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Philippines and Muslim rebels sign peace plan

Guns have been a part of the rebels' lives for such a long time, giving them up may not be so easy.
Last modified: 15 Oct 2012 15:51
Framework peace plan is aimed at paving the way for an end to a 40-year conflict [Reuters]

Seeing rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) inside the Presidential Palace in Manila was a surreal sight. Some of the leaders of the MILF had been there before and met with various presidents over the years, but this was different. 

The emotion that was on display in Manila, and in the south, following the signing of the framework agreement was perhaps an encouraging sign that this deal will succeed where others have failed.

But it must be stressed how far there is to go before permanent peace can be achieved and the autonomous region of Bangsamoro becomes a reality.

There will be some people in the south who will try to derail the process after the signing of the agreement between the MILF and the government of the Philippines. There are other rebel groups operating there and some have complained that they were not consulted about the new agreement and therefore won't respect it.

The government says the smaller rebel groups will now be labelled lawless and will be pursued by the army and the police. Presumably in the not too distant future, they will be given assistance by their new friends, the MILF, which is the largest rebel group operating in the south.

But over the next few years, the MILF fighters will lay down their weapons in what is one of the key parts of the document.

The fighting force of at least 11,000 will be disbanded and it's believed this was one of, if not the most contentious areas during the negotiations and promises to cause more problems if the leadership of the rebel group is not strong and unified. A senior government source involved in the negotiations said the disarmament issue is the biggest sticking point going forward.

Guns have been a part of the rebels' lives for such a long time, giving them up may not be so easy.

Follow Wayne Hay on Twitter: @wayne_hay