Prize “tribute” to Colombian people’s hope

President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his attempts to broker peace in his nation

Charlotte Bryan & Michael Sandelson
The Foreigner

“The award should also be seen as a tribute to the Colombian people who, despite great hardships and abuses, have not given up hope of a just peace, and to all the parties who have contributed to the peace process,” The Nobel Committee said in a statement.

A 52-year history of violent conflict between the guerrilla left-wing party, FARC, and the Colombian government has resulted in some 220,000 deaths.

Recent events include 2012’s bomb attack in the southern Putumayo province, which caused an oil spill. The government said the attack was the worst environmental disaster in the country’s history.

President Santos and FARC leader Timoleón Jiménez had signed a deal for peace after four years of negotiations.

Norway, as hosts of the negotiations, had played an important role in the diplomatic process, leading the peace talks alongside Cuba. These first took place in Oslo in 2012.

The peace deal failed this month, however, following its rejection by the Colombian People. 50.2 percent voted “no” at the national referendum, held on October 2.

The FARC would have received 10 seats in the Colombian Congress between 2018 and 2022 if the vote had been sanctioned.

Head of the Norwegian diplomatic team, Dag Nylander, commented to the BBC in an interview: “Did we get a solid, well thought-through peace agreement in the end? Absolutely. And I think that is the important thing.”

President Santos, now 65, was born to a rich family in Colombia. He was re-elected in 2012 for another four-year term following a close 51 percent win against the right-wing party led by Óscar Iván Zuluaga.

The Colombian president co-founded the Social Party of National Unity in 2005. His campaign focused on tackling issues such as land reform, drug trafficking, and political participation. These were the issues the peace treaty would have dealt with.

Journalists posed several questions to Karin Cecilie “Kaci” Kullmann Five, chairwoman of the Nobel Prize Committee, at October 7’s Peace Prize announcement in Oslo.

One reporter asked if giving the prize to President Juan Manuel Santos was now not slightly disrespectful to the democracy of the country following rejection of the deal.

“On the contrary, we clearly show that we of course respect the democratic process and the democratic vote of the Colombian people. But the people of Colombia did not say no to peace, they said no to this particular agreement,” stated Kullmann Five.

“There’s now a process happening regarding opening a dialogue with all other parties in Colombian society to try to move the process forward,” she explained.

FARC leader Timoleón Jiménez took to Twitter “to congratulate President Juan Manuel Santos, Cuba, and Norway, who sponsored the process, and Venezuela and Chile, who assisted it. Without them, peace would be impossible.”

In response to winning, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos stated, “this honorable distinction is not for me, it’s for all the victims of the conflict. Together we will win the most important prize of all: PEACE!”

This article was originally published on The Foreigner. To subscribe to The Foreigner, visit theforeigner.no.

It also appeared in the Oct. 21, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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