“it is too early to talk about a post-conflict phase in Colombia," the organization said. ">
While the historic peace accord between the Colombian government and the country’s largest armed group, the FARC, is implemented slowly but surely, the International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC, warns that thousands around the country remain vulnerable to violence at the hands of other active paramilitary groups.
The ICRC said that November's peace deal has so far “brought about a significant decrease in the fighting and its human cost.” However, the agreement alone is not seen as enough to help curb widespread violence. It could take decades to deal with the consequences of the more than 50-year conflict, according to the organization.
“While we applaud the signing of the peace agreement, it is important to recognize that civilians are still paying a heavy price," Christoph Harnisch, the head of the ICRC Colombian delegation, said in a press statement.
“Colombian society as a whole must be more determined to tackle the humanitarian challenges. The tragic experiences of the millions of victims of the conflict warrant greater impetus for the peacebuilding process,” Harnisch continued.
Colombia's second largest rebel group, the ELN, has entered peace talks with the government, but still remains an active force. Right-wing paramilitary group Gaitanistas Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, commonly known as “Los Urabeños,” along with the smaller People's Liberation Army, EPL, still operate and threaten Colombian citizens.
As the FARC continues to disarm and leave its strongholds as part of the peace deal, paramilitary groups have been filling the void and creating havoc by displacing hundreds of Colombians, disproportionately affecting Afro and Indigenous communities.
According to the UNHCR, in January and February 2017 alone 3,549 people from more than 900 families were displaced across Colombia. In 2016, a total of 11,363 people from more than 3,000 families were displaced.
Last weekend, hundreds were displaced from the country’s northwestern Choco province when around 200 “Urabeños” attacked ELN forces in the area. Human rights and rural leaders have been increasingly affected by violence in areas where FARC rebels have demobilized, some say without adequate protection from the Colombian state.
The ICRC said that “it is too early to talk about a post-conflict phase in Colombia,” particularly when other rebel groups still operate in the country. The organization urged the Colombian state to take stronger action on reducing violence, demobilizing FARC child soldiers, clearing landmines and combating urban violence.
Under Colombia’s deal with the FARC, the Colombian military planned to help secure FARC strongholds under “Plan Victoria,” by deploying more than 65,000 troops across 160 municipalities. However, critics say the ongoing violence and displacement is evidence that state presence in those areas has been well below what was originally promised by the state.