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World

Colombia's FARC Rebels Officially Disarm

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to shift our attention now and focus on Colombia, where after 52 years of fighting, the Marxist guerrilla group known as the FARC has officially disarmed. On Tuesday, the rebels handed over their final stash of weapons to U.N. monitors. Reporter John Otis has more.

JOHN OTIS, BYLINE: The disarmament ceremony held in a former rebel stronghold in southern Colombia was full of symbolism.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Singing in Spanish).

OTIS: It began with a Colombian musician playing a guitar fashioned out of an AK-47 assault rifle once used by the FARC.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: Guns are no longer part of the FARC's arsenal. At special disarmament camps around the country, the rebels have been gradually turning over their rifles, pistols and grenades to U.N. inspectors.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: As inspectors accepted the weapons during the televised ceremony, FARC members were declared civilians and handed government ID cards. It's a momentous step in a country where some 220,000 people have been killed and millions more uprooted from their homes due to the war.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TIMOLEON JIMENEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: In a speech, FARC commander Timoleon Jimenez declared, farewell to arms. Farewell to war. We now welcome peace.

Jimenez and many other FARC leaders intend to launch a left-wing political party that will field candidates in congressional elections next year.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JUAN MANUEL SANTOS: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: Referring to the FARC's transition from war to politics, President Juan Manuel Santos asked the crowd, do you know what all of this destructive material is being exchanged for? A small wooden box, a ballot box. Still, peace with the FARC has not ended the violence in Colombia. Scores of FARC sympathizers have been gunned down by criminal gangs. A smaller rebel group, known as the ELN, continues to attack troops and kidnap civilians. But at the ceremony, Jean Arnault, the chief of the U.N. mission in Colombia, insisted that removing the FARC from the battlefield is a massive achievement.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEAN ARNAULT: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: He said, "in a world convulsed by violence, by intractable enemies, the successful peace process in Colombia is a sign of hope."

For NPR News, I'm John Otis in Bogota, Colombia.

(SOUNDBITE OF CITY OF THE SUN'S "BROTHERS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.