The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels have ratified a historic peace deal with the government, declaring the end of a 52-year conflict in the Latin American country.
Ivan Marquez, FARC’s chief peace negotiator, made the announcement at a national conference on Friday, saying the fighters have expressed “unanimous backing to the final accord” with the Colombian government.
"The war is over," Marquez said amid a burst of applause and cheers at the meeting.
The leader of the leftist guerrilla group, Rodrigo Londono, also hailed the deal, saying, "Peace is the most beautiful of victories."
"We yearn that no Colombians will ever again have to take up arms to make their voices heard and their demands felt, as has been required of us."
The peace accord will be signed by Londono and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Monday and would be put to a vote in a national referendum in early October for final approval. Recent polls show that the accord will receive an easy pass.
After it is signed, FARC’s estimated 7,000 fighters will begin handing over their weapons to United Nations observers during six months and reintegrate into civilian life.
Under the deal, the rebel group will formally end its existence as a guerrilla army and transform into an unarmed political movement, receiving 10 unelected seats in the congress until 2026.
The rebel group, which took up weapons in 1964 to fight against deep economic and social inequalities, now controls large swathes of Latin America’s third most-populous country.
As many as 220,000 Colombians have been killed and more than five millions others displaced in the conflict. Moreover, a further 45,000 people are said to be missing.
While some Colombians want punishment for FARC, many others welcomed the peace deal and took to the streets in the capital Bogotá on Wednesday to celebrate it.