Why are former FARC rebels leaving reintegration camps? (Al Jazeera)

EL ESTRECHO, COLOMBIA – For more than 35 years, Blanca Ducuara Gomez lived in Colombia’s mountains, patrolling the countryside as a member of the country’s largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

But today she lives in a FARC disarmament camp (also known as reintegration areas) in the southern state of Cauca, where she has a perfect view of the lush valley and the surrounding mountains from her small, wooden balcony that she now calls home.

The FARC sprung up as a peasant movement in the 1960s, fighting corruption and huge inequality in the country, especially in rural areas. What resulted was a civil war that lasted more than 50 years and saw over 220,000 people killed and seven million displaced.

One year ago, Gomez finally put down her weapons after a landmark peace deal was signed, and entered a demobilisation camp created to help the rebels transition into citizen life.

However, like many of the other, former combatants, Gomez has become disillusioned by the peace process, saying the government isn’t following through on its commitments to reintegration. This includes everything from housing to medical services and work opportunities, all of which were promised in the peace agreement.

“At the moment, it’s hard for us, and a lot of people feel it,” said Gomez, from her camp in El Estrecho, in the southern state of Cauca where the FARC once had a major stronghold. “Many people have left because the government hasn’t complied [with its agreements].”

According to Gomez, people in the camps were initially optimistic about the future of peace in Colombia. They even nicknamed her son “el hijo de la paz”, or the son of peace, since he was born on November 24, 2016 – the same day the landmark agreement was signed.

But today, there are less than 50 former rebels living in the El Estrecho camp, out of the 315 who originally demobilised in this area last year.

The figures are similar in camps across the country. The UN recently calculated that more than 55 percent of all the FARC members have left the 26 reincorporation zones.

Many of them have left to join their families back home, find jobs in other regions, or are even suspected of joining dissident factions or other armed groups.

But the reasons for leaving are often the same; there is not enough motivation to stay in the camps.


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