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Colombia’s slow action on peace deal leaving ‘power vacuum’, UN warns


 Colombian President Juan Manuel / AFP PHOTO / PRESIDENCIA COLOMBIA / HO /

Colombian President Juan Manuel / AFP PHOTO / PRESIDENCIA COLOMBIA / HO /

The UN warned Friday that Colombia was moving too slowly in implementing its peace accord with leftist FARC rebels, which resulted in a “power vacuum” that could be exploited by gangs.

Aimed at ending five decades of conflict, the November 24 pact has huge potential for improving human rights in Colombia, the UN rights office said.

But, its spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani warned, “practical aspects of the demobilisation and disarming of FARC members set out in the accord are not being prioritised.”

The deal calls for FARC guerrillas to gather in 27 zones where they will disarm and demobilise.

“But two weeks into the demobilisation process, none of these zones are equipped to adequately receive them,” she told reporters in Geneva.

She pointed to limited access to safe drinking water, food, health services and electricity in the zones.

“International experience shows that the initial days of demobilisation are the most critical in ensuring combatants do not abandon the peace process,” she said.

FARC members have been gathering in so-called pre-concentration points prior to disarming and demobilising, but these points are plagued by a “similar lack of preparation and facilities,” as well as a lack of concrete security measures, Shamdasani said.

“As FARC guerrillas leave areas that are traditionally under their control, the state has not yet fully stepped in, leaving a power vacuum,” she said.

“Armed and criminal groups are vying for the control of illegal economic activities in these areas.”

She noted that her office had documented 61 killings in Colombia, mainly of human rights activists and social leaders in rural areas.

More than a third of the killings occurred after the first peace deal was signed in late September.

Considering the large number of challenges facing the implementation of the ambitious peace agreement, the UN urged the Colombian government to appoint a crisis manager with executive authority to take on the practical problems.

“We are also calling for immediate, determined and visible state action on the ground to provide security and basic services, and to begin implementing all aspects of the accord to ensure that it lives up to the promise of peace for Colombia,” Shamdasani said.

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