Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos wins Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end 50-year-long civil war

Francesca Washtell
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Santos has been president of Colombia since 2010 (Source: Getty)

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos has been awarded the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his "resolute efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year-long civil war to an end", the committee announced this morning.

Santos was selected by the Norwegian Nobel committee from a closely-guarded list of 376 candidates, comprised of 228 individuals and 148 organisations.

He has been the leader of the South American country since 2010 and last month signed a peace agreement with left-wing guerilla Farc rebels after four years of negotiations.

Speaking this afternoon, Santos dedicated the prize to the people of Colombia "who have suffered so much in this war".

Previous winners have included Pakistani women's rights advocate Malala Yousafzai, the European Union, US President Barack Obama and Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi since the prize was launched in 1901.

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In a statement, the committee said:

President Santos initiated the negotiations that culminated in the peace accord between the Colombian government and the Farc guerrillas, and he has consistently sought to move the peace process forward. Well knowing that the accord was controversial, he was instrumental in ensuring that Colombian voters were able to voice their opinion concerning the peace accord in a referendum.

Shaky ground for Nobel Prize to stand on

Despite efforts to bring an end to the 52-year conflict, this week Colombians rejected Santos' deal by 50.2 per cent 49.8 per cent.

The Nobel committee said the outcome of the vote "was not what President Santos wanted" and had created "great uncertainty as to the future of Colombia", as the peace accord cannot now be implemented.

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"There is a real danger that the peace process will come to a halt and that civil war will flare up again," the Nobel committee added.

This makes it even more important that the parties, headed by President Santos and Farc guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londoño, continue to respect the ceasefire.

The fact that a majority of the voters said no to the peace accord does not necessarily mean that the peace process is dead. The referendum was not a vote for or against peace. What the "no" side rejected was not the desire for peace, but a specific peace agreement.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee emphasises the importance of the fact that President Santos is now inviting all parties to participate in a broad-based national dialogue aimed at advancing the peace process. Even those who opposed the peace accord have welcomed such a dialogue.

The committee added that by awarding the prize to Santos, it wished to encourage "all those who are striving to achieve peace, reconciliation and justice in Colombia".

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Some commentators believed the referendum "no" vote would lead the Nobel committee to suspend this year's prize if Santos had won.

Other organisations such as the Western-funded Syrian volunteer force called the White Helmets were also believed to be in the running.

Last year year, members of Tunisia's National Dialogue Quartet won the peace prize after paving the way for "peaceful dialogue" after the Arab Spring.

The Nobel Prizes for physics and chemistry were announced this week, while the winner of the economics prize will be announced on Monday.

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