Nariño, Colombia: Landmine Lament

Colombia - School Bombed    July 14, 2007: Juan Dionicio Ortiz Vázquez, the former Governor of the Vegas Chagui Chimbuza Reservation, and Ademelio Pai Taicus of the Guadual Community, lost their lives to landmines as they walked to their fields in the countryside.
    July 15, 2007: Arcenio Canticus died when he stepped on a landmine while working on his land.  Upon learning of the accident, Arcenio’s two sons ran to the site and approached his body.  Both 8-year-old Andrés and 12-year-old Germán were also killed by landmines.  The Canticus family had suffered from forced displacement in 2006.  They
waited six months in the town of Ricaurte for assistance from the state to meet their basic needs.  Finally, when no assistance came, they returned to their land..
    August 18, 2007: landmines planted  by  the  FARC (Revolutionary Army Forces of Colombia) killed Robert Guanga, 20 and Alonso Guanga, 25 as they traveled from Maldonado, Ecuador to the Quelbi Community in the Nulpe Alto Reserve in Ricaurte, Nariño.
    Since 2004, Colombian military operations in Awá territories have provoked armed confrontations generating massive displacement.  In 2004, 457 persons were forced to leave their territory; 1300 fled in 2005, and 1500 in 2006.  Presently, 1287 Awá people remain confined in their reserves’ schools to prevent another mass displacement.
    In 2006 and 2007, 33 Awá community members died as result of the armed conflict.  The magnitude of this crisis is striking, considering the Awá population in the municipality of Ricaurte is only 10,500.
    The national policies of “Democratic Security” and aerial fumigations devastate the mountain landscapes of these communities with bombings, battles, and massive contamination – all at the hands of the Colombian army.     
    According to CAMAWARI (an Awá governing body), “Our territories are no longer spaces of life and peace.  They are now spaces of...assassinations, massacres, disappearances and detentions.  The government approaches the conflict with authoritarianism and intolerance.  We, however, do not believe that military action will solve the conflict.  To the FARC, we demand respect for our lives; we are not human shields.”
    On August 10, the National Human Rights Ombudsman in Bogotá held a hearing on abuses suffered by the Awá community in Nariño.  Awá leaders attending the hearing demanded an end to the fumigations and military operations on the Awá’s ancestral territories.  The Ombudsman issued a series of recommendations to various government agencies.  However, he did not mention ongoing violations by the Colombian army.
    CPT-Colombia began accompanying CAMAWARI in December 2006 and contributed to the human rights reports used at the hearing.  The team plans another accompaniment trip to the Awá communities in 2007and a delegation in May of 2008.