The Norwegian Nobel Committee today announced that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year for "his resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war to an end".
The war has cost the lives of at least 220,000 Colombians and displaced close to six million people, the committee observed.
"The award should also be seen as a tribute to the Colombian people who, despite great hardships and abuses, have not given up hope of a just peace, and to all the parties who have contributed to the peace process. This tribute is paid, not least, to the representatives of the countless victims of the civil war," the committee said in an official statement.
The award came despite voters' shock rejection of the terms of a historic deal Santos reached last month with FARC chief Rodrigo Londono, alias Timoleon "Timochenko" Jimenez, after nearly four years of talks, AFP observed.
"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," committee chairwoman Kaci Kullmann Five was quoted as saying by AFP.
"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 Londono, continue to respect the ceasefire," she said as she announced the award.
"By awarding this year’s Peace Prize to President Juan Manuel Santos, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to encourage all those who are striving to achieve peace, reconciliation and justice in Colombia," the committee further said in an official statement.
Santos accepts the award on behalf of all Colombians
Santos accepted the award on behalf of all Colombians, especially those who have perished in the country's conflict, Reuters reported.
"This morning, very early, my son Martin woke me to tell me the decision that of the committee in Norway to grant me the Nobel Peace Prize. I have infinite gratitude, with all my heart, for this honourable distinction. I don't receive this in my name, but in the name of all Colombians, especially the millions of victims from this conflict we have been suffering for more than 50 years. Colombians, this is for you. It's for the victims, so there's not even one more victim. No one else should die. We should reconcile, come together, to culminate this process and start to contruct a stable and lasting peace," he said while speaking in Bogota.
The award excluded FARC guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, who signed the peace accord with Santos in Cartagena on September 26.
Santos has promised to revive the plan even though Colombians narrowly rejected it in a referendum on Sunday. Many voters believed it was too lenient on the FARC guerrillas, according to Reuters.
"The award the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Commission is making to President Juan Manuel Santos is the world's voice of support for our country. It is the recognition they are making to his leadership, to his persistence, to the victims who participated in the process, representing more than seven million victims who have endured the continent's longest armed conflict. This gives us strength to continue forward. This award gives us strength," lead government negotiator Humberto de la Calle was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Colombia's government and Marxist FARC rebels said on Friday they were willing to listen to proposals to alter their peace accord.