Report
The Cauca is one of the prime regions torn by war between the Colombian military and the FARC guerilla group. The rural population, mostly of Indigenous descent, are the most dramatically hit by armed confrontations. In response to the unprovoked killings, damage and destruction of their territory and long-standing armed conflict, the Nasa Indigenous nation set up an Indigenous Guard, known as Kiwe Thegnas, in 2001. Comprising around 6,000 active members, the Indigenous Guard is a humanitarian group that engages in unarmed resistance to protect communities and prevent armed groups from entering Nasa territory.

Each town elects 10 guards, ranging from 12 to 50 years old, and one coordinator. Each guard must serve a two-year duty but many choose to continue. These volunteer guards use a number of strategies to ensure the Nasa people aren’t forced to flee. Their duties include patrolling the territory and notifying communities of any armed groups in the area, acting as a buffer between protesters and police during demonstrations, setting up shelters when the fighting becomes intense, manning roadblocks and rescuing kidnapped victims. They also devote their efforts to raising youth consciousness and trying to persuade youngsters not to enlist with the FARC, who tempt them with goods such as cell-phones. Armed only with bastón de mando, symbolic ceremonial wooden staffs, the Nasa Indigenous Guard strives to uphold the safety of their ancestral land without any outside help. But being an Indigenous Guard is a risky business; bullets, mortar fire, bus bombs and air bombings from the national Armed Forces, the FARC guerrilla group and organized crime squads are just some of the dangers these Indigenous peacekeepers face.
Feb 5, 2016
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