MANILA, Philippines (6th UPDATE) – The 2016 Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for his efforts in helping end the decades-long Colombian civil war, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced Friday, October 7.
“The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2016 to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for his resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war to an end,” the citation, read by committee chair Kaci Kullmann Five, said.
In the citation, the committee said the “award should also be seen as a tribute to the Colombian people who, despite great hardships and abuses, have not given up hope of a just peace, and to all the parties who have contributed to the peace process.”
The Colombia conflict has claimed more than 260,000 lives and left 45,000 missing over 5 decades, drawing in several leftist guerrilla groups, right-wing paramilitaries and drug gangs.
The announcement came after the shock result of the referendum on the Colombian peace deal last Sunday, October 2, which Nobel observers said killed the chances of any of the actors in the Colombia peace deal from getting the prestigious award.
The peace deal, the result of 4 years of negotiations in Cuba between representatives of the government and rebels, was signed on September 26 with great fanfare. However, voters shot down the agreement, leaving the country’s future hanging in the balance.
The people’s rejection of the terms of the deal followed a successful campaign by rightwing hardliners angered by the offer of impunity for the Marxist rebels.
And with the ceasefire due to expire at the end of the month, the country is now teetering on the brink – of either war or peace.
The committee selected Santos despite the result of the referendum, saying that the “referendum was not a vote for or against peace,” but a “No” for a specific peace agreement.
“The Norwegian Nobel Committee emphasizes the importance of the fact that President Santos is now inviting all parties to participate in a broad-based national dialogue aimed at advancing the peace process,” the citation read.
“By awarding this year’s Peace Prize to President Juan Manuel Santos, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to encourage all those who are striving to achieve peace, reconciliation and justice in Colombia,” it said.
“It is the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s firm belief that President Santos, despite the “No” majority vote in the referendum, has brought the bloody conflict significantly closer to a peaceful solution, and that much of the groundwork has been laid for both the verifiable disarmament of the FARC guerrillas and a historic process of national fraternity and reconciliation.” the committee added.
Santos, who was elected into office in 2010, is the 26th head of state or government to receive a Nobel Prize, and the 15th who has received the award while in office.
He also becomes the second Nobel Laureate from Colombia, after Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Literature, 1982).
For his part, Santos said he thought peace was “very, very close” as he accepted the award on behalf of the Colombian people “who have suffered so much.”
In an interview with the Nobel Foundation, Santos added that the award was a “great stimulus” in the quest for peace.
“The message is that we have to persevere and reach the end of this war. We are very, very close, we just need to push a bit further,” Santos was quoted as saying.
Santos takes home the 8 million Swedish kronor (around $924,000 or 831,000 euros) prize sum.
Swedish inventor and scholar Alfred Nobel created the prizes in his 1895 testament, stipulating that his fortune was to be placed in a fund destined to honour “those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind”.
The peace prize should go “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses,” his will said.
The Norwegian Nobel committee has in the past awarded the prize to those involved in peace efforts which had yet to bear fruit, with the express aim of encouraging them.
FARC leaders have vowed they are committed to making peace, but it is unclear whether they will be able to sell a new deal to the rank and file.
“Peace in Colombia is close, and we will achieve it,” Santos said in a national address on Wednesday.
The peace prize is the only one of the 6 awards announced in Norway. Nobel wanted to include Norway in his initiative, since Norway and Sweden were joined in a union at the time. – With reports from Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com