Over 2,000 elders, children, women and men from 41 Afro-Colombian community councils marched peacefully along four kilometers of the main Pan-American Highway in Northern Cauca to demand that the Colombian Government respect the constitutional rights of black communities to autonomous governance of their lands. The government’s response to this first day of protest was smoke grenades, teargas, and at least one rubber bullet wound as the Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squad (ESMAD) attacked the peaceful protest.
“This is a political act of the sovereign black peoples of Northern Cauca” said one of the march organizers. “We are in full support of a negotiated end of the armed conflict. We demand the participation of the Afro-Colombian National Peace Council (CONPA) and the Inter-ethnic Commission in the peace process. We demand guarantee for the safety of the human right defenders and the mobilization gathered here today.”
For years the communities have been demanding that the Colombian Government follow through with its constitutional duty to recognize collective land titles to the Ancestral Afro-descendant Community Councils that make up the Association of Community Council of Northern Cauca (ACONC). Instead, the Ministry of Interior denies the existence of black communities, while both the National Development Plan, and the current peace negotiations ignore Black Communities’ collective territorial rights enshrined in Law 70 of 1993. Meanwhile, dozens of Afro-Colombian community leaders continue to be assassinated, displaced and threatened.
Although they have reached a tentative agreement with government officials on the general negotiation principles, the communities intend to block traffic along this main route until their demands are met. The communities call upon national and international solidarity to ensure their safety and support their efforts to provide food, water, medical supplies and other essential necessities as the mobilization is expected to last days. The U.S. Government must also urge Colombia to investigate the ESMAD’s disproportionate use of force, violence and aggressive tactics towards civilians who are protesting peacefully for their rights. If you would like to support the ongoing struggle for black land liberation please consider donating whatever amount you are able HERE.