More than 500 indigenous Embera Katío people are encamped in a park in central Bogota, after they travelled to the capital from Chocó, western Colombia, to protest government failures to return them to communities from which they were forcibly displaced by ongoing political instability in the region.
According to the National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia (ONIC), the majority of the Embera based in the San Bernando zone of Chocó endure poor conditions ‘where they have been victims of threats, harassment and physical and verbal aggression’ from armed groups competing to establish a foothold in one of Colombia’s most resource-rich and strategically-located territories.
Programmes to return people to their homes should have begun on 10 December but had still not been initiated and could possibly be delayed until the end of January. ‘We urgently call on all institutions to pay due attention to displaced comrades in Bogota and demand that the return of the Embera Katío brothers to their territories be urgently and promptly made’, said the ONIC.
The situation in Chocó has impacted severely on the local population, which is predominantly African-Colombian and indigenous.It is one of the regions in Colombia worst-affected by conflict, poverty and underdevelopment, with the state’s historic absence resulting in a chronic lack of basic services such as health, education and security, with different armed groups highly active in the region.