This week, a series of clashes between the ELN guerrillas and the paramilitary group known as the Gaitanist Self-Defense of Colombia, also referred to as Clan del Golfo, in the Choco region resulted in the displacement of more than 67 families. Most of the people compelled to flee due to this violence were children, women, and the elderly.
According to reports from the Office of the Ombudsman, these displacements occurred in the rural area of Isla de Cruz, located in the Medio San Juan region, which is situated in the southern part of the department and approximately 75 kilometers from the regional capital, Quibdó. At present, the displaced people are staying in Dipurdú, a nearby district where clashes between armed criminal gangs seeking control of drug trafficking routes are also occurring.
In the light of this dire situation, the institution is urging authorities to provide immediate assistance to those who have been forced to abandon their homes out of fear for their lives amidst armed confrontations. It is estimated that around 180 individuals have been impacted by the ongoing conflict between these two illegal armed groups in the region.
An Appeal for Aid to the Displaced
Ombudsman Carlos Camargo emphasized, “National, departmental, and local institutions must exert every effort to offer prompt and comprehensive support to the displaced community, which is currently vulnerable to violations of their rights, particularly since it includes minors, women, and elderly people, some of whom require medical attention.”
The Ombudsman’s Office further implored the armed groups to halt their activities, recognizing the significant impact they have on the civilian population. Additionally, the institution announced that a team of officials would endeavor to access the area to deliver humanitarian aid to the affected families.
“Given the complexities associated with entering the area, a delegation from the Office of the Ombudsman will travel to Dipurdú on October 20 and 21 to assess the current humanitarian situation faced by the displaced community,” stated the Ombudsman.
The ELN’s Bilateral Ceasefire with the State
Humanitarian authorities have also reminded the public that the ELN has committed to respecting the bilateral ceasefire it signed with the Colombian government as part of peace talks in Colombia.
Consequently, the verification of this ceasefire is expected to contribute to a cessation of hostilities in the region. However, it is important to note that the agreements with the government do not prohibit the illegal organization from engaging in combat with other insurgent groups or continuing the recruitment of minors.
The ceasefire agreement stipulates that the ELN will adhere to Protocol II in addition to the Geneva Conventions, which permits the recruitment of adolescents aged 15 and older. Save the Children Colombia Foundation sees this as a setback, in view of all the efforts made in the country to safeguard the rights of children within the context of the armed conflict.