Colombian peace deal inked with pen made from bullet

The peace deal with the signatures of Mr Santos (at right) and Timochenko, and the "bullet pen" used to sign it.
The peace deal with the signatures of Mr Santos (at right) and Timochenko, and the "bullet pen" used to sign it.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Govt and Marxist rebels end 52-year war that has claimed a quarter of a million lives

CARTAGENA (Colombia) • Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos and Marxist rebel leader Timochenko have used a pen made from a bullet to sign an agreement ending a 52-year war.

The centre-right government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) rebel group signed the peace deal on Monday to end the internal conflict that killed a quarter of a million people and once took the Andean country to the brink of collapse. The deal allows Farc guerillas to become a political party and requires its 7,000 fighters to hand over their weapons to the United Nations within 180 days.

After four years of peace talks in Cuba, Mr Santos and rebel leader Timochenko - the nom de guerre for Rodrigo Londono - warmly shook hands on Colombian soil for the first time.

In the worst days of the war, attacks shook the capital, Bogota, which rebels threatened to overrun, and battles between guerillas, paramilitaries, drug gangs and the army raged in the countryside, parts of which remain littered with landmines.

"The horrible night of violence that has covered us with its shadow for more than half a century is over," a tearful Mr Santos said.

Many at the event also wept, observing a minute of silence for those killed, maimed, raped, kidnapped and displaced in the war.

"No one should doubt that we will conduct politics without arms," said Timochenko, who sought forgiveness from Farc victims. "We are all prepared to disarm in our minds and our hearts."

Colombians will vote on Sunday on whether to ratify the agreement, but opinion polls show it should pass easily.

Showing its support for the peace deal, the European Union on Monday removed Farc from its list of terrorist groups. US Secretary of State John Kerry who witnessed the ceremony said Washington would review taking Farc off its terrorism list. He also pledged US$390 million (S$530 million) next year to support the peace process.

In the worst days of the war, attacks shook the capital, Bogota, which rebels threatened to overrun, and battles between guerillas, paramilitaries, drug gangs and the army raged in the countryside, parts of which remain littered with landmines.

Thousands of civilians were killed in massacres, especially in rural areas, as the warring sides sought to prevent collaboration with enemy forces.

Despite widespread relief at an end to the bloodshed and kidnappings, the deal has caused divisions within Latin America's fourth-largest economy. Former president Alvaro Uribe and others are angry that the rebels will enter Parliament without serving any jail time.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2016, with the headline 'Colombian peace deal inked with pen made from bullet'. Print Edition | Subscribe