By Evan King
5 months and 15 days after being forcibly displaced to Docordó, in the Chocó Department, the Wounaan indigenous community of Pichimá Quebrada have decided to return to their ancestral lands on November 30th, 2019, without proper security guarantees after repeated failures by the Colombian government to provide adequate solutions.
The exhaustion, tiredness, helplessness and anguish generated by the deplorable conditions of the overcrowded shelters in which we find ourselves in, motivated our assembly meeting. Tired of the lack of medical attention, the inability to continue with our educational process in optimal conditions for the students, the shortage of food and spaces for the development of our culture, led to the whole community meeting. In this encounter children, young people, women, adults, elderly, traditional doctors in one voice demand immediate return; all this also caused by the absence of the Municipal Mayor of the San Juan River and all the institutions that make up the transitional justice committee to the development of this meeting that was scheduled for November 14, 2019, which showed the lack of interest in solving the situation in which we find ourselves.
This is the second time the community of Pichima Quebrada suffers a mass-displacement, which dates back to June 3, 2019, when 75 Wounaan families were forced to leave their territory due to armed confrontation inside their village between members of the ELN and the FARC dissidents.
Our Colombia International Team was part of a field verification mission accompanied by other human rights organizations. The verification mission was able to observe the serious humanitarian crisis taking place in Docordo, as dozens of Wounaan families are crowded into unsanitary makeshift shelters. Our international presence provided some sense of tranquility to the community and a space for them to express what had happened and their hopes for an immediate return to their lands.
The struggle of the Wounaan indigenous community of Pichimá Quebrada to return reached the judicial stages, where through legal action they demanded the protection of their fundamental rights. Despite the favorable ruling requiring the Colombian government to act in matters of health, education, food, housing, the judicial ruling has been breached in its entirety.
Due to the above and due to the repeated postponements of the Transitional Justice committees, through which the situation of the Wounaan people had to be addressed, it is clear there is a lack of political will on behalf of the Colombian government to guarantee basic human rights or the a proper return for the community of Pichima Quebrada.
We are peacebuilders, we believe in the peace that is built from the territories, that which seeks recognition of what we are and what we do, that invites us to assume responsibilities and analyze how to build the paths of true justice, the justice that can restore deeper damage and can strengthen social relationships. From our spirituality we invoke God Ewandam, to help harmonize life, territories and society, that there are no more hatreds or wars, that we advance along the paths of Peace and that we can finally be calm in the territory. We want to return, help us to return, accompany us to return, without our territory life ends.