2,000 Indigenous People under Siege

News from Colombia | on: Thursday, 24 January 2008

Five of Colombia's main indigenous groups along with the Catholic Church in the Colombian region of Choco where they are based, have put out an urgent appeal to the international community asking for support in the face of a pending military offensive in the region. According to their appeal at least 2,000 indigenous people are under imminent threat of being forced from their homes.

The communiqué, received direct from the area by the Justice for Colombia office, outlines how troops "invaded" various communities on Janaury 17th, occupying schools and indigenous meeting houses and intimidating residents. Helicopter gunships have also repeatedly hovered over the indigenous communities of Salinas and Chano among others. The communiqué goes on to document how troops are preventing people and foodstuffs from leaving or entering the area, causing severe food shortages, and trying to coerce children into become informants to report on guerrilla activity in the area.

Those living in the area, which include the Embera, the Wounaan, the Katio, the Chami and the Tule indigenous groups, all of whom signed the communiqué, also report that soldiers have illegally entered homes and damaged property.

According to the new communiqué the communities under threat include:

Chano, made up of 110 families (604 individuals)

Mojaudo, made up of 39 families (205 individuals)

Nuevo Olivo, made up of 32 families (165 individuals)

Santa Lucia Pogue, made up of 40 families (220 individuals)

Salinas, made up of 42 families (249 individuals)

Charco Gallo, made up of 53 families (272 individuals)

Nambua, made up of 12 families (71 individuals)

The indigenous leaders, backed by the Catholic diocese of Choco region, where all the affected communities are based, have called on the armed forces to respect the rights of the civilian population in the area and to end their abuses. It is believed that the Colombian army is in the area due to reports that the 34th front of the FARC guerrilla group are operating in the zone.

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