1 Jan 2008

M-19's Journey from Armed Struggle to Democratic Politics: Striving to Keep the Revolution Connected to the People

Berghof Transitions Series No. 1

The case of Colombia is especially interesting as regards the transition of liberation or resistance movements from armed struggle to legal, political entities. Not only has it one of the longest guerrilla conflicts in the world (more than 40 years to date); it is also a place where experiments in peace-making with armed insurgents have been explored for more than 25 years. Various peace processes led to different peace agreements in the 1990s which made it possible for ca. 5,000 guerrillas to demobilise and reintegrate into social and political life. Although this did not signify the end of the armed conflict in the country, it entailed a series of political transformations which changed the context in which the nation developed and made a definitive solution to the conflict possible.


Authors

Mauricio García Durán, Vera Grabe Loewenherz, Otty Patiño Hormaza

Editors

Véronique Dudouet, David Bloomfield

 

The 19th of April Movement (Movimiento 19 de Abril, M-19) was the first of many guerrilla groups in Colombia to start a negotiation process that concluded in a final peace agreement involving its demobilisation as an armed group and leading to some of its members founding a new political party, the Democratic Alliance M19 (AD-M19) (Alianza Democrática M19). This not only paved the way for seven other groups to start peace negotiations and ultimately transform from armed to political actors. It also influenced reform of the Constitution, probably the most significant event of the twentieth century in Colombian politics, and the most important attempt at democratization of the country in its Republican period.

The 19th of April Movement (Movimiento 19 de Abril, M-19) was the first of many guerrilla groups in Colombia to start a negotiation process that concluded in a final peace agreement involving its demobilisation as an armed group and leading to some of its members founding a new political party, the Democratic Alliance M19 (AD-M19) (Alianza Democrática M19). This not only paved the way for seven other groups to start peace negotiations and ultimately transform from armed to political actors. It also influenced reform of the Constitution, probably the most significant event of the twentieth century in Colombian politics, and the most important attempt at democratization of the country in its Republican period.

About this Publication Series

This case study is one of a series produced by participants in an ongoing Berghof research project on transitions from violence to peace. The project’s overall aim is to learn from the experience of those in resistance or liberation movements who have used violence in their struggle but have also engaged politically during the conflict and in any peace process. Recent experience around the world has demonstrated that reaching political settlement in protracted social conflict always eventually needs the involvement of such movements. Our aim here is to discover how, from a non-state perspective, such political development is handled, what is the relationship between political and military strategies and tactics, and to learn more about how such movements (often sweepingly and simplistically bundled under the label of non-state armed groups) contribute to the transformation of conflict and to peacemaking. We can then use that experiential knowledge (1) to offer support to other movements who might be considering such a shift of strategy, and (2) to help other actors (states and international) to understand more clearly how to engage meaningfully with such movements to bring about political progress and peaceful settlement.

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