Amidst a ping pong table and a rockola machine that blasted hits from the 80’s and 90’s, the FOR Peace Presence team gathered together at the start of the month of May for our semiannual retreat. For several days we discussed our past, present and future work. With our partners’ input, we evaluated our work and discussed possible upcoming changes and challenges related to ongoing peace negotiations and possible post-agreement scenarios within the framework of transitional justice. We additionally had the chance to meet with one of our board members and did a workshop on the political landscape of Colombia. With renewed spirit and motivation, our teams headed out to their next accompaniments.
In the San José Peace Community Nikki and Adilah observed further intensification of the conflict while they were on an accompaniment in the remote Peace Community hamlet of Mulatos, when the unilateral cease fire ended. Ongoing police operations in Urabá, which aim to dismantle the heads of the presumed paramilitary structure ‘Clan Usuga’ run the risk of armed confrontations happening close to civilians, as you can read in Adilah’s piece about the accompaniment to Mulatos.
Meanwhile, Jeanine and Julia accompanied the Justice and Peace Commission in Buenaventura to the Humantarian Space of Puente Nayero and the nearby community of La Esperanza and Aguadulce, the latter two communities being effected by megaproyects of logging and an industrial harbour, respectively. In a meeting with military officials in Buenaventura, FOR Peace Presence expressed its concerns for the communities and human rights defenders accompanied in the region, such as threats against leaders of the Humanitarian Space of Puente Nayero which are continuing despite the precautionary measures granted to these leaders and the community by the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights.
FOR Peace Presence accompanied a meeting between the community of El Nilo and the commander of the Tolemaida military base, held in the hamlet of Mesa Baja, where these small scale farmers settled at least a century ago. To visit the houses we had to cross the military base’s huge training areas, which are adjacent to the farm houses and located on their ancestral growing areas. Constant air traffic is omnipresent. The community of Nilo is adversely affected by this military training base and the roundtable was the second this year, intending to improve the coexistence between the training base and the civilians living in the area. There have been several concerning tactics carried out against the community despite an existing ruling which aims at protecting the communities basic rights.
We celebrated the great news that auctions of areas for mining in Colombia are now suspended and travelled with Tierra Digna to the carbon mining area of Cesar and to Don Jaca, a former fishing village outside of Santa Marta, Magdalena where the majority of the extracted coal is shipped out of Colombia. In April, several people, including minors of the community of Don Jaca suffered violence carried out by the antiriot police. With Tierra Digna, Julia and Jeanine followed up with the community about this incident and ongoing investigations.
After the imminent danger in April 2015 of an eviction of the Humanitarian Space of El Mirador, Jeanine and Julia stayed with members of ASOTRACAMPO in the space for a few days at the end of May. They followed up on the meetings held with local authorities in April. Local authorities, accompanied by private armed actors, carried out a further inspection of El Mirador, which was followed by intimidations against leaders of ASOTRACAMPO. Nevertheless, the community of ASOTRACAMPO keeps resisting and promotes suggestions for a collective, dignified, secure and permanent resettlement, in accordance with the community’s vocation for farming.
In numbers, we accompanied fourteen days in Cundinamarca, Cesar, Magdalena and Valle de Cauca and maintained our permanent team in the San José Peace Community in Antioquia. We did 3 advocacy meetings in the regions and in Bogotá. We published seven articles on our webpage and strengthened our organizational work plan during the retreat!
We thank you all for you ongoing support. We could not do it without you. To donate to FOR Peace Presence and our work in Colombia, please click here!