More than 100 individuals who admitted to being FARC militias have surrendered to Colombian authorities. The move has led to more debate on how members of this guerrilla army should be incorporated into the continuing demobilisation process. They came dressed in uniforms and carrying weapons and communication equipment which they passed over to the authorities.
The army announced plans to try to determine the authenticity of the individuals’ accounts and whether they are actually FARC militias. A decision on this issue will also be made by the guerilla group’s leadership.
The 117 alleged militia members gave themselves up on 27 March following talks with some community leaders in the port city of Tumaco according to news reports.
Most FARC militia members are concentrated in 26 concentration zones that were established following the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the militia group. Colombia’s Congress ratified the agreement last November. The agreement did not stipulate that the FARC members enter the concentration zones. They were supposed to join the demobilization process by registering themselves with the state first.
Registration would also give them access to some of the judicial benefits that were negotiated in the peace agreement. Not all of them took up the offer and it is believed that there are still thousands who have not registered who are still in the fields.
Early this year, some militias from the Daniel Aldana Mobile Column totaling 117 had declared their opposition to the peace process and had from that point been considered dissidents.
The role of a militia member is to carry out some functions on behalf of the FARC. Determining the bona fide members of the militia has proved to be a challenge as some of them operate independently. There are also differences in the estimates of the militias. While the government estimates them to be in the region of 2,000 to 7,000, Peace and Reconciliation, a Colombian non-governmental organization, says the number could be close to 13,000.