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Colombia: Tapaje River area

by - - 27.04.2007 17:59

We urge you to take immediate action to prevent a worsening of the humanitarian crisis affecting Afro-Colombian communities in the Tapaje River in the Municipality of El Charco, Nariño. Recent combat operations between the Colombian Naval Forces of the Pacific, paramilitaries, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are taking place at this moment, and the rights of the Black Communities living in the collective lands are being violated.

April 3, 2007

Proceso de Comunidades Negras

To: Members of the Colombia Steering Committee and Afro-Colombian human rights activists
From: Marino Cordoba and Charo Mina Rojas, Association of Internally Displaced Afro- Colombians (AFRODES USA)
Carlos Rosero, Black Communities Process (PCN)
Date: April 3, 2007

According to information received from Afro-Colombian grassroots leaders in the conflict areas, between February and March of 2007, six fumigations were carried out in the Municipality of El Charco, State of Nariño that resulted in the destruction of the crops these communities grow for their basic sustenance. The last fumigation occurred on March 30. For the past eight days, there has been fighting between the Colombian Naval Forces of the Pacific and the FARC. There are check points set up by the armed groups along the Tapaje River and people are trapped in the area. The scarcity of food needed by internally displaced families and of those who live in the midlands and high plains of the river region is leading to a humanitarian crisis. An estimated 50 human settlements along the Tapaje River are currently at risk of becoming internally displaced and highly vulnerable to violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

The Colombian armed forces and the FARC are currently fighting for control of the Tapaje River area. There are indications that paramilitary groups are also active in the Patía River and Sanabria zones. Inhabitants of the collective territories of the Community Council of la Cordillera, Cordicon, in the Western Mountain Range have become internally displaced in a massive fashion to the following areas: La Piedra, El Diviso, El Turbio, El Filo, El Desplayado, Peñas Blancas, Tagual, La Cuchilla, Palmera, Corales, Playa Menuda, Sánchez, Remolinos, Llana Sara, Cocal, and Miguel. Further, fighting between paramilitaries and FARC guerrillas is currently taking place in these areas.

The current scenario calls for an immediate international and national response to address the critical protection and assistance needs of the
civilian and internally displaced populations. There are reports of a lack of food, fuel, and potable water and of persons becoming internally
displaced into the mountains in an effort to escape this situation. Civilians are suffering from skin diseases, diarrhea, and respiratory illnesses. It is estimated that there are 2,500 internally displaced persons in the different regions and that 400 families were able to make it to El Charco urban center. Both persons who do not wish to leave their territories and are resisting internal displacement and those who are internally displaced are not receiving humanitarian aid. According to public information received from the Mayor of the municipality, until April 2nd, the families have only received 280 food baskets from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and 200 from the Colombian government agency responsible for IDPs, Acción Social.

We kindly ask that you contact Representatives of the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and urge them to recommend the following to the Colombian Government:

- Immediately intervene in this matter to ensure that Afro-Colombian civilians and internally displaced persons have access to food, medicine and humanitarian assistance. Colombian civilian institutions should go to the areas affected and establish a presence so as to ensure that civilians and IDPs are protected and assisted.
- Urge that the Colombian armed forces respect the rights of Afro-Colombian communities and do not violate international humanitarian law.
- Work with the United Nations and international organizations to implement a humanitarian and human rights plan in this area of the country that addresses the needs of Afro-Colombian rural and urban communities.

For further information please contact AFRODES USA. We kindly ask that you send copies of correspondence to U.S. and Colombian officials to Marino Cordoba, AFRODES USA, mcordoba at

see also:
PCN Colombia: