Nearly 1,400 indigenous people from the Awá El Sande reservation, in the municipalities of Samaniego and Santacruz (Nariño), have been displaced due to the fighting between the Franco Benavides Front, which is part of the Central General Staff (the maximum dissident of the FARC, to the command of Iván Mordisco), and the Southern Comuneros Front, of the National Liberation Army (ELN). The clashes are due to the desire of the demobilized guerrilla dissidents to enter that subregion of southern Colombia to regain control of several places previously dominated by the former insurgent group and that are today dominated by the ELN.
The situation was warned by the Ombudsman’s Office in the Early Warning issued in July 2023. In it, it indicated that it was imminent for these confrontations to occur and that there would be a “hardening of pressures and stigmatization on the population and its leadership by both illegal groups.” The fighting began on September 13 and continued until this Friday, as confirmed by Harold Montufar, human rights defender from Samaniego.
The displaced people settled in the Samaniego sports center, according to the indigenous governor of the El Sande Reservation, Juan Carlos Meneses. Community reported on social networks that there are people injured as a result of the fighting, which constitutes a violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), which protects civilians from the actions of armed groups. In the villages of Claraval and Campoalegre, several families are confined and “they have put up white flags so that the armed groups do not attack,” they detail in their complaint.
Displaced people settled in the Samaniego sports center (Nariño) on September 15, 2023.Harold Montufar (Courtesy)
The displaced have made two requests: that they be urgently sent cleaning supplies, food, mats, and that the High Commissioner for Peace, Danilo Rueda, together with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) be present at the region to mediate between armed groups, and allow civilians to return to their homes without being attacked. These combats are new, says Meneses, since they had not occurred this year, which leaves them in a situation of alert and risk.
Both groups in dispute, both the dissidents and the ELN, are in dialogue with the National Government. In fact, the guerrilla is in a current ceasefire with the Military Forces. However, this cessation does not apply to disputes between armed groups, which affects the population left in the middle of these confrontations.
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Added to this are the threats that the mayors of Samaniego and Los Andes received on September 12, from the FARC dissidents. This is how he reported it in your X account ―formerly Twitter― the governor of Nariño, Jhon Rojas. Through a video, the armed group accuses them, along with the ELN, of being responsible for the massive displacements. “We are witnesses that what the mayors have carried out is the humanitarian care of more than 2,000 people who have been displaced by clashes between the FARC and ELN dissidents (…). “We cannot allow this to happen in our department,” the president wrote.
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