Despite citizens’ rejection Oct. 2 of the peace accord Colombia has been working on since 2011 to end the 52-year civil war, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was named the winner of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Oct. 7.
Although the names of other nominees for the award will not be released for 50 years, per Norwegian Nobel Committee rules, Santos was competing against a record 376 nominees, according to an Oct. 6 Time Magazine article.
Before the announcement, Santos was predicted to win because of his efforts toward the historic peace accord, including negotiations with Marxist rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
Previously, Santos served as defense minister in Colombia, advocating fighting against FARC militarily, so his change in tactic as president is admirable.
However, Santos’ win comes as a surprise to Colombia and the rest of the world because he was allegedly removed from the favorites list after the peace accord was rejected, according to a Oct. 3 Reuter’s article.
Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the UN, congratulated Santos, noting “the Prize is an inspiration to press ahead until peace is achieved” and that it comes at a critical time when the Colombian people must be motivated to move forward with the peace process.
The peace process is undeniably frustrating. It can include negotiating with some of the most inhumane groups in the world and, sometimes, being forced to make unfair concessions. Many Colombians did view the accord as unfair, which they demonstrated by voting against it.
The accord was rejected by an excruciatingly slim margin with 50.21 percent of the population voting against it, and 49.78 percent of the population for it, according to an Oct. 2 Washington Post article.
While the peace accord was reasonable to Santos, in the context of the ongoing Colombian civil war, it is easy to understand why Colombians voted against this accord.
The war has been violent and ceaseless. More than 220,000 people have died, and 7 million have been displaced, according to the Washington Post article.
While the accord would have included a ceasefire and FARC divesting weapons to the UN, it would have also granted reduced sentences or even amnesty for members of the militant group, according to a Sept. 29 New York Times article.
People are searching for justice, and they want someone to be held accountable and punished for the crimes committed during this war. This accord would not have done that, but in voting against the accord, Colombians failed to recognize that this accord could have protected citizens from further violence.
Women are especially at risk without the accord with 83 percent of sexual assault victims during the civil war were women, according to a Public Radio International article from Oct. 5.
It is fair the general population got to vote on this accord; however, this—as well as the recent Brexit vote and upcoming presidential election in the U.S.—shows citizens must be educated on the outcomes their votes could have on crucial issues.
The Colombian people’s anger is warranted, but it cannot translate into a misunderstanding of this issue, or stubbornness, when so many lives hang in the balance.