The Ejército Nacional de Liberación (National Liberation Army – ELN) is the largest remaining guerrilla group in Colombia, following the signing of the 2016 Peace Accord between the Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas de Colombia (FARC-EP).
In a major step forward, the ELN and the Colombian Government entered into Peace Talks in October 2022 as part of President Petro’s “Total Peace” policy. Following the third round of the Talks, on 9 June 2023, a Bilateral, National, Temporary Ceasefire (CFBNT – Spanish abbreviation) between the ELN and the Government Security Forces was announced, and would come into effect on 3 August 2023.
The timetable will be implemented in three phases to allow the establishment of protocols, community dialogues, and monitoring mechanisms. The UN’s mission in Colombia and the Catholic Church will monitor that the process is compliant with international humanitarian law.
Between 9 June and 5 July 2023 start the process of planning for the CFBNT, this would include things such as drawing up Protocols, education about the content of the protocols and what a bilateral ceasefire means in practice, and explanation of how the monitoring and verification mechanisms will work.
On 6 July an initial stage, leading up to the full ceasefire, will be put into practice, that no attacks will be initiated by the ELN or the Colombian Security Forces. Then on 3 August the full ceasefire will come into effect together with the CFBNT.
In line with these agreements, in a public statement published on 4 July, the ELN announced it would halt attacks from 6 July, ahead of a full ceasefire that will start on 3 August, and will last for 180 days (six months).
The ceasefire will be monitored and verified by the UN Mission of Verification (MMV), the Catholic Church (la Conferencia Episcopal), Government and ELN representatives. The MMV and the Conferencia Episcopal will coordinate with social organisations that are part of the Veeduria Social (Social Monitoring mechanism).
At the end of the six-month truce, if both parties agreed, the ceasefire could be extended.
Despite the major significance of this truce, it may not be able to put a stop to the violence Colombia faces, especially the violence in the communities, as there are a variety of other illegal armed groups that continue operate.
“The ceasefire is very good. It guarantees us some form of tranquillity, but the reality here is that there is a strong confrontation between the ELN and other armed groups,” Mauricio Capaz, an Indigenous Nasa leader from the department of Cauca.
Various armed groups continue to operate in Colombia:
- FARC dissidents, renamed Estado Central Mayor – ECM – they did not lay down their arms in 2016
- the Segunda Marquetalia, FARC ex-combatants, formed in 2019 after rearming, claiming that the Colombian Government had failed to comply with the agreements in the 2016 Peace Accord
- a variety of criminal/ paramilitary groups such as the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia, the Clan de Gulfo, and many others, that did not disarmed following the demobilizations of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia – AUC in 2006).
- All of these groups are funded through illicit economies such as gold and drug trafficking.