Colombia rebels and government sign deal to end 5 decades of conflict

Colombia rebels and government sign deal to end 5 decades of conflict
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos, front left, gives a peace pin to the top commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, Rodrigo Londono, known by the alias Timochenko after they signed a peace agreement between the government and the FARC in Cartagena, Colombia. Picture: AP

Colombia's government and rebel leaders have signed a historic peace agreement to end 50 years of war that has killed more than 220,000 people.

The ceremony in Cartagena was witnessed by an audience of 2,500 dressed all in white as a symbol of peace.

The deal was signed by President Juan Manuel Santos and Rodrigo Londono, the senior commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country's biggest rebel group.

Londono apologised to the victims of the 50-year conflict.

It was reached during four tough years of negotiations and still must be approved by Colombian voters in a national referendum on Sunday.

If it passes, as is widely expected, the rebels will turn over their weapons to United Nations-sponsored observers in the next six months while forming a political party.

The FARC will be guaranteed a minimum of 10 seats in congress over the next two legislative periods.

Opponents have criticised the deal for sparing guerrilla leaders jail time if they confess to war crimes.

Five decades of conflict in the South American nation killed more than 220,000 people and drove eight million from their homes.

The event in the coastal city was attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Latin American leaders.

After the signing the guests filed out as a choir sang a stirring version of Ode To Peace.

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