In Bajo Atrato the civilian population remains affected by paramilitary and guerrilla presence

Apr 7, 2016 | Displacement and Land Issues, News

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The following article was originally published by SweFOR on March 29, 2016.  

Since the arrival of the Gaitanistas Defence Forces of Colombia in the rural municipality of Riosucio almost six months have passed and yet the vast majority of communities is still waiting for their needs to be addressed by the state. SweFOR reiterates the concern of the Association of Indigenous Councils Embera, Wounaan, Katío, Chamí and Tule of the Chocó Department – AsOrewa, which was mentioned in the Newsletter of December.

The communities of the Bajo Atrato in the municipality of Riosucio have been affected by the presence of armed actors and abandonment by the state

The Ombudsman1 points out that the entry of the Gaitanistas Defense Forces of Colombia and the ELN have aggravated the situation for the civilian population. Historically the Front 57 of the FARC has had a presence on the western bank of the Atrato River, while armed paramilitaries groups were mostly present in the area of Cerro Cuchillo, Riosucio and some villages along the River Atrato. However, their control over territory and population in the districts and municipalities had mostly been ensured by the presence of men in civilian clothes.

The context has now changed with the arrival of the Gaitanistas Defence Forces of Colombia to the area of Bajo Atrato, where rearguards of the FARC are present along the rivers of Salaquí, Truandó, Cacarica and Domingodó and since recently also the ELN in Medio Atrato up until the basin of the Truandó river. The arrival of the paramilitary group has led to an armed response from the FARC, apparently in alliance with the ELN in order to contain the advance of the Gaitanistas, generating several clashes between the illegal armed groups.

Confrontations have had direct effects on afro- and indigenous communities living in the area. They suffered situations of confinement, unfounded accusations, an increase of forced recruitment, displacement and threats. The threats were particularly made against those leaders, who have denounced the consequences by actions of the armed groups, which further lead to fear of reporting these events.

In his report, the Ombudsman makes recommendations to the Public Security Forces to take proportionate and preventive actions to avoid more damages to indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. However, illegal armed groups remain present in the basins of Truandó and Salaquí. As the Gaitanistas told the communities, they have come to the area of Bajo Atrato to stay there. “We do not know what happened to the police. They usually inspect civilians at checkpoints. How come then that so many men of the Gaitanistas could have entered?”, asks Helfer Casama Andrade, president of AsOrewa.

Claudia Rojas, an analyst
at the Early Warning System of the Ombudsman, recognizes the problem and the need for a lasting solution: “Except for the military, the state has totally abandoned this territory, which does not give much hope.” It is therefore of utmost importance that all state authorities take on their responsibility to ensure the realization of the rights of the population as established by the second article of the Constitution of Colombia.

1 Nota de seguimiento N° 001-16 del Sistema de Alertas Tempranas de la Defensoría del Pueblo, emitido el 18 de enero de 2016 como la cuarta Nota al Informe Riesgo N° 031-09A.I. emitido el 31 de diciembre de 2009.