Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ efforts to end the longest running civil war in South America may have ended in failure, but that did not hurt his chances to win the coveted 2016 Nobel Peace Prize.
"The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2016 to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for his resolute efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year-long civil war to an end, a war that has cost the lives of at least 220,000 Colombians and displaced close to 6 million people," the Committee said in a statement.
The announcement came just days after Colombian voters narrowly rejected a peace deal with the Marxist guerrilla army called the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). It was an extremely, close call with 50.2 percent of the country’s 34 million voters rejecting the agreement and 49.8 percent voting in favor of it.
The referendum, which took place after four years of incessant negotiations between the president and the FARC rebels, could’ve ended the 50-year-long conflict that has claimed at least 220,000 lives and forced thousands to leave their homes.
“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 statement read. “This tribute is paid, not least, to the representatives of the countless victims of the civil war.”
The other party in peace negotiations was FARC leader Rodrigo Londono. Santos and Londono had signed a deal ending half a century of hostilities and a plan to disarm 5,800 guerrilla fighters, only to see their efforts die in vain and the country thrown in chaos as none of the sides know how to proceed.
Santos said he was “overwhelmed” for being the recipient of the award.
“The committee hopes that the peace prize will give him strength to succeed in this demanding task,” said a spokesperson. “Further, it is the committee’s hope that in the years to come, the Colombian people will reap the fruits of the reconciliation process.”
Moreover, the award announcement came as somewhat of a surprise, considering many believed a nonprofit search and rescue volunteer group, the White Helmets, deserved the accolade for rescuing over 60,000 people in war-torn Syria.
Congratulations to the people and President of Columbia. We sincerely wish them peace. @NobelPrize— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) October 7, 2016
Since the Nobel Committee does not reveal its shortlist, people such as Pope Francis, Edward Snowden, a group of Greek islanders who rescued Syrian refugees, and Iranian architects of the nuclear deal were also rumored to have been nominated.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Henry Romero