Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Colombian leader

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has promised to revive the peace plan, even though Colombians narrowly rejected it in a referendum on Sunday.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has promised to revive the peace plan, even though Colombians narrowly rejected it in a referendum on Sunday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Santos recognised for efforts to end 52-year conflict with left-wing rebels

OSLO • Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has won the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end a 52-year-old war with Marxist rebels, a surprise choice after Colombians voted against the accord in a referendum earlier this week.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said Santos had brought one of the longest civil wars in modern history significantly closer to a peaceful solution, but there was still a real danger the peace process could come to a halt.

"The award should also be seen as a tribute to the Colombian people," committee leader Kaci Kullmann Five said. Voters did not say "no" to peace, but to the agreement, she said.

The award pointedly excluded Farc guerilla leader Rodrigo Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, who signed the accord with Mr Santos.

Mr Santos has promised to revive the peace plan, even though Colombians narrowly rejected it in a referendum. Many voters believed it was too lenient on the Farc guerillas.

Some Nobel watchers had taken Colombia off their lists of favourites after the referendum result.

"There is a real danger that the peace process will come to a halt and that civil war will flare up again. This makes it even more important that the parties, headed by President Santos and Farc guerilla leader Rodrigo Londono, continue to respect the ceasefire," the committee said.

"The fact that a majority of the voters said 'no' to the peace accord does not necessarily mean that the peace process is dead."

More than 220,000 people have died in massacres during the struggle between leftist guerillas, right-wing paramilitaries and government troops. Millions have been displaced and many beg on the streets of the capital, while economic development has been stunted in the mostly rural nation.

Mr Santos said the award would help further the peace process in the Latin American country, the secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee said yesterday.

"He was overwhelmed. He was very grateful. He said it was of invaluable importance to further the peace process in Colombia," Mr Olav Njoelstad told Norwegian state broadcaster NRK after having spoken to the leader by phone.

Colombia's ambassador to Norway, Mr Alvaro Sandoval Bernal, described the award as "a message of hope" for his country.

Mr Santos is the first Latin American to receive the peace prize since indigenous rights campaigner Rigoberta Menchu of Guatemala won in 1992, and the second Colombian winner after writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who won the literature prize in 1982.

The Nobel Peace Prize is often given to both sides in peace negotiations, such as to the Israelis and Palestinians in 1994 and to Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Israel's Menachem Begin in 1978.

The one-sided prize yesterday echoed previous awards, such as to South Korean President Kim Dae Jung in 2000 for his work for reconciliation with North Korea and West German Chancellor Willy Brandt who won in 1971 for his policies of reaching out to the communist East.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2016, with the headline 'Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Colombian leader'. Print Edition | Subscribe