The peace deal between FARC and Colombian authorities promised to put an end to a conflict that has been tearing the country apart for half a century. After the deal was rejected in a referendum, Colombia faces an uncertain future.
«Colombia is safe now»
For the previous fifty years, Bogotá itself has remained more or less unaffected by the conflict raging in other parts of the country, at least in a physical sense. However, this conflict heavily influences how foreigners view Colombia in general. When the Norwegians in the current Kompaz team started spreading the news that they would be working in Bogotá for nearly half a year, they heard worried parents and friends responding "Oh, that's okay - Colombia is safe now". The peace treaty had, seemingly overnight, changed people's perception of the entire country.
The conflict has undoubtedly had a massive impact on Colombia. Colombia has been at war for over 50 years, during which some 220 000 people have lost their life. There are 6 million internally displaced persons in the country - second only to Syria. They have fought over the lack of accessible land to grow crops, there has been a war against drugs, people have been kidnapped and many have been driven into exile in other parts of the world. It has been a long, hard and heartbreaking time. Many people have lost family and friends and everyone have been affected by this conflict in one way or another.
On Sunday the 2nd of October, the Colombian people voted to reject the deal that could provide a definite end to this conflict.
A new Colombia?
This does not mean that Colombians do not want peace. A rejection of one specific treaty does not mean a rejection of peace - the main concerns for the people who voted "no" were primarily about lack of punishment for rebels committing war crimes and a lack of trust in FARC to follow up on its obligations as they were outlined in the treaty.
Nevertheless, we in Kompaz are disappointed with the outcome of the vote.
When we go there in January, some of us will be coming back to their homeland and some of us will be going for the first time. What we have in common is that we were hoping to come to a "new Colombia"; a Colombia where the future is certain, and where the conflict no longer casts its shadow on everyday life. Instead, uncertainty and anxiety will still be prevailing.
However, the result in this referendum does not mean an end to the peace process - the peace treaty was an extraordinary achievement and the fact that it was possible to reach an agreement in the first place is a big step towards peace.
We might not see a new Colombia. But hopefully it will be a different one.