The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for his ongoing efforts to end a five-decade civil war has sent a strong message, urging the world to support the country's efforts to achieve peace.
A peace agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) leftist guerrilla group, has just been rejected in a referendum. Still, this does not mean that the need to achieve peace was rejected by the Colombian public.
The government and FARC released statements saying that the armed conflict will never been resumed. President Santos is seeking to hold consultations with opponents of the peace agreement. He should swiftly go ahead with fresh peace talks with the guerrilla group while trying to gain wide support from the public.
More than 200,000 people died in the civil war in Colombia and some 7 million others became refugees. FARC repeatedly kidnapped people for ransom and trafficked illegal drugs. In 2001, a Japanese executive of a joint venture between Japanese and local companies was abducted, and subsequently found dead.
Santos led a mop-up campaign against FARC as defense minister in the previous government led by then President Alvaro Uribe. After he was sworn in as president, Santos launched peace negotiations with FARC in 2012 mediated by Cuba and Norway, while continuing the anti-guerrilla campaign.
Following four years of talks, the government reached the peace accord, under which FARC would be allowed to participate in politics in return for disarming, while prison sentences for former FARC soldiers who admitted to their crimes would be reduced.
Opponents of the deal criticized the government for being too lenient on the guerrillas. The top FARC commander offered an apology during a ceremony to sign the peace agreement, but his apology was not accepted by the public.
However, FARC has already been weakened considerably. At its peak, FARC had over 20,000 members and ruled about one-third of the country. However, the group now has less than 7,000 members, who are reportedly increasingly weary of war. FARC should seriously take the public's anger at the guerrilla organization and sincerely hold negotiations with the government.
Opposition may be voiced to awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for a peace that has not yet been achieved. The 2000 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung for his efforts toward a reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula and the 2009 prize that went to U.S. President Barack Obama who called for a world without nuclear weapons stirred controversy, with critics saying that the moves were political.
However, the Nobel Peace prizes that have been awarded in recent years highlight a tendency to support efforts to achieve peace.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee pointed out that the outcome of the referendum in Colombia does not mean an end to the peace negotiations, and warned that there are realistic fears that the civil war could break out again. This highlights the committee's strong desire to put the fragile peace process back on track.
It is hoped that the day will come when all the people in Colombia can share the delight of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to President Santos.