Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama on Friday hailed the courage of this year’s laureate, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, and said the award was well earned.
“The Nobel Committee made the right decision in welcoming his tireless efforts to bring a just and lasting peace to Colombia,” Obama said.
“This award is a testament to President Santos’s unwavering, courageous leadership through years of difficult negotiations.”
The Nobel committee raised eyebrows by giving Obama the prize in 2009, just months after he entered the White House.
It surprised again on Friday, giving the award to Santos just days after Colombian voters rejected a peace deal between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said Santos had brought one of the longest civil wars in modern history significantly closer to a peaceful solution but there was still a real danger the peace process could come to a halt.
“The award should also be seen as a tribute to the Colombian people,” committee leader Kaci Kullmann Five said. Voters did not say “No” to peace but to the agreement, she said.
The award pointedly excluded FARC guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, who signed the accord with Santos.
Santos has promised to revive the peace plan even though Colombians narrowly rejected it in the referendum on Sunday. Many voters believed it was too lenient on the FARC guerrillas.
More than 220,000 people have died on the battlefield or in massacres during the struggle between leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and government troops.
Millions have been displaced and many beg on the streets of the capital, while economic development has been stunted in the mostly rural nation.
The Nobel Peace Prize, worth 8 million Swedish crowns (US$930,000), will be presented in Oslo on December 10.