'In each moment of tragedy we have relied on our roots and our word, each time they beat us we respond with reason and the strength of unity, each time it is necessary, the mobilization of thought and peaceful action is our tool to live.' - Cauca Regional Indigenous Council, 12 February 2007
The impact of Colombia's long-running internal armed conflict on Indigenous Peoples has been profound and destructive. They have been killed, harassed and driven from their lands by all the parties to the conflict. Despite their determined refusal to be drawn into the hostilities, the threats facing Indigenous Peoples are intensifying.
According to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), at least 114 Indigenous women, men and children were killed and thousands forcibly displaced in 2009, largely as a result of the conflict. According to the Director of the Office in Colombia of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the FARC guerrilla group were responsible for most of these killings, although all the parties to the conflict, including paramilitary groups and the security forces, have been responsible for repeated human rights abuses against Indigenous Peoples and for failing to respect their rights as civilians.
Killings, kidnappings, enforced disappearances, threats and forced displacement all continue to ravage Indigenous communities in Colombia. ONIC has estimated that more than 1,400 Indigenous men, women and children were killed as a result of the conflict between 2002 and 2009. They also recorded more than 4,700 collective threats against Indigenous communities during this period, as well as 90 kidnappings and 195 enforced disappearances.
Those responsible for these abuses, whether members of guerrilla groups, paramilitaries or members of the security forces, are rarely held to account. Restrictions on freedom of movement imposed by the conflict are having a devastating effect on Indigenous Peoples. At times, whole communities have been isolated and trapped, unable to access food or medicines because of the fighting. Indigenous Peoples have also been confined to their villages because armed groups have laid landmines in surrounding areas. Access to food and essential medicines have also been blocked by the warring parties, who often argue that such goods are destined for the enemy. All parties to the conflict have occupied schools and used them as military bases, while teachers continue to be vulnerable to physical attack, denying communities access to education. The conflict has also affected access to fishing and hunting grounds, leading to further food insecurity and a rise in the level of malnutrition among Indigenous People.