A rebel-turned-lawmaker keeping peace in Colombia, Myanmar’s elections and Radio Free Europe.
November marks four years since a peace deal was signed between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc). But don’t expect either side to celebrate. According to Victoria Sandino, a former Farc rebel-turned-lawmaker, a renewal of political will is required should this country want peaceful change to last.
Implementing the accord has been slow and it has taken a back seat to the coronavirus pandemic. Nor does it help that Colombian president Ivan Duque hails from the right-wing Democratic Center party that campaigned against the peace deal. Parts of rural Colombia have seen an increase in violence, while some Farc rebels have turned their back on the peace process and taken up arms. “The implementation of the peace accords is definitely fragile,” Sandino tells monocle. “This government, on top of not having the political will to implement the peace accord, also aims to undermine it.”
Sandino joined the guerrilla movement when she was 25 and became a pivotal figure in the peace talks. For three years of negotiations in Havana, she sat alongside other guerilla commanders – all men. Of the nine government negotiators, only two were women. The resulting accord earned international praise for highlighting the impact of war on women; Sandino steered a gender commission that worked to ensure that testimony from rape survivors could be heard and sexual violence investigated by war tribunals.
As part of the accord, five seats in Colombia’s senate and five in its lower house were awarded to demobilised Farc commanders. Sandino became a senator and now works to put the accord into practise.
For some Colombians and fellow lawmakers, former rebels such as Sandino should never have been allowed to take part in politics. But for Sandino, keeping dialogue open with communities and social movements is the only way to keep peace alive. Time for real change in Colombia is quickly running out.
Myanmar has seen a second wave of coronavirus infections in the run-up to its general election on 8 November. Amid debate about postponing, campaigning by more than 90 parties blitzed Burmese social media. De facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi signalled that the election will go ahead as it’s not clear who would benefit from a delay. While lockdown could prompt a backlash against the government, smaller parties would also suffer from curbs on campaigning.
Gyula Csak is director of Radio Free Europe’s recently relaunched Hungarian branch. With the new role and 13 full-time journalists in tow, Csak wants to offer an independent, impartial voice in the country’s highly centralised and government-influenced media.
You have been a journalist in Hungary for a long time. How has the media landscape changed in recent years?
Significantly. The Central European Press and Media Foundation, which has close ties to the government, now owns the majority of the country’s media outlets. Independent media companies do exist but this year, partly due to coronavirus, are in dire financial shape.
What does the return to Hungary of Radio Free Europe [RFE] mean?
rfe was a key player in Hungary before 1990 but left in 1993 when it considered the media in the country no longer suppressed. The relaunch is a sign that there are problems with media diversity. rfe is a public-service-oriented, non-profit organisation free from economic and political pressure, which makes it well-suited to providing objective journalism.
What sort of coverage can we expect from RFE in Hungary?
We have senior correspondents with huge experience in investigative journalism. The importance of this discipline cannot be overemphasised.
Images: Gettty Images. Illustrator: Angus Greig