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News > Colombia

Colombian Indigenous Call SOS to Save Lives of Social Leaders

  • Indigenous attend the funeral of social leader Gersaín Yatacue in Toribio, department of Cauca.

    Indigenous attend the funeral of social leader Gersaín Yatacue in Toribio, department of Cauca. | Photo: EFE

Published 10 August 2019

Violence has shaken communities and robbed them of their leaders one murder at a time. Indigenous are calling a state of emergency.

The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) declared an “emergency situation” Friday for the systematic slaughter of Indigenous social leaders witnessed within President Ivan Duque’s administration.

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"We have an ethical and political obligation to declare a humanitarian, social and economic emergency for all Indigenous peoples of Colombia due to the systematic and continuous genocide in the first year of the government," ONIC said during a meeting of the United Nations National Assembly of Authorities.

In a statement, the organization denounced the mountain of murders which have transpired over since the peace accords were signed in Nov. 2016 — at least 158 Indigenous leaders — 94 since Aug. 7, 2018 alone.

Another 710 social leaders, 138 ex-guerrilla fighters can be added to the list starting from the accords, killed mainly by paramilitary violence.

Over the last week, three other Indigenous were killed: social leaders Enrique Guejia Meza and Jose Eduardo Tumbo, as well as 22-year-old Indigenous rights defender, Gersain Yatacue.

From the Valle del Cauca in the southwest to Antioquia in the northwest, from Risaralda and Norte de Santander, violence has shaken communities from their homes, sending them in search of peace.

"We continue to experience armed clashes in Indigenous territories that cause daily displacement and isolation of the Embera and Waunaan peoples in the department of Choco on the border with Panama and systematic assassinations and isolation of the Awá Indians in Nariño on the Ecuadorian border," the statement outlined.

The ONIC, founded in 1982, represents some 800,000 people, approximately 2 percent of the Colombian population. The organization urged international communities to stand together and be a voice for the disenfranchised, hold Colombia accountable and use their influence to push Duque to “take the necessary measures,” and end the slaughter of Colombia's rural and native people.

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