Protest march against violence in Colombia

Ten thousand indigenous people march to Bogotá (Press Release)

A protest march of about ten thousand indigenous people is moving towards Colombia's capital Bogotá. Some of the protesters have already been on the road for a week. Last Monday, October 12, the group arrived in the city of Cali. There, they wanted to talk to President Ivan Duque – but he only sent a delegation. "After two days of fruitless talks, the indigenous protesters are moving on to the capital," reported Juliana Miyazaki, expert on indigenous peoples at the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP). "The march started on Wednesday morning, and they will stop and demonstrate in Armenia, Ibagué, Fusagasuga, and Soacha. Next Monday, October 19, they want to reach Bogotá.

The protest march, which is also known as "Minga", started in Cauca in the southwest of the country – a region with a large indigenous population. According to the UN, it is one of the areas most affected by anti-indigenous violence. This year alone, there have been at least 42 massacres – the highest number of violent attacks by armed groups since the signing of the peace agreement. A total number of 76 leading indigenous people have already lost their lives.

"The indigenous people are protesting against the loss of their habitat, the killings of their people, and the growing insecurity in their territories. They are demanding the full implementation of the peace agreement with the guerrilla group FARC – which was signed in 2016 – and the right to be consulted regarding the implementation of major construction projects in their territories," Miyazaki said.

About 4.5 percent of Colombia's 50 million inhabitants are of indigenous origin. The peace agreement of 2016 has led to a significant reduction of politically motivated violence, which had been going on for more than six decades. However, the conflict intensified again in recent weeks – with dozens of massacres. According to indigenous organizations, 167 indigenous people have been killed since the president took office in August 2018.

The word "minga" ("mink'a" in Quechua) refers to an ancient tradition of community or collective work for social purposes. In 1980, various indigenous organizations in Colombia agreed on the four founding principles of unity, territory (land rights), culture, and autonomy – and the "minga"-concept is based on these four principles, aiming to unite the indigenous communities in their efforts to fight for indigenous rights. In recent years, the indigenous peoples of Colombia used the minga-concept as a strategy to be heard and to address the government with their demands or to express their dissatisfaction with what they are experiencing in their territories.