Truth and amnesty are essential to achieve peace in Colombia, South Africa’s ex-president Frederik de Klerk said Wednesday.
The former South African leader visited Colombia’s capital Bogota to share his experiences of his country’s ending of apartheid and the lifting of the ban on former resistance groups like the ANC (African National Congress) that are now political parties.
During the negotiations between De Klerk’s government and the ANC in 1990, a “commission of truth” was set up to clarify crimes and human rights abuses committed by all sides. Amnesty was given to all of those who confessed their crimes in front of the commission.
“What we did was to make sure that only persons who had committed politically motivated crimes were given the benefits of this amnesty,” the former president of South Africa said.
Although De Klerk saw flaws in this approach, he still considered it a “concession I, as president, had to secure a lasting peace.”
Speaking about the ongoing armed conflict in Colombia, de Klerk said tensions between those for and those against peace talks could be resolved by a popular vote.
“In a democratic system, the important thing is what the majority of the population decides…at the end of the [South African] process, when there were doubts about me having enough democratic support for the reforms which were being implemented, there was a referendum…which gave us green light with 70% of the population approving it.”
The former president highlighted the role of former ANC activists in present-day South Africa. Despite being classified as a banned terrorist organization between 1960 and 1990, the organization’s members were now “fighters for peace, they are in Parliament, have ministerial posts and form part of the government cabinet.”
According to de Klerk, “in cases where there is minority opposition, [they] will have to accept what the majority decides, because this is what democracy is about…the opposition can not be allowed to stop the necessary [steps] towards achieving peace.”
The ex-mandatory and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize said he was hopeful about peace in Colombia.
Government negotiators and representatives from the FARC rebel group are currently seated in Havana, Cuba, to put an end to nearly half a century of armed conflict.
- Verdad y perdón, fundamentos para la construcción de la paz (Vanguardia Liberal)