FABIO ANDRES  DIAZ PABON Author of Evaluating Organization Development


Research Associate/Researcher
Rhodes University/ Erasmus University Rotterdam

Fabio is a Colombian political scientist. He is a Research Associate at the Department of Political and International studies at Rhodes University in South Africa and a Researcher at the International Institute of Social Studies in the Netherlands. Fabio works at the intersection between theory and practice. In addition to his academic publications, his analysis has been published by Al Jazeera, Time, The Conversation, Los Angeles Times, among others.


I am a Colombian political scientist. My current affiliation is as a Research Associate at the Department of Political and International studies at Rhodes University in South Africa and a Researcher at the International Institute of Social Studies in the Netherlands. I am interested in  work at the intersection between theory and practice. My current research interests are related to state strength, civil war, conflict and protests in the midst of globalization.  I have training as both an engineer and a social scientist, received in Colombia and The Netherlands. I regularly write opinion pieces and articles regarding Colombian politics in The Conversation and other platforms.

Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    Development Studies
    Conflict Studies
    Transitional Justice
    Political Science
    Applied Mathematics
    Industrial Engineering

Personal Interests

    Mountain climbing



Featured Title
 Featured Title - Truth Justice and Reconciliation in Colombia - 1st Edition book cover


Civil Wars

‘Give War A Chance’: All-Out War as a Means of Ending Conflict in the Cases of Sri Lanka and Colombia

Published: Mar 19, 2018 by Civil Wars
Authors: Fabio Andres Diaz Pabon, Mansoob Murshed

This article investigates the military approach as a means of solving protracted civil conflicts, in particular focusing on the cases of Sri Lanka and Colombia in comparison. The approach adopted is to study the emergence of these military options within the context of each country's history and to assess whether the call for war was merely a consequence of the international ‘war on terror’, or driven by internal elements.

OASIS : observatorio de análisis de los sistemas internacionales

Inequality, Social Protests and Civil War

Published: Sep 09, 2017 by OASIS : observatorio de análisis de los sistemas internacionales

The following article presents a series of hypotheses to analyze the possible transitions between protest and civil war and their relation to inequality. To do so, the article presents an analysis on the emergence ofprotests and its relation with the increase in inequality across the world. The possibility of either of these transitions taking place is defined by the structural conditions that define the interactions between protestors and authorities in particular settings.

Conflict, Peace, Security and Development Theories and Methodologies

Mathematical modelling and ‘ethnic conflict’ in Colombia . The impact of the Unit and the Level of Analysis

Published: Mar 19, 2015 by Conflict, Peace, Security and Development Theories and Methodologies
Authors: Dubravka Zarkov, Helen Hintjens

The article reflects on how the notion of “ethnic conflict” relates to the on-going Colombian conflict. In particular it uses the province of El Cauca as an area of study to assess the validity of analysis of the conflict as an ethnic conflict, as opposed to the descriptions of the Colombian conflict more commonly given in literature that do not mention ethnicity.



The latest threat to peace in Colombia: Congress


On Nov. 30, both houses of Congress approved a bill establishing an alternative criminal justice system to judge those accused of war crimes during the country's 52-year conflict.

But, like every step in this arduous multi-year peace effort, this latest victory was hard won. For 10 months, congressional representatives who oppose Colombia's controversial November 2016 peace accord with the FARC guerrillas have used all manner of delays to slow implementation of the complex deal, of which the new criminal justice system is just a small part.

The filibuster is their latest tactic. The strategy of stopping legislation from passing by whatever means necessary occurs in many countries – most famously in the United States, where minority party members can speak for hours nonstop to run down the clock and compel the opposition to amend a bill.

In Colombia, conservative lawmakers have been impeding their country's peace process by filing nonstop petitions to modify bills while they are being drafted in Congress, and systematically skipping key debates on implementing the Havana accords.

This, to my knowledge as a peace and conflict researcher, is the first time in the world a legislative body has tried to derail its government's own peace process.

It is a risky move. Numerous international observers, including the United Nations, have warned the government that failure to fulfill its end of the bargain with the FARC could prove a lethal mistake, provoking the former guerrilla group and reigniting war.

Filibustering justice

Colombia's peace deal with the FARC has seen powerful opposition since the start. In October 2016, it was narrowly rejected at referendum.

And though in November 2016 President Juan Manuel Santos strong-armed Congress into approving the accords – which had just won him a

Nobel Peace Prize

– he still needs them to put the deal's provisions into action.

That's because while the 2016 peace deal was ambitious in envisioning the goals of Colombia's transition to peace, the 300-page document – like most peace agreements – did not answer every question that would arise in getting there.

For example, it was up to Congress to interpret, design and determine the details of Colombia's transitional justice system – a special tribunal for trying war criminals and doling out reparations to victims.

Likewise, the accords assert that former combatants may now run for public office, but can they do so before they've been tried and before victims have seen their recompense? And if a FARC fighter is elected to Congress but later found to be guilty of war crimes, must he or she resign?

The peace deal offered no guidance on these troubling questions. Hence, in recent months many conservative politicians seemed hesitant – justifiably, perhaps – to allow former combatants to run for elected office when victims had yet to be recompensed. As a result, a substantial number of lawmakers simply failed to show up to votes on the transitional justice system, making a quorum impossible.

Lawmakers from conservative parties also proposed more than 150 changes to the bill, compelling fresh debate and constant redrafting. Some changes may have been proposed in good faith to improve this imperfect deal.

But in general the cascade of demands to change agreed-upon aspects of the peace deal seems designed to provoke the FARC and slow legislative progress. By mid-November, many feared that the transitional justice tribunal – a critical component of building peace – would never even come up for a floor vote.

Election season

The upcoming presidential campaign in Colombia has likewise turned the peace process into a political bargaining chip.

Just over a year ago, just over half of all Colombians voted against the FARC agreement. As an astonishing 53 presidential candidates now jockey to compete in the May 2018 election, avoiding getting into the nitty-gritty of the peace process is just good politics.

As such, presidential aspirants from conservative parties – including the Democratic Center, Radical Change and Conservative parties – are simply refusing to sign anything or vote for or against a particular provision.

And with the Santos administration well into its lame duck period, politicians feel little pressure to negotiate with the president to get things done.

Two steps forward, one step back

That said, congressional opposition to the peace deal has shown some success in clarifying some of its most vexingly vague provisions. On Nov. 15, the Colombian Constitutional Court issued guidance based on the questions raised in these nonstop congressional debates.

Among the court's most important rulings was the decision that a former combatant who breaks with the accord – by committing a crime in peacetime, say – will lose the right to such benefits as receiving a reduced sentence.

The court likewise asserted that former fighters may in fact run for office while the victims' rights component of the peace process is still in development as long as they comply with the requirements of the alternative justice court.

But filibustering remains a risky strategy. The victims' justice framework, which took 10 months to pass, is not the only law needed to enact the peace process.

To date, the government has begun implementation of only 45 percent of the more than 500 provisions it agreed to in the peace agreements with the FARC.

Next, Congress must figure out how to pass agrarian reform – a longtime goal of the FARC – meet guarantees for political participation and develop a national budget that can actually fund all these peace-building projects.

The FARC's leadership has so far complied with the agreements, demobilizing its combatants, laying down weapons and joining retraining programs. But the state's foot-dragging has raised the dangerous specter of recividism among their ranks. Already, some former FARC combatants have rejoined other armed factions.

Research shows that 60 percent of civil wars relapse within seven years. Historically, those opposed to peace accords have rearmed – as Jonas Savimbi did in the Angolan conflict in 1992 – thus re-initiating violence between factions, or used targeted assassinations to upend peace negotiations.

Violence of the latter sort has already derailed more than one attempt to end Colombia's conflict with the FARC. If Colombia's Congress keeps up its stall tactics, its country's peace process may soon become just another statistic.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here: http://theconversation.com/the-latest-threat-to-peace-in-colombia-congress-87810.

Colombia’s murder rate is at an all-time low but its activists keep getting killed

Subjects: Area Studies

A 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian government and the guerrilla Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, was supposed to bring peace to this South American country after a 52-year civil war that killed 220,000 people.

Instead, nearly 300 community organizers and activists have been murdered since the accords were signed in November 2016. Hundreds more have received death threats. Eight activists were killed in March 2018 alone.

During the same period, the overall homicide rate in Colombia has dropped to an all-time low.

As violence researchers who focus on conflict and inequality, we wanted to explore the data on the recent spate of targeted assassinations. Why are so many Colombian activists dying?

Indigenous leaders under fire

Most of the community organizers assassinated in Colombia over the past 16 months were political activists from three largely rural communities: the small-scale farmers generally called “peasants” here, indigenous people and Afro-Colombians. These populations face persistent social and economic discrimination in Colombia.

Indigenous organizers have been particular targets of the violence. Just 3 percent of Colombia’s population identifies as indigenous, but 12 percent of the civil society leaders slain in 2017 were indigenous.

The crimes do not seem to be racially motivated. Rather, they appear to be political crimes, a retaliation against the country’s 2016 peace process.

Murders have generally declined since the accords, dropping from 12,252 in 2016 to 11,781 in 2017. Colombia’s homicide rate is still worse than almost every other country in the world. But it’s a third of what it was two decades ago, at the peak of the country’s civil war.

Certain areas, however, have seen in marked uptick in political violence. The majority of the slain activists live in remote rural areas of Colombia, in provinces like Cauca, Antioquia, Putumayo and Nariño.

Historically, the government has been either absent or very weak in these places. That allowed guerrilla groups and drug cartels to emerge in these areas in the late 20th century. These areas were home to some of the most brutal violence of Colombia’s civil conflict.

Roughly 75 percent of all Colombian human rights leaders killed in 2017 lived in areas where coca leaf is grown. Coca cultivation shaded in green. Areas where activists have been killed indicated with red outline. Wikimedia/The Conversation/Somos Defensores, CC BY

Now, these targeted assassinations have local communities again living in fear. Evidence from both Colombian and international researchers suggests that the killings are a response to the Colombian government’s attempt to assert control over areas once overrun by organized crime.

The 2016 peace accord includes economic development provisions formalizing the land ownership for peasants and helping coca-leaf growers plant legal crops like cacao and coffee. Coca leaf, a mild stimulant traditionally consumed as a tea or chew in the Andes region, is also the main ingredient in cocaine. In Colombia, as in Bolivia – where coca cultivation is legal – it is largely grown as a subsistence crop by peasant farmers.

These rural economic development initiatives are supposed to bring Colombia’s most marginalized citizens into the fold. In doing so, they threaten the various drug cartels and paramilitary groups that have become rich processing and trafficking illicit Colombian coca. These groups are now fighting back, targeting local organizers who support the government’s plan.

Research from the Colombian investigative news outlet Datasketch finds that almost three-quarters of activists killed in since November 2016 months reside in Colombia’s coca-growing countryside.

Colombia wants farmers who grow coca leaf, a traditional crop in the Andean highlands, to grow coffee and cacao instead. AP Photo/Fernando Vergara

The crop substitution strategy is a bigger problem for criminal organizations in Colombia than the government’s prior strategy of forced coca eradication. That merely reduced supply, often leading coca prices to rise, which actually benefited traffickers.

It’s unlikely that crop substitution could ever completely eliminate coca production in Colombia. But the government investment, monitoring and intervention that comes with the process will greatly hurt business.

Cartels aren’t the only criminal groups threatened by Colombia’s new rural development initiatives. Datasketch also finds that two-thirds of the 282 assassination victims lived near illegal gold mines, which the government also plans to replace with legal operations.

Who’s killing Colombia’s activists

The government’s response to this wave of targeted violence has been feeble, even contradictory.

Colombia has a general election this year, but only one presidential candidate regularly mentioned these assassinations on the campaign trail. That was former FARC commander Rodrigo Londoño – whose guerrilla group once terrorized these same populations. Londoño has since dropped out of the race for health reasons.

Deputy Attorney General María Paulina Riveros has recognized the “systematic” political nature of the killings, assuring Colombians that her office would investigate “all punishable acts.”

But Colombia’s minister of defense has insinuated – inexplicably – that the murders were crimes of passion.

Currently, just 70 percent of the activists’ murders are under investigation. No perpetrator has been identified in the vast majority of cases.

In our assessment, paramilitaries – an umbrella term that describes many of the illegal militia and organized crime groups that did not disband during Colombia’s peace process – are the likely culprit. Almost 80 percent of all death threats against activists have been traced back to them.

Kill activists, kill Colombia’s peace agreement

The government’s tepid response to this wave of violence may turn out to be short-sighted.

Implementation of the accords has been slow, largely because the government lacks the capacity to carry out its ambitious initiatives in parts of the country where, historically, it has exerted little control. President Juan Manuel Santos needs help to get his controversial peace deal to take root nationwide.

Leaders from indigenous groups, Afro-Colombian communities and coca farmers – which together comprise 24 percent of Colombia’s population, according to Colombian census data – could be critical allies in this process.

The community organizers under threat come from the conflict zones where the state is still struggling to enforce peace. They are human rights activists who are experts in the land conflicts and criminal economies of these regions. And, unlike the central government, our fieldwork has found, people actually trust them.

If the killings in Colombia aren’t stopped, a generation of potential leaders is facing extermination.

Colombian guerrilla leader ends controversial presidential bid, giving peace a chance


Colombian guerrilla leader ends controversial presidential bid, giving peace a chance

March 14, 2018 6.53am EDT

The FARC is out of the running for Colombia’s president. Who gets their votes? Jaime Saldarriaga/Reuters

In a decision with far-reaching consequences for Colombia’s fragile peace process, the FARC – a political party formed by former Marxist guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – has withdrawn from the country’s presidential race after candidate Rodrigo Londoño underwent open-heart surgery in Bogota.

The 59-year-old Londoño, who as leader of the violent rebel group used the name Timochenko, had a heart attack in 2015. Last year, not long after signing a historic peace deal with the Colombian government, he suffered a stroke.

Despite concerns that his health problems were a political liability, Londoño’s symbolic power and name recognition won him the nomination to lead the FARC’s ticket. This is the group’s first election since laying down weapons on June 27, 2017.

Londoño, who was polling at zero percent in February, didn’t stand a chance of winning in the May 27 election. But his candidacy was symbolic of the rebel group’s transition from armed struggle to political participation.

Rather than disrupt that process, Londoño’s departure may actually ease the country’s delicate transition away from violence. As a scholar of civil conflict, I believe this ex-guerrilla’s withdrawal from public life could be good news for Colombia.

Colombia’s violent campaign season

The FARC’s entry into politics, a requirement of the 2016 peace deal, has divided this violence-scarred nation. Colombians first rejected the peace deal, narrowly, in an October 2016 referendum, and the final agreement barely made it through to congressional approval.

Today, many people have accepted the FARC’s political participation as a necessary, if odious, condition of peace. But, in my assessment, Timochenko’s candidacy was too much, too soon.

It got underway before people had been able to fully reckon the FARC’s outsize role in their country’s 55-year armed conflict, which has killed 225,000 and displaced millions. Colombia has yet to launch the transitional justice process that will try war criminals and compensate victims. Many Colombians bristled at seeing the FARC’s commander run for president without ever having acknowledged inside a court room the suffering his organization caused.

Timochenko in his guerrilla days. Wikimedia Commons

The country also remains generally uncomfortable with the FARC’s radical left-wing rhetoric. Politicians on the right have inflamed deep-set fears of the Marxist-Leninist guerrilla group, saying that the FARC will turn Colombia into a Communist dystopia. FARC campaign rallies in Cali, Armenia and other cities have experienced boycotts, taunts and violence.

Despite accusations by the FARC that its conservative factions orchestrated the attacks at campaign events, candidates across the political spectrum have seen virulent protest in a Colombian election year marked by violence.

Gustavo Petro, a progressive former Bogota mayor, was attacked in his car after a March campaign rally in the city of Cúcuta. He is currently running in second place in the presidential race. The hard-line former president and current senator, Alvaro Uribe – who backs right-wing frontrunner Ivan Duque – has also been booed at his public appearances.

The FARC’s big fail

The FARC faces deeper challenges this election season, too.

The peace deal guaranteed the group – which, despite its rebranding as a political party, remains on the U.S. terrorist watch list 10 seats in Congress for a period of two four-year terms.

But FARC candidates performed poorly in Colombia’s March 11 congressional elections. Only 52,532 people voted for the FARC’s congressional candidates – less than 0.4 percent of the nearly 14.5 million votes cast.

The FARC was clearly going to struggle to win Colombians’ support. After half a century of civil conflict, 77 percent of Colombians hold a negative opinion of the group. That’s why the group’s leaders insisted on obtaining a quota of congressional seats in exchange for disarming.

But its bad results in the congressional ballot were worse than expected. The FARC retired 7,000 guerrillas when it demobilized in 2017 and got just 52,000 votes in exchange. It once used those same troops to exert control over some 600 municipalities in Colombia, influencing the lives of many millions of Colombians.

Such power loss is actually typical for armed groups who have laid down their weapons, though. Once guerrillas no longer threaten violence or command resources, many people who once “supported” them drift off. The FARC is now failing to compete with more established left-wing forces, including the Democratic Pole and Progressivists Movement.

As a result, Lodoño’s withdrawal from the presidential race probably won’t much change the election outcome. He had such low popular support that his voters’ transferred allegiances won’t alter the political math in May.

Sustaining a tenuous peace

His exit could, however, endanger the country’s already faltering peace process.

Many former FARC fighters are frustrated by how slow the government has been to implement the agreements it made with the rebel group in 2016. More than 1,000 ex-combatants have already rejoined other armed groups in Colombia.

Londoño was the only presidential candidate who openly defended the controversial peace deal. Without him in the race, its more contested provisions are political orphans.

Can Colombia keep the peace if the FARC’s opponents win? Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

The perception that the deal is imperiled could spur more former FARC fighters to return to armed struggle, seeing it as the best way to achieve their agenda of agrarian reform and radical social change.

Ultimately, though, I think Lodoño’s health problems may prove a lucky break for Colombia and the FARC. His withdrawal spares the volatile young party the embarrassment of being crushed in next month’s presidential primary and gives the transitional justice system time to do its job before the FARC faces voters again for 2019’s mayoral races.

Lodoño’s campaign was an important step in the FARC’s transition from armed rebellion to political party. But it was a powder keg. His retirement averts the risk of a big explosion.