Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has been named the 2016 winner of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for his "resolute efforts to end a 50-year-long civil war" in his country.
The award came despite voters' shock rejection of the terms of a historic deal he reached last month with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) chief Rodrigo Londono, alias Timoleon "Timochenko" Jimenez, after nearly four years of talks.
"The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2016 to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for his resolute efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year-long civil war to an end," said committee chairwoman Kaci Kullmann Five.
"There is a real danger that the peace process will come to a halt and that civil war will flare up again. This makes it even more important that the parties, headed by President Santos and FARC guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londono, continue to respect the ceasefire," she said.
Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons, reporting from London, said the result was "something of a surprise" recent referendum's outcome. On Sunday, slightly more than 50 percent of voters simply ticked "no" on their ballots which asked whether they supported the deal signedrecently by Santos.
"It's been decided by the judges that he has done a remarkable job in showing some light at the end of a long, very bloody, awful tunnel with this 52-year conflict with the leftist rebels of FARC," said Simmons.
'A welcome shock'
Reporting from Colombia's Bogota, Al Jazeera's Alessandro Rampietti said the decision to award Santos would come as a shocking but welcome result.
"I don't think Colombians would have accepted" if the prize was jointly awarded to FARC rebels given the referendum result, Rampietti added.
"It works as an encouragement for peace ... to encourage the entire process," Rampietti said.
Santos won in a competitive year, with a record 376 candidates vying for the award.
Of the candidates, 228 were individuals and 148 were organisations. The previous record was set in 2014, with 278 nominations.
Santos beat competition from individuals and groups including: Pope Francis; The Syrian White Helmets; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; doctor Denis Mukwege, Jean Nacatche Banyere, Jeannette Kahindo Bindu - a DRC group working with survivors of sexual violence; Russian activist Svetlana Gannushkina; the people who negotiated the Iranian nuclear deal; whistleblower Edward Snowden; and Greek islanders who work to help refugees when they arrive from perilous journeys across the Mediterranean.
"I think it's interesting that the committee has once again concentrated on a big leader. It was President Santos, not everybody involved in peace, that was awarded," Mike Harris, head of 89up - an agency that advises NGOs, told Al Jazeera.
The US State Department considers FARC as a foreign "terrorist" organisation.
"My personal favourite was The White Helmets, a grassroots group in Syria who are doing volunteer action on the ground in rebel-held areas," added Harris.
Underlining the difficulty of predicting the winner, last year's prize went to four Tunisian groups who were instrumental in the country's transition to democracy - none of whom had been mentioned in any of the pre-announcement speculation.
Santos joins a list of 129 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates including US President Theodore Roosevelt; three-time recipient International Committee of the Red Cross; US civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr; South African President Nelson Mandela and Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman.
The prize was first awarded in 1901.
|From left: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende, Cuban President Raul Castro, Argentina President Mauricio Macri and Chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) Rodrigo Londono Echeverri, alias Timochenko [EPA]|
Source: Al Jazeera News And Agencies