BOGOTA – The leader of Colombia’s ELN guerrillas issued an order on Friday for a cessation of hostilities to begin at midnight Saturday.
All ELN fighters are instructed to honor a bilateral ceasefire agreed with the government, Nicolas Rodriguez Bautista, alias “Gabino,” said in a radio message broadcast to rebel units nationwide from an undisclosed location.
Representatives of the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) meeting in Quito announced on Sept. 4 that they had reached an agreement on a truce set to last from Oct. 1 to Jan. 12, 2018.
“I have no doubt of your loyalty to comply with this commitment,” Gabino said Friday, noting that the entire ELN high command supported the pact with President Juan Manuel Santos’ government.
Achieving accord with the government on a bilateral ceasefire “was not easy,” he said.
The truce will bring not only an end to hostilities, Gabino said, “but also there will be significant humanitarian relief to the Colombian population, particularly to the poor and to people in conflict zones.”
Hours after Gabino’s broadcast, Santos signed a decree instructing the police and armed forces to beginning observing the truce at midnight Saturday.
“The bilateral cessation of hostilities means that the ELN must cease kidnapping, recruiting minors, laying landmines, attacking our infrastructure and, of course, cease all offensive actions against our armed forces and police,” the president said after putting his signature to the document.
Earlier Friday, the Colombian government and the ELN formally asked the UN Security Council to approve the world body’s participation in monitoring the ceasefire as part of team including military officers, rebels and representatives of the Catholic Church.
The Andean nation’s largest insurgency, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), recently completed the handover of its weapons to the United Nations under the terms of a November 2016 peace accord with the Santos government.
The FARC’s roughly 7,000 combatants are gathered in demobilization zones and the group’s leaders have begun the process of forming a legal political party.
Talks between the government and the ELN, with some 1,500 combatants, began in February.