Colombia: Working day and night to finish a camp where the UN mission will verify the laying down of arms

La Pradera, Putumayo, 23 January, 2017 – FARC-EP women and men have been working hand-in-hand with Government engineers and civilian workers in La Pradera department of Putumayo in southern Colombia to finish camps where the group will live while they transition to civilian life—and where the UN Mission will verify the laying down of arms.

Construction materials arrive in heavy trucks through dirt roads and using ferries to cross the Putumayo river in this remote zone in the Amazon Region.

The Government of Colombia, in charge of the logistics around the camps, is training FARC-EP members to build common areas, communal kitchen, bathrooms, showers and accommodations for roughly 400 FARC-EP women and men who have arrived two weeks ago to La Pradera Zone in the hot, humid and nature-rich Amazon area.

“I feel hopeful that there’s a new chapter for us around the corner, in which words will be Colombians’ only weapons,“ said 19-year-old Alex, FARC-EP member. “They have just put the lights around the sites so workers are literally working day and night to finish our camp.”

President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia visited this FARC-EP camp on 20 February and greeted unarmed FARC-EP men and women. About 500 metres away from the camp, at the local site of the tripartite ceasefire Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MVM)—where members from the Government, FARC-EP and UN Mission work and live together— the President toured the premises and greeted MVM members, also meeting with top UN officials in Colombia.

“This weekend we witnessed something historic,” President Santos said, referring to the arrival on Saturday 18 February of over 6900 FARC-EP members concentrated in 26 zones where they will lay down arms and transition to civilian, social and political life. “I’m here to witness the Government’s commitments to advance the logistics around these zones so that all the process, with the United Nations and the FARC-EP can forward on with no obstacles.”

The Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) and UN Mission Chief Jean Arnault joined a Government and FARC-EP meeting with the President to assess logistical advances and learn about social projects for the camps and neighboring communities.

“With this phase over, the next step is the laying down of arms and also all the activities that will enable this process to finalize 180 days after the Final Peace Agreement came into force on 1 December 2016,” the SRSG told journalists.

“Putting an end to an armed conflict doesn’t only entail the camps’ logistics, but also a series of matters regarding the physical, judicial and socio-economic security of the group that is demobilizing,” Arnault added, reiterating the UN Mission’s continued determination to verify the parties’ commitments regarding the ceasefire and the laying down of arms.

Photos of the Camp: