Former combatants in Colombia, who put down their arms and entered a training program to become humanitarian deminers, a project funded by administered by the European Trust Fund for Peace and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), completed their first clearance project in the El Cedrito Indigenous Reservation in the Municipality of La Montañita, Caquetá, where the Emberá Chamí ethnic community resides.
Bogotá, 7 October 2021 - Seen as a milestone in support of the peace process in Colombia, the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace - Descontamina Colombia (OACP-Descontamina Colombia, in Spanish) formalized this Thursday, October 7, the delivery of the first mine-free area completed by HUMANICEMOS DH, a civil mine action organization that emerged from the Peace Agreement and is made up of more than 90 ex-combatants, who chose to reintegrate as humanitarian deminers. After conducting the Non-Technical Survey, HUMANICEMOS DH established that there was potential explosive contamination in an area of 1,974 m² in Zone 4 of La Montañita, Caquetá. Over three months (March-June 2021) HUMANICEMOS DH cleared the area which today was given back to the El Cedrito Indigenous Reservation of the Emberá Chamí ethnic community.
This important milestone was possible thanks to the financial support of the European Union, through the European Trust Fund for Peace. “The European Union, in its firm commitment to supporting Colombia in the peacebuilding, highlights and congratulates the HUMANICEMOS DH team and especially, the people in the process of reintegration who, as an act of reparation and reconciliation, give it to the El Cedrito Indigenous Reserve a land free of mines so that they can live with confidence and can take advantage of their fields to improve their quality of life. This pioneering commitment in Latin America is an important advance and an example of how peace advances for the benefit of the populations”, says Gilles Bertrand, Ambassador of the European Union in Colombia.
“HUMANICEMOS DH concluded the demining work in zone 4 of La Montañita last June, after three months of rigorous work. This is the first mine-free area of many that we will deliver in the future. Our commitment is with life, reconciliation and reconstruction of the territories affected by the presence of explosive ordnance”, highlights Ángela Orrego, Director of HUMANICEMOS DH, who is also ex-combatant in the process of reintegration.
UNMAS, mandated by the Government of Colombia, is responsible to monitor and verify the quality of humanitarian demining operations of HUMANICEMOS DH. “We are proud to see that the training that UNMAS provided to the HUMANICEMOS DH staff begins to give results. For us it is doubly satisfactory and symbolic that the first mine-free area delivered by ex-combatants is an Indigenous Reservation, taking into account that ethnic communities are disproportionately affected by anti-personnel mines”, says Pablo Parra, Acting Chief of Mine Action Programme of UNMAS Colombia.
The humanitarian demining operations were carried out by 12 ex-combatants, members of HUMANICEMOS DH, who undertook Non-Technical Survey and Manual Clearance. This clearance benefits some 90 people who live in the area. “We had suspicions that there were explosive ordnance in the mountain near the area where we live. For that reason we considered it a danger to walk around ... For us now it is a relief and the whole community is very grateful because it was a job very well done”, assures Emilia González, Governor of El Cedrito Indigenous Reservation.
As a sign of confidence in the operational capacities developed with the training provided by UNMAS, in recent months the OACP-Descontamina Colombia assigned HUMANICEMOS DH two other municipalities of Caquetá (Solita and Cartagena del Chairá), for mine action tasks. HUMANICEMOS DH is currently completing humanitarian demining work in two more areas of La Montañita, and in the coming months it will take up the two new assigned municipalities.