In a context of confusion and flashy journalism, rigour becomes a precious value.
In a surprise result, the “no” won by 50.2% to 49.8%. The bilateral ceasefire between government forces and the FARC will continue. Evangelical Christians were divided.
The deal was signed last week by President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Timoleon Jimenez, after nearly four years of negotiations. But it needed to be ratified by Colombians in order to come into force.
Polls before the vote predicted that the yes camp would win with a comfortable 66% share. Santos had been confident of a yes result and said during the campaign that he did not have a “plan B.”
But in a surprise result, 50.2% of voters rejected the peace agreement compared with 49.8% who voted for it.
With 98.98% of the votes counted, the difference was less than 54,000 votes out of almost 13 million ballots. Turnout was low, with less than 38% of the electorate casting a vote.
Michael Gowen, an expert in international politics, already wrote in Evangelical Focus saying that the path to peace would be difficult: “There are a host of tantalisingly difficult issues to resolve. Where will the demobilised fighters live? Will they all be put together in one community, a strategy which has proved disastrous in the past?"
SANTOS: “I WILL CONTINUE SEEKING PEACE”
Addressing the nation, President Santos said he accepted the result but “I will not give up, I will continue seeking peace until the last day of my presidency.”
He added he would send his negotiators back to Havana to meet with FARC leaders, to discuss the next steps and "open space for dialogue."
He also confirmed that the bilateral ceasefire between government forces and the FARC, which has been in place since 29 August, will continue.
FARC: “PEACE WILL TRIUMPH”
The FARC leader, Rodrigo Londono, who is known by his nom de guerre, Timochenko, pointed out that the insurgent group maintained its desire for peace despite the failure of the plebiscite: “The FARC reiterates its disposition to use only words as a weapon to build toward the future.”
“To the Colombian people who dream of peace, count on us, peace will triumph”, he added.
The "yes" campaign has had the backing, not just of President Santos but of a wide array of politicians both in Colombia and abroad, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
THE “NO” CAMPAIGN
But there was also a vocal campaign for a "no" vote, led by former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. Following the "no" vote, Uribe insisted that he was not opposed to peace but that he wanted to renegotiate some of the agreement, which he said needed "corrections."
The former president said a win for their side would be a mandate for the government and rebels to negotiate a “better agreement.”
Both government and rebels have repeatedly said that the deal was the best they could achieve and a renegotiation would not be possible.
Under the agreement rejected by voters, the FARC’s 5,800 fighters and a similar number of urban militia members would have disarmed and become a legal political party. Whether or when that will happen now is unknown.
PRAYING FOR COLOMBIA
On September 30, hundreds of Colombian Christians gathered to pray for the peace process.
According to Jeferson Rodriguez, coordinator of the Latin American Theological Fraternity in Bogotá, in this uncertain and difficult path, evangelicals can be peacemakers, because "our experiences of reconciliation in churches are experiences we can use to assist in post-conflict areas."
Michael Gowen ask to pray for Colombia: “Pray that Colombians will be able to pass on a positive heritage to their children, their grandchildren and future generations, a heritage which is different from the violence, extortion, fear and corruption which they have inherited from previous generations in so many parts of the country.”