Masked gunmen burst into a house in Gran Rosario indigenous reserve, Narino department, South Colombia, and opened fire indiscriminately, killing 12 community members including 5 children younger than ten years old, amongst them an eight-month old baby.
The Awa indigenous authorities have said they are convinced that the massacre was a revenge attack against one of the victims, Tulia Garcia, whose husband was murdered in a suspected extrajudicial executed by army forces in May. Tulia had reported the crime and was actively seeking justice for her husband’s murder. The gunmen struck whilst the victims were sleeping, at 5am on Wednesday the 28th August.
The Awa community has suffered the consequences of the Colombian armed conflict as much as any other. Based in a region which is strategic for the trafficking of drugs, the community must cope with heavy presence of paramilitaries, army forces, guerrilla forces, and drug trafficking gangs. In February this year, FARC rebels massacred 12 members of the Awa community whom they accused of collaborating with army forces.
This massacre further evidences the systematic violence being faced by indigenous communities in Colombia. In mid-August, national indigenous organisation ONIC announced that 67 members of indigenous communities had already been murdered this year. The dire human rights situation in Colombia is one of the key campaigning issues of the Social and Communitarian Minga, an ever-growing, broad-based social movement led by indigenous communities. One of the inspirational leaders behind the Social and Communitarian Minga, ex-leader of the Cauca Regional Indigenous Council Aida Quilcue, will be visiting Britain in September at the invitation of Unison Northern, the Northern TUC, and the Colombia Solidarity Campaign. Aida’s husband Edwin was murdered by Colombian army forces in December last year in an ambush seemingly meant for Aida.