Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has been awarded the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his “resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war to an end”. The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which selects the recipients of the peace prize each year, chose Santos despite the Colombian people rejecting a peace deal with the FARC in a plebiscite on October 2. The announcement was made by committee chair Kaci Kullmann Five.
In its announcement, the committee said “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.”
Santos’ government had held negotiations for four years with Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, the leader of the FARC who is better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, to end the war, in which 220,000 people have lost their lives and millions have been displaced. The peace deal was agreed in August, and Santos and Timochenko signed it at a ceremony in Cartagena on September 26. The deal was rejected by 50.21% of voters in a referendum.
In the aftermath of the referendum, Santos and Timochenko had reaffirmed their commitment to the peace process, with government and FARC negotiators said to have been in immediate talks. However, on October 5, Santos announced the ceasefire with the rebel group would end on October 31.
Although Santos and Timochenko had been tipped to win the Nobel Peace Prize ahead of the plebiscite, the outcome meant they were no longer favourites. Santos’ win has taken many by surprise. Five said that Santos’ role as the “keeper of the process” was very important and that while other attempts have been made to achieve peace in the country in the past, Santos went “all in”.
“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 president himself has made it clear that he will continue to work for peace right up until his very last day in office. The Committee hopes that the Peace Prize will give him strength to succeed in this demanding task,” Five said in her announcement.
Timochenko responded to the Nobel peace prize announcement on Twitter, saying: “The only prize that we aspire to is that of #PeaceWithSocialJustice for Colombia, without paramilitaries without retaliations or lies #PeaceOfTheStreet”
The Guardian reports that journalists present at the announcement of the award asked Five if Timochenko had not included as a joint recipient because the committee thought it difficult to award a prize for peace to a guerrilla leader, to which she responded, “We never comment on those who do not receive the award.”