Things you can get back

Dan has been a volunteer with the PBI Colombia Project for over three years now. He previously studied an MA in Human Rights at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies in London.

The first doctor I saw after the accident told me that I might never recuperate the full use of my hand again… At the time I was floating between taking it too seriously and not taking it seriously enough; one of the side effects of the painkilling medication. But now, sober again and recovered, I’ve had time to reflect. Where did this happen?

In Urabá, northwest Colombia, the afro Colombian communities ‘New Life’ and ‘New Hope’ were founded on just that, new life and new hope. They are made up of people who had to flee their land amid acts of human barbarity that I’d only previously contemplated in horror films. That was before coming to Colombia. These people have suffered and endured more than most people can imagine and, despite it all, they have never given up. Furthermore, instead of just surviving, they resisted and they continue resisting.

After the joint military and paramilitary attacks in 1997 known as Operation Genesis, the displaced, traumatised but determined Colombians formed an organisation called CAVIDA which stands for “Communities of Self Determination, Life and Dignity”. And, between 2000 and 2001, they returned to their land amidst the continued armed conflict but with the accompaniment of the Inter Church Justice and Peace Commission and Peace Brigades International.

Those responsible for the attacks during Operation Genesis remained in complete impunity until August 2012 when the former commander of the 17th Brigade of the Colombian army was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was held responsible for the murder of Marino López Mena who was cut into pieces by paramilitaries who then kicked his head around, in front of other members of the community, as if it were a football. This sentence represents just one drop of justice; 15 years after just one of many crimes.

But CAVIDA continue their struggle and their goal is to achieve more justice, despite the risks they run. So their case is being considered by the Inter American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) which will rule on it in the following months. Now, so close to the decision, members of CAVIDA have received more death threats from presumed paramilitaries. It is incredible that, after all they have gone through; there are still people who want to harm them. The small drops of justice carry a very heavy price in Colombia.

With this in mind, during Christmas and New Year PBI always accompanies CAVIDA in their community. The accompaniment is essential in the holiday period because many of the other organisations who can respond to emergencies are on holiday. And those who want to harm them make the most of times like these to attack.

So there I was playing football in ‘New Hope’ on Christmas Eve, when I fell over and multiply fractured my wrist. The community health-promoter looked after me (she knew it was a fracture despite my denial) until my trip back: 5 hours by 2 different boats then an hour overland. But the doctor I saw when I arrived in Apartadó was no arm expert and I did get the full use of my hand back. I also got back to ‘New Hope’ this April. To the community who got back their land and got back their dignity which they continue to affirm over and over again, despite the risks.

–          Dan

3 thoughts on “Things you can get back”

  1. Gracias and thank you! your story brings me a little closer to these communities I feel such admiration and affection for.

  2. Dear Dan, in you happen to go back again to Cacarica please send many warm greetings to everyone overthere. Marian Janssen. PBI Holanda 2000-2001 & helper of Salwa Jabli with the monument – respuesta- en Nueva vida.

  3. Muy interesante el articulo|
    Un sitio web muy trabajado gracias
    Su relato esta muy elaborado
    Me gustaria ver produndizando sobre el asunto

    Llevo algun de tiempo mirando su blog

Leave a Reply