Bombings in Chocó, Colombia, affect the safety of the civilian population

Aug 9, 2015 | Anti-militarization, Displacement and Land Issues, Human Rights, Impunity and Justice, News, War and Conflict

Para español, haz click aquí.

FOR Peace Presence recently expressed its concern regarding displacements in Buenaventura. Increased risks of displacements have been additionally denounced by community leaders of the neighbouring department of Chocó, as expressed in the following post, which has been originally published in Spanish by SweFOR Colombia.

In less than a month, the civilian population in Alto Andágueda, in the Bagadó municipality, Chocó, suffered twice from the consequences of bombings carried out by the government’s military forces against the ELN guerrilla. These events have led to displacements, restrictions on mobility and property damage in the affected communities.

The bombings occurred this March and April in the vicinity of the community of Piedra Honda and the Tahamí reservation in Alto Andágueda, causing damage to homes, and local confinement and displacement of more than 700 people in five communities in the reservation [1]. It should be emphasized that it is not the first time the civil population of the reservation suffers the consequences of the armed conflict [2].

Piedra-Honda0

After the bombing, fragments of the explosive devices were found in the community of Piedra Honda.


Martin Tequia Manugama, counselor for AsOrewa¹, says that clashes between military troops and different guerilla groups as well as bombings by the military have been happening in the Alto Andágueda region for several years now, and explains that:

“People are afraid and have expressed fear and pain for what is happening in their land. They are no longer confident that there will be peace in the area any time soon.”

AsOrewaAltoAnd1

Martin Tequia Manugama, counselor, and Helfer Casama Andrade, president of the Indigenous Association AsOrewa, share with the Afrocolombian population a great concern for the situation in the area.

Piedra Honda community’s latest demand is that civilians should not be involved in the armed conflict. This was expressed to the Verification Committee that traveled to the community in late April, which included among other organisations the Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation (SweFOR).²
In addition to that, a Cocomopoca leader from the region insists that:

“The government needs to provide a lot of assistance to this community in order to bring about peace and tranquility.”

The presence of civilian government institutions is a continuous demand.

OpocaPiedraHonda2

At a meeting in Piedra Honda in September 2014, Adolfo Guevara, Américo Mosquera, Stuard Mena, Luis Abel Rentería and Asnoraldo Mosquera from Cocomopoca emphasized that the militarization of the area is a threat to the security of the civilian population.

Besides respect for International Humanitarian Law, AsOrewa and Cocomopoca demand that armed actors respect the autonomy and internal regulations of all ethnic-territorial organizations as well as their collective goods and territory. [3] Two months after the latest military operations, the president of AsOrewa, Helfer Andrade Casama explains the complexity of the situation. It not only has to do with the bombings but also with the fact that the population of Alto Andagueda that has recently returned from Bogotá after being forcefully displaced from their territory is in the process of receiving reparation but that:

“Now, regional, internal displacements indicate a risk that they will have to leave the area entirely.”

[1] OCHA Flash Update  [2] OCHA Informe Flash MIRA  [3] Comunicado Cocomopoca, AsOrewa, FISCH, Diócesis de Quibdó

1 Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas Embera, Wounaan, Katío, Chamí y Tule del Departamento del Chocó
2 Among the participants were Cocomopoca (Consejo Comunitario Mayor de la Organización Popular Campesina del Alto Atrato), the Department of Protection of Citizen’s Rights, the Quibdo’s Diocese and SweFOR. The ethnic-territorial organizations Cocomopoca and AsOrewa expressed the same demand in a statement backed by Quibdo’s Diocese and the Interethnic Forum Solidaridad Chocó – FISCH. [3]