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Daily Brief: Colombian Government, Rebels Announce Peace Agreement

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August 25, 2016

Daily News Brief

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Colombian Government, Rebels Announce Peace Agreement

The Colombian government and representatives from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced a peace agreement Wednesday to end a fifty-two-year conflict. The deal, which comes after four years of negotiations in Havana, Cuba, outlines a time frame for an estimated 7,000 rebels to abandon their weapons and reintegrate into civilian life, including the possibility of running for office (NYT). It also includes measures for victims to seek reparations and a transitional justice system to judge crimes committed during the conflict (Guardian), which left an estimated 220,000 people dead. The deal must still be approved by Colombian voters in an Oct. 2 referendum, and polls show it could be a close vote. Opponents of the deal say it offers too many concessions to the rebels. U.S. President Barack Obama phoned Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to congratulate him on the accord. 


"Under the agreement, the government commits to development programmes and addressing gross inequalities in the country’s long-neglected rural sector. It also agrees to widen the opportunities of political participation to smaller political movements, including the party that a demobilised Farc may create. The Farc agrees to help dismantle and discourage the business of drug crops and trafficking that helped sustain its war financially for the past three decades. The deal also includes reparations to victims and sets up a transitional justice system for crimes committed during the conflict. Farc members who committed or ordered atrocities but confess their crimes will avoid serving their sentences in jail, instead performing 'community service' projects and acts of reparation," Sibylla Brodzinsky writes for the Guardian.

"Although it adds to the difficulties of the peace agreement, the fact that the deal was always subject to public ratification may also have provided a strategic advantage to Colombian government negotiators. From the negotiating table in Havana, Colombian negotiators could point south at [former President Alvaro] Uribe and other hardliners, warning their FARC counterparts that there were limits to what they plausibly concede. The prospect of democratic ratification, in other words, may have shrunk the possible range of options the Colombian government could agree to, but by narrowing the negotiating space, it may also have made the government’s commitment to its bargaining position more credible," CFR's Matthew Taylor writes in this blog post.

"[President Juan Manuel] Santos has staked his legacy on the deal, sacrificing political and personal ties along the way. From 2006 to 2009, he served as minister of defense under President Álvaro Uribe, who left office with a 75 percent approval rating thanks largely to his tough military action against the rebels. In 2010, Santos captured the presidency easily, riding the wave of Uribe’s immense popularity and promising to continue his hard-line policies. But once in office, Santos aggressively pursued peace, triggering a falling out with Uribe," Megan Alpert writes for Foreign Policy.


Kofi Annan to Lead Commission on Rohingya in Myanmar

Myanmar invited international and national experts, including former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to participate in a commission that will have a year to submit recommendations to the government about "protracted issues" in Rakhine state (AP). Human rights organizations have documented extensive persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority in western Myanmar.

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick writes about the persecution of the Rohingya in this Washington Monthly article.

TAIWAN: President Tsai Ing-wen asked the defense ministry to prepare a new draft of a military strategy by next year (SCMP) as she attended annual military drills. Cross-strait relations have been strained since Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party, which favors independence from mainland China, came into office in May.


Attack on American University in Kabul Kills at Least Twelve

At least twelve people were killed and forty-four were wounded in an explosion followed by an attack by gunmen (Al Jazeera) on the American University in Kabul. No group claimed the attack, which followed the kidnapping of two professors from the university earlier this month.

INDIA: Indian legislators will vote on a bill to ban commercial surrogacy (WaPo); the bill would be a blow to an industry in which Indian women frequently sell surrogacy services, including to overseas clients, for thousands of dollars.


UN Report: Syrian Regime, ISIS Used Chemical Weapons

A new UN report said the Syrian regime used chlorine bombs on at least two occasions and that the self-proclaimed Islamic State had used mustard gas (NYT). Also in Syria, Turkish tanks and allied opposition fighters took control of the border town of Jarablus (Al Jazeera). U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, visiting Ankara, said that U.S.-allied Kurdish forces would lose U.S. support if they push past the Euphrates river (Hurriyet).

This CFR Interactive discusses the history of the Kurds and the quest for Kurdish statehood.   

ISRAEL: The Israeli military cleared itself of wrongdoing and closed its investigation into a strike in 2014 that killed about ten civilians in Gaza who took shelter in a UN school (NYT). The military said that six criminal investigations are still open relating to incidents during the Gaza incursion (Haaretz).


Burundi May Scrap Presidential Term Limits

A commission set up by President Pierre Nkurunziza was expected to recommend to parliament that Burundi lift its two-term limit on presidential terms (East African). The commission was set up after the political crisis that followed Nkurunziza's announcement that he would run for a third term as office.

This Global Conflict Tracker discusses the major events in Burundi's political crisis.  

UGANDA: Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye is visiting the United Kingdom and will travel to the United States to speak with the country's diaspora (VOA). Besigye was released from house arrest in July.


Italy Quake Death Toll Rises to 247

The death toll from an earthquake in central Italy early Wednesday rose to 247 people (DW). Some 150 aftershocks followed the magnitude-6.2 quake.  

EU: Greece and Italy, which together have received more than 250,000 migrants since the year began, urged EU member states to step up resettlement of migrants (EU Observer). The Greek migration minister said Greek officials would tour European capitals in September and ask the EU to fulfill "what has been agreed."

This CFR Backgrounder discusses Europe's migration crisis.


Final Stage of Impeachment Proceedings for Brazilian President Rousseff Begins

The Brazilian Senate is expected to begin the final stages of impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff on Thursday (FT), who has been suspended from office and replaced by her former Vice President Michel Temer. The senate will host several days of debate before voting on removing Rousseff from office on charges she manipulated the national budget.

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