The longest running war in the Americas was supposed to end last week. Unfortunately, Colombians narrowly rejected the deal in a vote on Oct 2, 2016, resetting the clock for further negotiations. Despite the setback, today on Oct 7, 2016, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the 52-year conflict.
Praising him for his tireless efforts in the four years of negotiations that led to his peace agreement with FARC rebels, The Nobel committee in Norway awarded him the prize for effort as much as achievement, highlighting that: "What the 'No' side rejected was not the desire for peace, but a specific peace agreement."
It was on Wednesday, August 24,2016, that Colombia’s government and the largest rebel group in the country, known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, have reached a deal to end the 52 -years of civil war. The deal was approved in Cuba, after four years of negotiations. It was facilitated by Cuban President Raoul Castro. When both sides declared that the deal has been reached, it appeared the last major guerrilla struggle in Latin America was ending.
However, as predicted (see here), getting the deal is one thing; getting the implementation is another. The deal was pushed forward by the current president Juan Manuel Santos.
To be implemented, the peace agreement had to be approved through a referendum. With many prominent opponents, including the former president Álvaro Uribe, credited for weakening and forcing FARC to negotiate, the deal was rejected on Oct 2, 2016 with a narrow margin of 50.2% against. This did not stop the Nobel committee to, as they had done before, reward an extraordinary individual determined to bring peace to their countries, after years of devastating civil wars. Some believe that the Nobel Prize to President Santos may yet fuel public opinion in Colombia to give another chance to the deal.
President Manuel Santos did not react yet to the award, but the spokesperson of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Olav Njoelstad told Norwegian state broadcaster NRK after talking to him on the phone that : "He was overwhelmed. He was very grateful", before adding that President Santos " said it was of invaluable importance to further the peace process in Colombia."
With the Nobel Prize, the Nobel committee has shown, once again, that the efforts for peace matter as much as the end result. It may be another hint for the actors in other long running conflicts in Africa, especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, and South Sudan.