June 28, 2017 - 11:51 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The leader of Colombia's leftist FARC rebels formally declared the force's historic disarmament complete on Tuesday, June 27 at a ceremony to mark the end of the UN-supervised process, AFP reports.
"Today, we are not letting Colombia down. Today, we are laying down our weapons," said commander Rodrigo Londono, alias Timochenko, in a speech in the central town of Mesetas, site of one of the group's demobilization camps.
"Farewell to arms, welcome to peace!"
The move, part of a 2016 peace deal, is a key part of efforts to end the long territorial and ideological conflict.
But the process has been blighted by ongoing violence involving other armed groups in recent weeks.
United Nations monitors said Monday they "have the entirety of the FARC's registered individual arms stored away."
That excluded some arms that were exempted for transitional security at demobilization camps until August 1.
Separately, the UN mission is continuing to extract and destroy other weapons and munitions stashed in remote hiding places which the FARC have identified and surrendered to the monitors.
The former fighters are now due to make the transition into civilian life. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) will transform into a political party after a congress in August.
The peace accord, first signed in November, was at first narrowly rejected by Colombians in a referendum before it was redrafted and pushed through congress.
Critics such as conservative political leader Alvaro Uribe said it was too lenient on FARC members, some of whom will get amnesties or reduced sentences for crimes committed during the conflict.
The FARC launched its uprising in 1964 over land rights for poor rural communities.
The conflict drew in leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary groups and state forces.
It has left 260,000 people confirmed dead, more than 60,000 missing and seven million displaced.