The Crisis In Colombia Is A Reminder That Referendum Is Not Always The Best Option

Posted on October 7, 2016 in GlobeScope

By Sumit Kr:

As I had written in one of my previous articles about the perils of referendum in a democracy, Columbia shares the same concern after a bleak majority voted ‘No’ in the referendum meant to ink the peace agreement between the Colombia government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels.

The inking of the peace agreement between the two sides was indispensable to end the five-decade-old civil war plaguing the nation into a chronic state of chaos, underdevelopment, wars, rights violations and brutality. It would have also delivered an exemplary message to countries like Syria that civil wars can be ended with consistent and coherent peace talks. It would have proved the saying that, “the more you sweat in talks, the less you bled in wars.”

Unfortunately, the referendum that was held on October 2 (that coincided with the 167th birth anniversary of peace crusader M K Gandhi), thwarted all peace plans, leaving the state of Colombia into a greater degree of uncertainty.

Although both the government and FARC look to be on the same page, as far as securing the peace in the region is concerned, it would require a greater degree of co-ordination with civil society and the public to make it successful. It would also require more ‘barter’ of concessions between the two sides. The resented public who voted “no” in the referendum need to be placated. They should be made to understand that the peace agreement would benefit them the most. They should be given the examples of countries like Syria where a civil war ended up giving way for ISIS.

The optimism shown by the president of Columbia post-results prove the fact that the government is serious in engaging with the rebel groups. Both sides should be ready to lose their vested interests in order to ensure safety and interest of their compatriots. Peace in the region would boost trade, tourism and investment; would bolster its links with the international community and would be a major hub in connecting North America with South America. All the stakeholders – government, rebels and the general public – will have to pursue logic and they will have to avoid any kind of knee-jerk methods that may restore the status-quo ante.