In this part of the world where we find ourselves, the identity of the President of Colombia may not immediately appear to be useful information. Yesterday’s events changed everything…President Juan Manuel Santos made it to Nigerian news headlines for one crucial reason, he was named winner of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize. The announcement was made today in Oslo, the Norwegian capital.
The Nobel Peace Prize is annually awarded to individuals who have notably contributed to the promotion of regional or world peace and most years, the choice of winners have raised controversy for myriads of reasons and this 2016 winner is not an exception. Here’s 5 things you should know about President Juan Manuel Santos and how he came about the Peace Prize:
- President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his tireless attempts at ending the 52 year long conflict with a leftist rebel group, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The insurgent group has waged this long standing war with the government of Colombia since 1964 and since he became President in 2010, Mr Santos has negotiated ceasefire deals with the group.
- The conflict in Colombia has claimed over 220,000 lives and has left about six million without homes. Much to President Santos’ credit, a peace accord was agreed upon by government negotiators and FARC rebels in September. This agreement drew worldwide applause and it seemed like the end of the war was near. This was the “historic achievement” as President Barack Obama called it that put President Santos on the spot for the Peace Prize. Things went awry when Colombians voted against the peace deal in a national referendum that was held to seal the agreement few weeks back.
- The Nobel Committee was undeterred by the seeming failure of the peace deal so they awarded President Santos the Peace Prize to serve as a source of strength and encouragement to the people of Colombia that peace could still be achieved. The committee expressed hopes that the Peace Prize will give Santos the “strength to succeed in this demanding task” and “Colombians will reap the fruits of the ongoing reconciliation process”.
- Before becoming the 32nd President of Colombia, Mr Santos served as defense minister under former President, Alvaro Uribe Velez. It was in this position that Santos began the anti-insurgency campaign against FARC, though he had been part of a group of negotiators who attempted to reach a peace deal with the insurgents in 1994. This is proof that President Santos has always been an active player in Colombia’s political sphere.
- Mr Santos is another Nobel Peace Prize winner that is bound to go down in history as highly controversial as even some Colombians do not believe he is deserving of the award.
Some past Nobel Peace Prize winners are President Barack Obama in 2009 and Malala Yousafzai in 2014.