The Nobel Peace Prize for 2016 was awarded to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Friday, just days after a peace deal between Santos and his FARC counterpart, Rodrigo “Timochenko” Echeverri, suffered a major setback.
Colombians rejected the deal, brokered by “international leaders” in a referendum on Sunday saying Santos was too soft on the FARC guerrillas. The FARC leader was notably absent as a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize.
Santos is now scrambling to salvage the deal.
Norwegian Nobel Committee Chairwoman Kaci Kullman Five said decision was not a “rebuke” or “a belitlement to any of the other parties,” adding that FARC was an “important part” of the peace process.
“The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to encourage all those who are striving to achieve peace, reconciliation and justice in Colombia,” the committee stated, noting that Colombia’s conflict was “one of the longest civil wars of all time and the sole remaining armed conflict in the Americas.”
The ceasefire is still holding, but Santos, who has staked his legacy on the deal, warned that Colombia now finds itself in a “very dangerous limbo.”
“I invite everyone to join our strength, our minds and our hearts in this great national endeavor so that we can win the most important prize of all: peace in Colombia,” Santos said on Friday.
Former Colombian President Alavaro Uribe, who has described the failed peace deal with leftist rebels as “weak”, led the campaign against the accord, and said the deal had to be for everyone not half the population.
“I congratulate President Santos for the Nobel,” Uribe said on Twitter, expressing hope that it would lead to “changes” in the peace deal.
Meanwhile Colombia’s ministry of defence released a statement on Wednesday saying that the ceasefire had been extended “initially” until 31 October and that it could well be extended beyond that date.