Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Nobel Peace Prize Targets 'Pure Peace Process' in Award to Colombia's Santos

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Nobel Peace Prize Targets 'Pure Peace Process' in Award to Colombia's Santos

Article excerpt

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos's peace deal with rebels fell apart this week after citizens rejected it in a referendum. But he got a major international boost in his surprise win of the Nobel Peace Prize today - potentially bringing Colombia closer to a definitive end to the war, and the Nobel committee back to its original intent of recognizing a "pure peace process."

The committee based its decision on Mr. Santos's "resolute efforts" to end the country's more than 50-year-long civil war, and in the hopes of promoting a final peace deal for the sole remaining armed conflict in the Americas. The war has cost the lives of 200,000 Colombians and displaced close to 6 million.

"The president himself has made it clear that he will continue to work for peace right up until his very last day in office," said Kaci Kullman Five, the committee chairwoman, in her announcement in Oslo. "The committee hopes that the Peace Prize will give him strength to succeed in this demanding task."

The Colombian president and FARC guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londono, also known by his nom de guerre, Timochenko, were anticipated top candidates to receive the Nobel Peace Prize until a slim majority of Colombians voted no in a referendum on the peace deal on Sunday, amid concerns the terms were too lenient for the guerrillas. That threw their candidacy into question among some observers, such as historian Asle Sveen in Oslo, who thought an award in the wake of the vote could could be seen as a statement against the people who voted no.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee defended its decision to give the prize before a deal had been reached, as well as to give it solely to Santos and not his FARC counterpart.

"There is a real danger that the peace process will come to a halt and that civil war will flare up again," Ms. Kullman Five said in her announcement. "The fact that a majority of the voters said no to the peace accord does not necessarily mean that the peace process is dead. The referendum was not a vote for or against peace. What the No side rejected was not the desire for peace, but a specific peace agreement."

She told journalists that the committee decided to give the award solely to Santos because he had put "all in" and because of his role as "keeper of the process," even as that process faced risks.

The five representatives of different groups of victims - Leyner Palacios, Luz Marina Bernal, Contanza Turbay, Jineth Bedoya, and Jose Antequera - were also nominated this year as representatives for the Colombian peace process by Norwegian Member of Parliament Heikki Holmas.

"There are many parties in this peace process," said Kullman Five. "President Santos has taken the very first and historic initiative."

The decision not to include Timochenko as a recipient is likely to trouble some, but could have derailed peace efforts. …

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