Colombia’s government has agreed to leave in place for at least another year all 24 of the FARC reincorporation zones around the country where former guerrillas are based as they retrain, develop productive projects and transition to civil society under the terms of the 2016 peace agreement. The government had previously planned to close or relocate at least 11 of the zones but reviewed the decision after the FARC, local communities and regional authorities requested that they remain where they are.
According to the head of the Office for Stabilisation and Consolidation, Emilio Archila, which oversees state involvement with the reincorporation zones, the mayors of the 24 zones where the FARC are located all requested that their presence be extended.
The requests came after local communities expressed fear over increased insecurity in the event of the zones closing or being moved elsewhere. With many zones in regions marked by state abandonment and political instability, this would reduce the security presence and leave communities more vulnerable. In addition, many FARC members are based in their home regions and were reluctant to move further away.
Many regions of Colombia have seen an influx of armed groups following the FARC’s withdrawal and the state’s failure to implement security programmes. This has contributed majorly to the high levels of violence in which hundreds of social activists and community leaders have been murdered since the peace agreement was signed in November 2016, in addition to nearly 140 members of the FARC.
Around 8,000 people are living in or close to the reincorporation zones, including FARC members, relatives, and people from the local communities. They were setup to help former FARC combatants retrain and develop projects to help them build new lives away from conflict.
In May, the third delegation of the JFC Peace Monitor visited a FARC reincorporation zone at Tierra Grata in northern Colombia. In a statement, the delegation said that ‘it is essential that all former FARC combatants are provided with guarantees to ensure they continue to receive state support including security beyond the current August deadline and we note the governments indicated that they intend to do so’.