The Nobel Peace Prize selection committee faced the difficult task of choosing a viable winner among 376 candidates nominated by heads of state, top government officials and lawmakers, judges and professors, past winners of the prize; and former and current members of the committee. It finally decided to award the 8 million Swedish Kronor or $930,000 prize to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for trying to bring the country?s ?civil war to an end? ironically after his electorate rejected the peace deal he had brokered, in a referendum. After 52 years of civil war between the armed forces and a leftist rebel group called the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC, Santos entered into negotiations for peace with the group to ultimately declare a ceasefire until 31st October.
He emphasized his commitment to peace by announcing, ?I invite everyone to join our strength, our minds and our hearts in this great national endeavour so that we can win the most important prize of all: peace in Colombia,? in gratitude for the prize. However, the shocking results of the referendum expose deep rooted polarisation among the Colombian citizens.
While supporters of the peace treaty hoped that it would change the positions of hardliners like former President and current Senator Álvaro Uribe, opponents believed that Santos was yet to ensure the success of his peace treaty and it wasn?t certain that the FARC would accept jail time for their crimes. Many felt that the committee had rushed into awarding him the prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee recognized the upsetting mandate in the announcement speech, instead choosing to stress on his efforts towards peace rather than the result of peace deals. ?The committee hopes that the peace prize will give him strength to succeed in this demanding task. Further, it is the committee?s hope that in the years to come, the Colombian people will reap the fruits of the reconciliation process,? it said.
Santos is the second Colombian to win a Nobel Prize after Gabriel Garcia Marquez won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. Even though the prize may be mistimed, it will serve as a boost for continuing negotiations and uplifting the morale of the government, Juan Cristóbal, a researcher of Javeriana University of Bogotá, proposed. It took four years of negotiations and multiple stalemates between the government and the rebel group for this treaty to take form. The civil war has claimed 220,000 lives and displaced millions of people apart from witnessing grave human rights violations like kidnapping, rape of women in rebel camps etc. The peace treaty promises a return to civilian life for the rebels, including the right to stand for office in some cases, reopening old wounds and demands for stricter punishment. The Uribe led opposition has accused Santos of being a ?traitor? by resisting tough prison sentences for the FARC?s crimes in order to execute a peace deal.
Irony is very strongly imbued in the choices of Nobel Peace Prize winners. After US President Barack Obama was awarded the Prize in 2009, he ordered 50,000 additional troops into Afghanistan. Similarly, the 2012 winner of the prize, the European Union, soon slipped into increasing factionalism and ultimately faced the breakaway of Britain. Moreover, the legitimacy of the Peace Prize came into question when Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin were nominated for the prize while Henry Kissinger won it in 1973. The hypocrisy and power politics behind the selection procedure must be held under the scanner in such cases. Interestingly, Mahatma Gandhi was never awarded the Nobel Peace Prize despite inspiring an entire generation to protest through ahimsa or non-violence.
The Nobel Prize Committee has accepted its faults in most scenarios and justified its decisions by saying that it applauds ?individuals or entities, that stand for peaceful approaches, as opposed to resorting to belligerence,? making the prize more aspirational than achievement based. In contrast to this argument, Dominique Mo?si, a senior adviser to the Institut Montaigne-a nonpartisan think tank in Paris, accepts that the peace prize is symbolic in nature but ?the symbol is shrinking.?
On the other hand, the Colombian government has no Plan B. It is suspended in an indeterminate zone in which the scarce possibilities extend from amending the accord to rewriting the Constitution. The slight margin of rejection of the deal i.e. 50.2% has shifted the power apparatus to opposition leader Uribe who has questioned the nature of transitional justice being accorded to criminals. The future of the country appears to be murky once again.
One can only hope that a Nobel Prize backed negotiator can return some semblance of normalcy to the war ravaged nation.
– Contributed by Tript, a Student of Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in English
Picture Credits: WSJ.com / Reuters