Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2016 for his resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war to an end, a war that has cost the lives of at least 220,000 Colombians and displaced close to 6 million people.
President Santos initiated the negotiations that culminated in the peace accord between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas, and he has consistently sought to move the peace process forward.
“Knowing that the accord was controversial, he was instrumental in ensuring that Colombian voters were able to voice their opinion concerning the peace accord in a referendum. The outcome of the vote was not what President Santos wanted: a narrow majority of the over 13 million Colombians who cast their ballots said no to the accord,” The Nobel committee stated.
“This result has created great uncertainty as to the future of Colombia. There is a real danger that the peace process will come to a halt and that civil war will flare up again. This makes it even more important that the parties, headed by President Santos and FARC guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londoño, continue to respect the ceasefire.
The fact that a majority of the voters said no to the peace accord does not necessarily mean that the peace process is dead. The referendum was not a vote for or against peace. What the “No” side rejected was not the desire for peace, but a specific peace agreement.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee emphasizes the importance of the fact that President Santos is now inviting all parties to participate in a broad-based national dialogue aimed at advancing the peace process. Even those who opposed the peace accord have welcomed such a dialogue. The Nobel Committee hopes that all parties will take their share of responsibility and participate constructively in the upcoming peace talks,” the committee added.
The civil war in Colombia is one of the longest civil wars in modern times and the sole remaining armed conflict in the Americas. President Santos brought the bloody conflict significantly closer to a peaceful solution, and that much of the groundwork has been laid for both the verifiable disarmament of the FARC guerrillas and a historic process of national fraternity and reconciliation.
“The Colombian people and especially the victims, is something for us very important and I receive this award in their name; the Columbian people who have suffered so much with this war, 52 years of war. And especially the victims, the millions of victims that have suffered with the war that we are on the verge of ending.
The message is we have to persevere until we reach the end, we reach the end of this war. We are very, very close. We just need to push a bit further, to persevere, and this is going to be a great stimulus to reach that end, and to start the construction of peace in Columbia. This is something that all the Colombian people will receive with emotion and specially the victims will be very happy because I think it’s in their name that this award is given,” Santos said after he won the prize.