Colombia: OCHA Humanitarian Situation Report No. 33, 27 Sep - 17 Oct 2008

Situation Report
Originally published


Humanitarian situation

Mass-displacement in Antioquia department

300 members of an afro-descendant community in the town of Urrao flee from armed confrontations since 18 September

The OCHA sub-office in Medellin reported 70 families fled to a nearby village from their settlement (Puntas de Ocaido) due to combats between the Army and FARC. Although access to this area is difficult, ICRC isproviding food and NFIs to these families. The next distribution is expected by 20 October. OCHA ismonitoringthe situation.

Mass-displacement in Putumayo department

Fifty seven families of the Nassa indigenous community in Villa Garzon began displacing in 6 October upon alleged threats and stigmatisation from the Army

Approximately 280 are displaced in urban Villa Garzon. The Mayor's Office and ombudspersons are conducting a census in the area. The Defensoria del Pueblo (people's ombudsman) and UNHCR are looking into these claims of stigmatisationthat link indigenous persons with insurgent groups. Accion Social, ICBF, the departmental government and Defensoria del Pueblo arrived in the area to provide humanitarian assistance to IDPs. UNHCR is planning an interagency mission during the coming days.

Mass-displacement in Buenaventura (Valle)

On 14 August, 104 members of El Barco community fled from their village (El Tigre) toward the nearby city of Buenaventura due to alleged pressure of the public forces. IDPs remain sheltered in friends and relatives' houses

Among these IDPs 62 are underage, 4 recently born babies, 42 adults and 1 elderly person. On 14 August, they initially fled to the village of El Pital where they stayed in their friends and relatives' houses until 19 September. Human rights NGO Codhes informed IDPs then decided to mobilise toward Buenaventura to make their situation visible and request governmental assistance. Since last 25 September, displaced families from El Tigre remain settled in one of Buenaventura's poorest neighbourhoods (Bajamar). Local authorities sent a municipal brigade to visit IDPs and verify their water and sanitation, shelter and health conditions. No further information is currently available. OCHA continues monitoring this event.

Context Note

Violent unrest during indigenous protests

The indigenous protests that began last weekend (11-12 October) burst into violent clashes. Approximately 10,000 indigenous marched from 15 departments to commemorate the 516th anniversary of the Discovery of America; which they refer to as the day of "despojo" -or dispossession-. Each year, these massive gatherings, or "mingas", host numerous events where indigenous reclaim their rights and make visible the crimes committed against them. Since 1999, large "mingas" are held in the indigenous reservation known as La María. A protected territory located in the town of Piendamó, Cauca, on the border of a national highway named Via Panamericana. Protests often cause temporary roadblocks that are later dissolved by antiriot police squads and the army, resulting in various acts of violence. Over the past 6 years, at least 1,200 indigenous persons have been murdered in Colombia. In 2008, 53,885 were forcibly displaced and, during the last month alone, 29 indigenous were killed -3 of them reported over the past days-.

Some of the indigenous groups' claims are that the government has not keep up to agreements on land entitlements for 400,000 indigenous persons, increasing the risk of extinction of 18 groups. While high-ranking militaries and government officials have noted links between the marches and the FARC, indigenous authorities deny such accusation and reaffirm they remain as neutral victims of the internal conflict. Protesters have requested the GoC to sit to the table to discuss their current situation; however, as protests become more and more violent, attempts to do so are still unsuccessful.

Organisations like the International Federation for Human Rights have raised their concerns on the excessive use of force, crimes and stigmatisation against indigenous communities.

The most critical incidents are taking place in Cauca department where protesters demand the expeditious investigation of 57 murdered indigenous persons. Violent clashes between protesters and the public forces leave a toll of 100 indigenous wounded, 3 dead and 8 families evicted from their homes -19 injured policemen are also reported- (preliminary information). On 15 October, dissuasive forceful measures were taken by the police and the army to restore mobility and dissolve manifestations. IFHR indicates there's a total of 1,000 armed members of the public forces -antiriot police squads and army troops- in and around La María, supported by tanks and helicopters, and using hand grenades and tear gas against protesters. The same source also denounced that policemen are providing protection to armed civilians that have opened fire from the mountain against the multitude; and that members of the public forces have destroyed first aid supplies, attacked the local health centre and restricted the access of ambulances, medical personnel and ombudspersons deployed to provide protection and medical care to injured protesters.

Further clashes were also reported on 15 October along the highway connecting Chocó and Risaralda departments. Press sources reported that gasses used by the police caused toxic harm to at least 35 persons, while 9 wounded by beatings received medical attention in the local hospital of the town of Puerto Rico. One hundred vehicles loaded with food and supplies remained blocked near the town yesterday morning.

The president of the national indigenous organisation of Colombia (ONIC), Mr. Luis Evelis Andrade, stated the indigenous will only accept President Uribe or the Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs as valid interlocutors -attempts to negotiate with the Vice-minister of Justice and the Minister of Agriculture have failed as the indigenous resented the government alleged their protest was infiltrated by FARC-. Mr. Andrade said <<they would go as far as to present their case before the International Criminal Court if necessary to ensure crimes committed against them do not remain in impunity>>.

While indigenous continue marching, the government has also repudiated violence, indicating the government is open for dialogue but cannot tolerate aggressions against policemen and soldiers, nor "terrorist infiltration".

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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