Colombian president wins Nobel Peace Prize

Prize awarded for Juan Manuel Santos’ efforts ‘to bring 50-year-long civil war to end’

 A file picture dated  15th June, 2014 shows Colombian reelected president Juan Manuel Santos during a speech in his campaign headquarters in Bogota, Colombia. Santos has won the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, the Royal Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden. Photograph: Leondardo Munoz/EPA

A file picture dated 15th June, 2014 shows Colombian reelected president Juan Manuel Santos during a speech in his campaign headquarters in Bogota, Colombia. Santos has won the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, the Royal Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden. Photograph: Leondardo Munoz/EPA

 

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end a five-decade civil war that has killed more than 200,000 people.

The award comes days after Colombian voters narrowly rejected the peace deal Mr Santos helped bring about, and Nobel authorities conspicuously left out his counterpart, Rodrigo Londono, leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said the voters’ rejection does not mean the peace process is dead.

“The referendum was not a vote for or against peace,” it said. “What the No side rejected was not the desire for peace, but a specific peace agreement.”

Mr Santos and Mr Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, signed the peace deal last month, ending half a century of hostilities, only to see a major setback in the shock vote against the agreement in a referendum six days later.

The Nobel Committee said Mr Santos, “despite the No majority vote in the referendum, has brought the bloody conflict significantly closer to a peaceful solution”.

It 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”.

The agreement was reached during more than five years of at first secret negotiations in Cuba.

President Higgins congratulates winner

President Michael D Higgins conveyed his congratulations to Mr Santos saying, “The decision by the Nobel Committee to award the Nobel Peace Prize to President Santos for ‘his resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war to an end’ is both welcome and deserved.

In honouring President Santos the committee is recognising all those who are struggling to build democracy in support of support human rights and the rule of law.”

Farc setbacks

As defence minister a decade ago, Mr Santos (65) was responsible for some of Farc’s biggest military setbacks.

Those included a 2008 cross-border raid into Ecuador that took out a senior rebel commander and the stealth rescue of three Americans held captive by the rebels for more than five years.

Under the peace deal, rebels who turn over their weapons and confess to war crimes could be spared time in jail. Farc will also get 10 seats in congress until 2026 to smooth their transition into a political movement.

Mr Santos and Mr Londono met only twice during the peace process: last year when they put the final touches on the most controversial section of the accord - the part dealing with how guerrillas would be punished for war crimes — and last month to sign the accord before an audience of world leaders and UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.

It is the first time the peace prize has gone to Latin America since 1992, when the committee rewarded Guatemalan human rights activist Rigoberta Menchu.

A record 376 candidates were nominated for this year’s award.

Last year’s prize went to Tunisia’s National Dialogue Quartet for its efforts to build a pluralistic democracy.

Additional reporting AP