program. FARC violations of the peace accord reduce public support for the treaty, and encourage retaliation. 

While the future of the Colombia-FARC relationship appears uncertain, the effects of renewed conflict are already known. The country’s half-century of armed conflict proved catastrophic. If fighting were to commence again, parts of Colombia could be plunged into a state of lawlessness.