Bogota (AFP) – When Delfina Wazorna thinks back on the home she left behind, she remembers machine guns, armed men and death threats.
It makes the Embera indigenous woman skeptical of the peace deal that Colombia’s government and its main rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), have vowed to sign in the first three months of the new year.
“There will never be peace,” said Wazorna, 54, who fled her ancestral lands eight years ago with her family after they found their house surrounded with explosives.
They drifted from city to city before finally landing at a shelter in the capital Bogota set up to accommodate members of her indigenous community uprooted by the half-century conflict.
“It’s all lies. These people don’t forgive. The guerrillas told me, ‘You can hide for 30 years, but if you come back you’ll die,'” a traditional healer named Ariel told AFP at the same shelter.
Ariel, who declined to give his last name, also fled in 2004 after someone put a machete into the wall of his house with a death threat hanging from the blade.
The Embera, whose lands lie mainly in the tropical forests of the Choco and Risaralda departments of western Colombia, have been trapped in the crossfire of Colombia’s messy, many-sided war.
The conflict, which has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced six million, has drawn in several leftist rebel groups, right-wing paramilitaries and drug traffickers since the Marxist FARC was launched in 1964.
The Embera say they have been terrorized by the FARC, the National Liberation Army (ELN), a rival rebel movement that has yet to join the peace process, and other armed groups.
More than 1,000 Embera have fled to Bogota over the years, where they get by however they can — often by begging.
Many try to return after a period of urban exile. But their homecoming is complicated by lingering violence and a lack of infrastructure.
“There are still risks in Embera territory,” said Julia Madariaga, who runs the ethnic affairs unit at the government agency set up to help victims of the conflict.
– From jungle to street –