Colombian general shares people’s role in ending insurgency

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    FORT BONIFACIO, Metro Manila–A former Colombian Armed Forces officer shared his country’s experience in defeating communist guerillas during a cross-learning seminar attended by Philippine Army senior officers, division and brigade commanders held at the Philippine Army Headquarters, on Wednesday, May 15, 2019.

    Retired Major General Carlos Rojas of the Armed Forces for the Republic of Colombia discussed the role of the people in compelling the Revolutionary Armed Forces in Colombia (FARC) to surrender to the government and lay down their arms. He was accompanied by Dr. Alberto Lara of the Social Development Group and delegates from the Norwegian Center for Conflict Resolution during the seminar.

    Rojas recounted that five million Colombians supported the military by going out to the streets clamoring for the end of violence.This mass movement against communist insurgency was a crucial element that prompted members of the FARC to finally come to an agreement with the government to reintegrate themselves back to society.

    The Colombian government’s conflict with the FARC dates back to its formation in 1964. Known as the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, this Marxist-Leninist guerilla organization claims to fight for social equality and resist the influence of foreign governments in Colombia. It is a large rebel group that carried out violent attacks against the people, committed kidnap for ransom activities, and drug trafficking.

    Out of many attempts, Colombia finally succeeded to resolve armed conflict through a negotiation with the FARC using a model that involved the military on the peace table. The negotiation between Colombia and FARC had three peace agenda – agrarian reform, political participation, and end of conflict. The Colombian delegates further stressed that inclusivity, accountability and sincerity must be present on both parties for a peace negotiation to work.

    Among the three peace agenda, the military was focused on the end of conflict which consists of the demobilization, disarmament and the reintegration to the society of the former FARC members upon the signing of the peace deal in 2016.

    Under the agreement, the military had 180 days to gather all weapons of former FARC rebels which were subsequently turned over to the United Nations to be destroyed. The rebels were then transferred in confinements and given military protection as they prepare for their reintegration to the society.

    According to Rojas, three critical factors contributed to the defeat of communist insurgency namely the military’s overwhelming combat power, intelligence, and the fall of five out of seven FARC key leaders. Of the three, he emphasized that the use of a hundred Blackhawk helicopters to transport troops quickly in and out of battles provided them with a tactical advantage against the guerillas.

    “As shown by the Colombian experience, the Philippine Army recognizes the importance of the people’s support in ending violence and the promotion of inclusive peace and development. If we can gain the same level of popular support in our country, then we can end this conflict once and for all. That is why we implore the active involvement of every Filipino in this pursuit for the sake of our children and the nation,” said the Army Chief Public Affairs, Lieutenant Colonel Ramon P. Zagala.#

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