Colombia sings peace deal with rebel group

The Colombian government and left-wing Farc rebels have signed a historic agreement that formally brings an end to 52 years of civil war.

The rebel leader Timoleon Jimenez, known as Timochenko, apologised to ‘‘all the victims of the conflict.”

He said ‘‘I would like to ask for forgiveness for all the pain that we have caused during this war.”

The ceremony
Guests dressed in white at the ceremony in Cartagena, to symbolise peace.

The last of the major Cold War conflicts killed 260,000 people and left six million internally displaced.

President Juan Manuel Santos said ‘‘Colombia celebrates, the planet celebrates because there is one less war in the world. We will achieve any goal, overcome any hurdle and turn our nation into a country we’ve always dreamed of – a country in peace.”

Timochenko said the Farc, which began as the armed wing of the Communist Party in 1964, is leaving armed conflict behind and moving in to peaceful politics.

‘‘We are being reborn to launch a new era of reconciliation and of building peace. Let us all be prepared to disarm our hearts,” he said.

The president and Timochenko used a pen made from a bullet to sign the deal.

There was so much symbolism in this historic signing – a pen made from a bullet to sign the peace deal, the singing of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, everyone dressed in white.

The deal
The deal comes after four years of talks in Havana, Cuba, between President Santos and Timochenko. It must pass a referendum on Sunday before it can pass into law.

Polls indicate the majority of Colombians will vote for it, although there has been some opposition, led by ex-president Alvaro Uribe.

Under the deal, the Farc will be re-launched as a political party.

Reports say that although there is widespread hope that the deal may bring an end to the kidnappings and bloodshed that have blighted Colombia over five decades, it has also led to divisions in Latin America’s fourth-biggest economy.

Some people are angry that it allows rebels to enter parliament without serving time in prison.

Meanwhile some are of the view that President Santos has risked his political future on the success of the peace deal.