Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations during the Security Council Meeting on Colombia

23 January 2019


Mr President,


We are honoured to have you preside over this important meeting. We are also honoured by the presence here of the Foreign Minister of Colombia, His Excellency Mr Carlos Holmes Trujillo, as well as the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, Mrs Retno Marsudi.


We further acknowledge the role of Cuba and Norway as the guarantors and facilitators of the Colombian peace process.


At the outset, South Africa extends its deepest condolences to the Government of Colombia and its people following the attack that claimed 20 lives in Bogotá last week, and injured many more. We condemn, in the strongest terms possible, this senseless violence which must not be allowed to threaten the hard-won and significant achievements of the peace process in Colombia.

Mr President,


Notwithstanding this regrettable and tragic incident, South Africa welcomes the Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Colombia, which conveys a generally positive review of progress in achieving lasting peace in the country. It also, however, notes the killing of social-leaders and human rights defenders, which is major concern and presents an ongoing challenge.


In addressing these challenges, South Africa would emphasise, based on our experience, the importance of working to expand the State’s presence throughout its territory. This is particularly necessary in areas which have been affected by conflict and vacated by former combatants. This will also help to resolve the sensitive land question and restoration of much needed basic services to all, including surrendered combatants and their family.


Mr President,


As Colombia commemorates the third anniversary of the 2016 Peace Agreement, it is important that we recognize and commend the Government of Colombia’s significant efforts in encouraging dialogue and implementation of the Peace Agreement. We take note, inter alia, of the Government’s launching in 2018 of its “Peace with legality” plan which aims to provide concrete solutions to potential obstacles to the peace process.


South Africa also expresses its full support for Colombia’s Commission on “Truth, Coexistence and Non-repetition” (Truth Commission). In South Africa, our very own “Truth and Reconciliation Commission”, as painful and imperfect as it may have ultimately been, was invaluable in allowing our people to confront our painful history, and to heal the deep wounds that had divided us.


Therefore, in order to foster healing, it is important that Colombia’s justice process, embodied in its Special Jurisdiction for Peace, receive the full support and cooperation of all parties involved. Its independence, autonomy, as well as the judgments it arrives at, also need to be fully respected.


It is further critical, as has been pointed out by the Secretary-General in his latest report, that the reintegration process in Colombia should involve efforts to empower local communities, in close collaboration with the private sector, universities and other stakeholders such as civil society organisations, women, victims of violence and ethnic peoples.

On this point, it is important to recognise the important, pioneering efforts and achievements of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia in working specifically to address youth in the peace process. As the country’s future leaders, its youth and their futures are critical to the success of the peace process. This pioneering work should serve as an important example for other peace missions.


South Africa also commends the efforts of regional bodies such as the Organisation of American States (OAS), particularly through its Mission in Support of the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP/OAS) led by Mr Roberto Menédez. We encourage greater coordination between the UN’s efforts and that of the OAS.


Mr President,


As has been mentioned, the transition that Colombia is undergoing bears many similarities with the experiences of South Africa. Following the end of Apartheid, South Africa’s fledgling democracy had to deal with similarly complex challenges, including reforming the security sector, demobilizing and reintegrating former combatants, processes related to truth and reconciliation, as well as justice.


Honourable Foreign Minister Trujillo, peace is expensive. Peace is complex. Making peace is a difficult and yet a necessary undertaking.


Patience is needed. Respect and equal treatment for all is required. Certainty about the common future must be spelt out. Justice must be applied fairly. Inter-Colombian dialogue is the way to go. Neighbours should give the Colombian people a chance to deal with the painful past. To heal. To deal with mistrust. To bond. To move together. Democracy needs compromises. Democracy needs accommodation. Work together with former combatants. Do not demonise them.


As always, South Africa remains ready and willing to share the experiences and lessons that we learned through these difficult processes, in the hope that Colombia and its people might find lasting peace and prosperity.


I thank you.




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