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Political Future: Colombian Rebels Prepare For Peace

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia are expected to ratify a peace accord made with the Colombian government, ending a 52-year war.

Members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia attend a meeting ahead of the 10th National Guerrilla Conference at the camp in Llanos del Yari, Caqueta Department, Colombia, on Sept. 16.The meeting runs until Sept. 23. After 52 years of conflict, FARC rebels open what leaders hope will be their last conference as a guerrilla army. Ranking officials and members are set to vote on a historic peace deal with the Colombian government.

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A FARC member attends the opening ceremony of 10th National Guerrilla Conference.

The FARC's top leader, Rodrigo Londono, also known as Timoleón Jiménez or Timochenko addressed about 500 mostly unarmed and semi-uniformed guerrillas who had arrived from all parts of Colombia to attend the meeting in which top commanders will ratify the peace accord reached with the government last month.  

 

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Members of the FARC secretariat attend the opening ceremony of the conference.

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Carlos Antonio Lozada, a member of secretary of the FARC, in a meeting.

Some 200 delegates of the FARC guerrilla army are expected to ratify the peace agreement. This is the group's first conference not held in secret. Instead of discussing battlefield strategy, the FARC must settle on a new name for their political movement and choose representatives to fill 10 seats reserved for them in congress in exchange for laying down its weapons.

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A guerrilla soldier cuts the hair of a fellow guerrilla.

For many rebels who've spent their lives in the jungle, the meeting is also an opportunity to be reunited with comrades and family members, some of whom they hadn't seen for years.

MAURICIO DUENAS CASTANEDA / EPA

Guerrilla soldiers wash laundry during the conference.

MAURICIO DUENAS CASTANEDA / EPA

Tatiana sits beside gifts for her baby at a FARC camp on Sept. 17.

Tatiana's baby boy, will have a very different life from his 17-year-old half-brother. Tatiana had her first son at 19, two years after joining the FARC. He was raised by her brother away from military bombing raids and ambushes.

Her current pregnancy was unintentional. Rebel couples must seek permission from their commanders to have sexual relations, and guerrilla doctors often perform abortions. Now that a final signature on the deal is near, FARC couples have begun to look forward to once-forbidden parenthood. "Things have been much more joyful this time," said Tatiana, as she sat in her camp next to Omar, her partner. 

 

 

JOHN VIZCAINO / Reuters

Guerrilla soldiers play soccer at their camp on Sept. 19.

JOHN VIZCAINO / Reuters

Members cheer as they attend a cultural event during the National Guerrilla Conference on Sept. 17.

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Members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia at the cultural event.

Fifteen years ago, negotiations with leftist rebels collapsed in a fury of violence.

 

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Head of the FARC, Timochenko, cheers as he attends the cultural event.

"If our adversaries want to tout they won the war, that's up to them. For the FARC, our greatest satisfaction will always be that peace has won" Timochenko said in his inaugural address, surrounded by all seven members of the FARC's secretariat, its top decision-making body. 

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Guerrillas read excerpts about human rights during the 10th FARC National Conference on Sept. 20.

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FARC members look at photos during the opening ceremony for the National Guerrilla Conference on Sept. 17.

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Members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia attend the opening ceremony of the five-day gathering on Sept. 17.

Standing before hundreds of fighters in southern Colombia, Timochenko said the FARC wants to spread its message as an unarmed political party and transform the Andean nation after five decades of war. "Our greatest aspiration is to reach many more with our message until the torrent for transformation is overwhelming."

 

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