Violence causes mass displacement of indigenous community in Buenaventura

An attack on a Nasa Embera Chamí indigenous community in the region of Buenaventura, department of Valle del Cauca, displaced around 250 people, who are currently sheltering in a school where supplies of food, water and medicine are running dangerously low.

On 8 June, gunmen fired at the home of community leader Gonzalo Hilamo Mesa, who was physically unharmed. However, the attack was the latest in a string of violent incidents enacted against local  residents, causing large numbers to leave their homes.

According to the National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia (ONIC), 80 women, five of whom are pregnant, 90 men and 80 children sheltering in the school and in urgent need of basic products and support. Amnesty International said that the displacement demonstrates the state’s failure to reach into peripheral regions where armed gangs continue to exercise control over resources, territory and populations.

The attack and mass displacement of the Nasa Embera Chamí community follows the murder of couple Pablo Emilio Dagua and Adriana Montero, who were abducted from their homes, tortured and murdered in late May. Nobody has been arrested over the killings.

Buenaventura is one of the poorest regions of Colombia. 80 per cent of the predominantly indigenous and African-Colombian population lives in poverty, while a lack of state presence has seen a proliferation of armed groups operating in the area. The mass displacement shows that, despite the 2016 peace agreement, many people continue to be affected by high levels of violence and instability. Over 7 million people have been forcibly displaced in Colombia, with communities still being forced from their homes due to violence.