After half a century of armed conflict, in 2016 the Colombian government signed a historic ceasefire with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Both the government and the largest of the rebel groups agreed to lay down weapons, but the road to peace has so far not proved to be an easy one.
Even now in 2020, large crime syndicates are operating unrestricted across vast swathes of post-conflict territory. Several smaller rebel groups and dissidents of the peace accord have been violently active. The war, which began in the name of equality and freedom from oppression, has turned into the largest driving force for a widening rich-poor gap and a plethora of human rights violations.
As the country slowly tries to put itself back together, the government has taken an interest in solving one of the biggest obstacles to equality in the post-conflict region: redistributing the land seized from millions of private citizens by either side of the conflict. Following the war, which claimed some 260,000 human lives including at least 45,000 children, Colombia remains the country with the second-largest population of people forcibly removed from their homes due to conflict after Syria. Some of them were removed by the government, others by paramilitary forces, and yet others by rebels. In most cases, the displacement was sudden, with people finding themselves separated from families and communities as they fled for their lives. The current available number of displaced stands at around 8 million.
“It is not only an inescapable historical debt, but it is also a first step towards the construction of peace in the rural areas of the country,” said former president of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos during a 2010 address. In 2011, Colombia’s congress approved the Victims and Land Restitution Law, which stated a clear procedure for redistributing land among those who’ve been forcibly displaced during conflict.
But the reality remains that huge areas of land, land at once point seized, and the people living on it displaced, were never documented by the government. These plots of land must first be registered with the proper authorities and charted into official maps, and original occupants and owners verified before papers can even be drawnt up to be distributed among original owners.