Colombia armed groups confining people to homes, communities: NRC

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The Norwegian Refugee Council calls for ‘lasting peace’ in Colombia to end restrictions on freedom of movement.

Armed groups in Colombia are confining people to their homes and communities, said the Norwegian Refugee Council, which called for more to be done to allow citizens to move freely.

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The NRC said on Thursday that millions of people are affected by six “ongoing non-international armed conflicts” in which armed groups “use imprisonment to establish control over isolated communities and areas that are often used for illegal activities”. Huh”.

“Imagine you are being forced to live in your house day after day by gunmen. Imprisonment in Colombia means you cannot work, visit your family or send your children to school,” Juan Gabriel Valles, interim country director of the NRC in Colombia, said in a statement .

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“We call on the Colombian government and non-state armed actors to agree on a lasting peace that benefits vulnerable populations affected by these inhumane restrictions on movement.”

Thursday marks the six-year anniversary of a peace accord between Bogota and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in which members of the leftist rebel group laid down their arms. But some FARC dissidents have rejected the accord and taken up arms again.

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Violence has increased in Colombia since the signing of the accord, particularly in parts of the country that are outside government control and where armed groups are involved in drug trafficking and other illegal activities.

Last weekend, at least 18 people were killed in fighting between FARC dissidents and a criminal band calling themselves “Commandos de la Frontera” or “Border Commandos” in southwest Colombia near the border with Ecuador. The two groups were fighting for control of the drug trafficking routes.

The incident marked the deadliest fighting between illegal armed groups since leftist Colombian President Gustavo Petro took office in August.

Petro has promised to bring “complete peace” to the country after nearly six decades of armed conflict that killed at least 450,000 people between 1985 and 2018 alone.

And earlier this week, Petro’s government began peace talks in neighboring Venezuela with the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country’s largest remaining rebel group.

The representatives said in a joint declaration that they “with the full political and moral will, as demanded by people in rural and urban areas and other sectors of society, who have suffered from violence and exclusion” to resume a dialogue. gathered for.

The first round of talks will last 20 days, with diplomats from Venezuela, Cuba and Norway helping to negotiate, while representatives from Chile and Spain will oversee the process.

Citing figures from the United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), the NRC said on Thursday that over 2.6 million people had their movements restricted so far this year due to ongoing violence, including “indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities were among the most affected”.

“The rules imposed by armed groups are: ‘You can’t go outside;’ ‘You cannot use that road;’ ‘We don’t want to see anyone passing by here.’ We are trapped,” Cecil, an indigenous teacher from the Pacific Coast region, said in the NRC statement.

“Where I live, we’re afraid to walk [outside] – We can’t do it independently,” said Nelsa, also a resident of southwest Colombia.

President Gustavo Petro promises to bring ‘complete peace’ to Colombia [File: Nathalia Angarita/Reuters]

Colombia armed groups confining people to homes, communities: NRC

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