Combats in Alto Baudó in Chocó saw indigenous communities caught in the midst of the crossfire. Armed clashes were between the ELN guerrilla group, the neo-paramilitary Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC) and FARC dissidents.
These armed skirmishes have affected both indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities in Chocó. So far this has resulted in the confinement of 4,741 people from the Moamía indigenous tribe, and the death of a young Emberá Indigenous woman, killed by a stray bullet that came from a skirmish between the ELN and the Clan de Gulfo/AGC.
The Bishop of Istmina, Mario de Jesús Álvarez, raised his voice in support of the communities asking the armed groups to look at the suffering they were causing to the communities.
Carlos Camargo, the Human Rights Ombudsman (Defensoria), stated that over 4,000 people are without food or resources due to fighting between illegal armed groups. The Transitional Justice Committee evaluated the situation and as a result asked the local authorities to activate the protection, care and prevention route for the communities.
In addition, a Humanitarian Mission was sent to Alto Baudó, Chocó to verify the situation. This Mission was accompanied by the Dioceses of Quibdó, Apartadó and Istmina and delegates from the Norwegian and Swedish Embassies, the regional coordination of the Colombian Pacific, the Norwegian Council for Refugees, and the UN Human Rights Office, amongst others. They documented a worsening of the armed conflict not only in Alto Baudó, but also, in all the ethnic communities in the area. The three Dioceses confirmed that the situation in Baudó is not that different to rest of Chocó, in other words, that there is a major humanitarian, social and environmental crisis across Chocó.
The indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities of Alto Baudó, Chocó, continue in a situation of distress, that is only comparable to the onslaught of the armed conflict at the beginning of the first decade of the 2000s, when the war in Chocó was at its height. For these communities it is a war without end, despite the signing of the Peace Accord.
Ombudsman, Carlos Camargo Assis, reported that the community is without food, without resources and confined in the resguardo (indigenous reservation), and that other community have been displaced.
Ulises Palacios Palacios, mayor of Alto Baudó, declared a public calamity due to the seriousness of the situation.
As far back as September 2019, the Ombudsman’s Office issued an “Early Warning Alert” highlighting the risk that the civilian population were facing, due to the territorial dispute between the ELN and the AGC.
According to the government, the Army’s 26th ground combat battalion is in the area, it joined the operation of the Joint Task Forces of Titan, which for several years has been based in Chocó.
It is notable that increased presence of the security forces does not translate into improvements in security for the local populations. UN OHCHR Report to Human Rights Council, in February 2020, citing police statistics, stated that homicides increased, despite an increased military presence. [i]
This situation emphasises the need for stronger state institutions in the rural areas, rather than increased militarisation. The importance of state institutions in the region, is something the UN has repeatedly highlighted, as well as, coordination between institutions to respond to the profoundly serious humanitarian situation.[ii]
A report should be available soon.
[i] UN OHCHR Report to Human Rights Council, February 2020 A/HRC/43/3/Add.3 para 45:
[ii] Special Representative Outlines Priority Areas for Progress in Colombia, as Security Council Members Share Concern over Continuing Deadly Attacks, 21 Jan 2021 https://bit.ly/3rtrm2K; OHCHR, Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General, 8 May 2020 A/HRC/43/3/Add.3 para 25