Young University Students’ Social Images of the Reintegration Process of ex FARC-EP Guerrillas into Civil Society in Bogotá-Colombia

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Luna, Leonardo
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This exploratory qualitative case study recruited twelve youth who were in the first semester of a university program in the city of Bogotá, Colombia, to explore their social images of the FARC-EP ex-combatants’ reintegration process, and how they perceive their ideas about possible interactions with ex-combatants that could occur in spaces such as the university, the neighbourhood, and the work place. The twelve participants represent some of the subsets of the Colombian youth population who are considered to be receivers of cultural, social, and political dynamics as well as being agents of transformation. They expressed their fears, rejection, acceptance, and hopes related to FARC-EP ex-combatants’ reintegration into civil society. The key findings of this study indicate that the respondents are thinking, feeling, and talking about peace, justice, and the Colombian conflict. Their narratives expressed an insider’s knowledge and emotions about the peacebuilding process-taking place in the country. Theirs fears about the ex-combatants’ reintegration includes: (1) FARC-EP’s lack of honesty in signing the peace agreement and the impossibility of the organization behaving according to Colombian laws; (2) They also demonstrated openness to the reintegration process and the need of accepting ex-combatants as part of their daily life, especially because some are optimistic that the society can transform the conflict; (3) Most of the participants showed knowledge about the reintegration process and FARC-EP, and had different opinions about whether it is a terrorist or rebel group; (4) They displayed critical thinking in analysing the origins of information that they receive that is related to the peace process; (5) The participants’ ideas about Colombia’s most recent reintegration process provides some interesting insights into how to build sustainable peace in this divided society; (6) The interviewees’ reported that reconciliation and forgiveness were critical ingredients of the peacebuilding process; and, (7) The storytelling methodology is an important method in gathering data from young people in protracted conflicts (see Senehi, 2019). This study contributes to the Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) literature by highlighting the crucial role of including youth voices in peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts in post peace accord societies (see Byrne et al., 2019).
Youth, Social Images, Reintegration Process, Colombian conflict