Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for his “resolute efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year-long civil war to an end.” The Norwegian Nobel Committee said the award was in recognition for his peace deal with FARC rebels, even though the agreement was rejected by Colombians in a referendum last Sunday.
— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 7, 2016
“President Santos initiated the negotiations that culminated in the peace accord between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas, and he has consistently sought to move the peace process forward,” the Nobel Committee in Norway said in a press release. “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.”
Over 220,000 people have been killed so far in the 52-year-long civil war between government forces and FARC guerrillas in the South American nation. Last month, after four years of negotiations in Havana, a peace agreement was finally signed, only to be narrowly rejected in a public referendum in which 50.2 percent voted against it.
Turnout was extremely low, with less than 38 percent of the Colombian electorate casting a vote.
Opponents deal argued the deal was too lenient on the rebels, as it would have allowed them to avoid prison if they confessed to their crimes — indiscriminate killings, kidnappings, and even recruitment of child soldiers, among others.
According to the statement from the Nobel Committee: “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. ... “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.”
Santos is only the second Nobel laureate born in Colombia, the first being novelist Gabriel García Márquez, who is best-known for his works “Love in the Time of Cholera” and “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” He was awarded the literature Nobel in 1982.
“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,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said. “This tribute is paid, not least, to the representatives of the countless victims of the civil war.”
Last year, the peace prize went to the Tunisian national dialogue quartet for their work to maintain peace in Tunisia in the wake of the 2011 “Jasmine Revolution.”