The Indigenous Guard: A force to be reckoned with in Colombia’s civil conflict
The Indigenous Guard: A force to be reckoned with in Colombia’s civil conflict

The Indigenous Guard is a local institution
that controls security and that leads the process of land reclamation in the indigenous part of Colombia’s South West. This region is populated by indigenous peoples and there is a certain autonomy that these
communities exercise through their councils and so they’ve always been involved in the defence of these territories both by the councils, as well as the way to protect the lives of community
members that live there. About 400,000 indigenous people live in the Cauca province, about 21 percent of the population of the region. They live in 93 reservations that cover an area
of over five thousand square kilometers in an area that has been on the crossroads of civil conflict for over a century. Our region has seen just about every armed faction in this country wearing every different kind of badge, from government soldiers, to insurgent guerrillas, to paramilitary groups, as a result the indigenous communities too, have been pushed into organizing their own defence this need for increased protection
gradually led to the civil authorities, which are their own councils,
to institute some form of protection and to shield themselve against the violent excesses of the armed factions. and that’s where the Indigenous Guard began to emerge. Here, we do not need the police or the army. It is they (the Guard) who maintain order
and if there are problems well, we have a holding cell
so for those of us who do disturb the peace, thats where they take us The indigenous guard is a civilian body
comprised of members of the indigenous communities there are no restrictions of age or sex or physical appearance to become a member of the Guard At the same time that elections for the council are held, which take place every year, the Guard for the coming year is chosen and formed. therefore the Guard has a democratic structure
without hierarchical forms such as having leaders and commanders
but instead there is coordination. Each reservation has about 30 active guards and 200 reservists. They don’t earn any wages and so they take care of the community while at the same time continuing with the work in the field. The most senior guardsmen get the title “guard for life”. They are a sort of reserve generals. In the reservation in Ambalo, there are only three. One of them is Jose Manuel Pillimué, who has fought for the recovery of his ancestral
lands for more than three decades. The cane, with this we face the police or whomever, we do not carry weapons. Our only weapon is our line of thinking, deciding what we will do and how best to do it, and how to state our objectives. Not just to come to say to them, …if you don’t listen to me, then I’ll pull out a gun,
and you have to listen to me. No. They must respect us for this cane. One of the most respected Guards
is that of the Ambalo Reservation. (Our reservation) consists of 850 families. About four thousand people who
live here in our territory. The ancestral territory of our people
consists of 10,400 hectares and although it is still in the hands
of landowners with deeds, we’ve been working on the recovery
process of our territory. In recent times, the Guard’s main purpose has been to prevent getting drawn into the civil conflict The guerrillas tried to get into our territory.
We had to come out to talk, and say to them; “well, friends, this is definitely
not the time for you to be here, because here we have declared our
territory sacred ground.” We have told the army the same thing. We do not want armed people here. That would unbalance our environment and our people and they would leave! Let our Guard be the one to control things here. While respecting the authority of the native communities, the recent upsurge of violence has generated a new conflict. The government wants to station troops in the reserves, something the Indians refuse to allow. We are putting forward a proposal for the future… that the Guard be an institution and one with the power to enforce. The Guard here has many needs.
It must be trained. and as we are Colombians, we can not
ignore the laws of the government nor can we ignore the international laws of human rights. The Guard will play an important role
in any peace process dialogue on the disarmament and the development in this country. I think that the Indigenous Guard and
the indigenous organizations in general will have a very important role to play in bringing this country together.

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