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  • People from Choco, home to large Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities, participate in a protest.

    People from Choco, home to large Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities, participate in a protest. | Photo: AFP

Ensuring lasting peace means “protecting Afro-Colombian and Indigenous peoples' territorial and other collective rights,” said Charo Mina-Rojas.

A slew of international human rights organizations, acting in response to a call for support from numerous ethnic groups in Colombia, have penned an open letter to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. 

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They're urging the leader to provide security for Indigenous and Afro-descendent communities based mainly in the country's Amazon region and Pacific coastline, where armed right-wing groups continue to vye for territorial control after the demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, and a recent ceasefire agreement between the government and the National Liberation Army, ELN.

“Since the peace accord took effect late last year, Afro-descendent and Indigenous (communities) have witnessed an increase in human rights violations, including displacement,” the letter read, according to Colombia Reports.

Since the peace accord between the FARC and the Colombian government was signed last November, more than 200 social leaders have been murdered, according Conpa Charo, head of the Process of Black Communities. Also, five former FARC guerrillas, nine militiamen and 11 relatives of FARC members have been murdered, according to the National Political Council of the Revolutionary Alternative Forces of the Commons, the FARC's new political party.

Charo Mina-Rojas, a member of the Process of Black Communities and one of many activists who requested support from international human rights organizations, said “Protecting Afro-Colombian and Indigenous peoples' territorial and other collective rights is fundamental to ensuring lasting peace.”

Meanwhile, Fredy Lopez, a social leader in the Pacific coast city of Buenaventura, noted that his area is home to the “richest natural water sources in the country, but water only comes for two hours a day."

"It is a territory where there is no hospital and they send people to their homes to die, he said. "They kill, burn and threaten our community because they need our land for industry. It is a territory where many go to bed hungry. There is no peace here.”

Even the office of Colombia's Ombudsman has criticized the government's handling of security issues in areas previously controlled by the FARC, many of which are home to majority Indigenous and Afro-descendent communities.

It noted the paradox between the government's classification of certain towns surrounding FARC demobilization zones as being a “low” security risks and the fact that these same areas have been the scene of “violent conflict” and “possible human rights violations.”

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