For Peace Presence started the month with a diplomatic breakfast meeting that we organized for our partner ACOOC to present its recent report on arbitrary detentions with the objective of military recruitment. In attendance were six embassies and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. ACOOC also shared its concerns about a proposed initiative in the Colombian senate for stricter military service requirements. This initiative would worsen the situation for conscientious objectors, a worrying tendency that does not have the likelihood to change with a peace agreement, as conscientious objection is not taken into account in the current discussion of a new military doctrine.
The most difficult accompaniment this month was the eviction in the Humanitarian Space El Mirador of the Community El Tamarindo. Sophie and Maresz were on a regular accompaniment to Tamarindo when they found out about the upcoming eviction, originally scheduled for December 4th. We activated all our strategic contacts on local, national and international levels to try to change this decision and accompanied the community in meetings with the local authorities. The local authorities did not change their decision, the eviction was rescheduled for December 9th and 10th, and our presence as international observers helped ensure that no excessive force was used during the eviction. Laetitia from the Peace Community team reinforced the team in this tense moment. It was difficult for our team to witness the demolition of houses and the despair of the families.
This emblematic case went up to the Constitutional Court which ruled on December 18th that further evictions could only take place if the local authorities would provide the evicted families with dignified shelter homes. The mayor offered the families apartments in Barranquilla which are not suitable for their needs as farmers with animal and plants. Despite this unsolved situation, the rest of the houses in Tamarindo were destroyed on December 23rd. For the families of Tamarindo, the memory of the destruction of their homes during Christmas 2015 will remain with them for the rest of their lives.
While the eviction was taking place in Tamarindo, the Interchurch Justice and Peace Commission asked us to accompany the return of the indigenous Wounaan who had been displaced to Buenaventura for over a year. Their territory in Unión Agua Clara on the San Juan River is a strategic location for drug trafficking and paramilitaries. FORPP witnessed the difficult living conditions resulting from the lack of minimal conditions of safety and dignity agreed upon between the mayor and community leaders. Just four days after their return, the leaders of the indigenous Wounaan were newly threatened by paramilitaries. Access to health care and food remains complicated. Maren and Adilah, who jumped in to support the Bogota team directly from San José de Apartadó, accompanied a delegation from Agua Clara to pressure the mayor to fulfill the agreement. Adilah published an article about the situation on Intercontinental Cry.
While the Bogota team mostly took Christmas vacations to recharge, Maresz joined FORPP’s Peace Community team and spent Christmas in Mulatos. Together with Adilah and most of the Peace Community members, Maresz participated in a general assembly to analyze the possible impacts of a peace agreement. Worries about increased paramilitary control and continued impunity were also shared by Peace Community members in a meeting that PBI organized in the middle of December for the embassies and where FORPP also participated.
December was a month of lot of happenings. FORPP accompanied 19 days and had 4 meeting with national and international institutions.
Thank you all for your interest in our work and your impressive responses to our urgent action in the case of Tamarindo!