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Siddhi B. Ranjitkar: Peace Process in Nepal

Peace Process in Nepal


by Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

One year has already passed since the seven-party alliance (SPA) Government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal- Maoist (CPN-Maoist) signed the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) on November 21, 2006 but a lasting peace is nowhere to be seen yet. Kidnapping and killing of innocent people, extorting money and taking to strikes on any pretext have been continuing in Terai. The Nepali Congress (NC) and the CPN-Maoist have been a head-on collision with each other recently.

NC leaders such as Sujata Koirala, and allegedly corrupt former ministers Govinda Raj Joshi and Khum Bahadur Khadka have openly engaged in saving the monarchy. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala had a number of times said in public in the past that he was for keeping the monarchy in any form despite the ninety percent of the Nepalese people opted for removing the monarchy even by the account of some NC leaders.

The CPN-Maoist leaders have been insisting on declaring Nepal a republic before the constituent assembly (CA) polls. They have revived the people’s court, autonomous regional governments, and intensified their activities of collecting donations in the name of the Revolutionary People’s Council. In Chitwan on November 25, 2007, Maoists’ Chairman Prachanda said that the CA polls would not be possible without integrating the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into the Nepali Army. It was one of the main agenda of the peace process mentioned in the CPA.

The Article 10.1 of the CPA says, “Both the parties shall agree not to run any form of parallel mechanisms to the state or the government following the letter and the spirit of the decisions made on Nov. 08 and of the peace agreement.” It seems that both partners in the agreement do not follow this Article 10.1.

The CPA has made the provision for setting up (1) National Peace and Rehabilitation Commission to maintain peace in the society and to provide the people affected and displaced by the armed conflict with relief, and rehabilitate them (2) High-level Truth Revelation and Reconciliation Commission for finding the truth about the perpetrators of human rights abuses, and of the crime against humanity during the armed conflict, and create an environment conducive to reconciliation in the society, (3) High-level Recommendation Commission on Reengineering the State, and (4) High-Level Inquiry Commission on Disappeared Citizens.

The Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction was supposed to set up all commissions that would gear up to the peace process however, such thing could not happen yet. Minister for Peace and Reconstruction and NC leader Ram Chandra Poudel played a drama of making peace with the Madheshi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) signing a 22-point agreement with it but never implementing the agreement. The Ministry prepared a ‘Draft Bill on Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ but never bothered to incorporate the suggestions presented by the national and international agencies and did not take any initiative to present it to the Interim Legislature.

The Ministry of Home was to maintain law and order taking actions against the culprits. However, the police force failed in taking any initiative in controlling the massacre of 29 people in Gaur, Rauthat by the MPRF cadres in a dispute with the Maoists’ cadres in holding their events in the same place on March 21, 2007, and the Nepalgunj violence after the killing of a Mohit Khan – a former royal vigilante. The police personnel became the mute spectators of both the tragic incidents. Logically thinking people believed that the government headed by the NC leader Girija Prasad Koirala was deliberately creating such unwanted events for its own benefits.

The Ministry of Home headed by NC leader and Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula did not mind the ongoing lawlessness such as extorting money from the innocent people, abducting and killing innocent people, and going on strikes on any pretext conceivable. He did not bother to stop such things but blame one political party cadres or another believing that such things would benefit his party.

Finance Minister and NC leader Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat deliberately hide the budget allocated to the king and the staffs serving in the palace in the budget speech delivered in July 2007. He came out strongly against the corruption case filed by Commission on Investigation into Abuse of Authority (CIAA) against former governor of Nepal Rastra Bank, Mr. Bhattarai at the Special Court. Finance Minister Mahat even told in public that the management of Nepal Rastra Bank would be in doldrums without Mr. Bhattarai. These activities are not conducive to the peace process.

On November 24, 2007, visiting former US President Jimmy Carter stated that the postponement of the polls two times was due to the lack of implementation of comprehensive peace agreement from both the parties such as the CPN-Maoist and the government. President Carter accused the Government of Nepal of failing in implementing the agreements on providing monthly salary to Maoists' “people's liberation army” (PLA) and adequate living conditions in cantonments. The status of people disappeared during the war is still not known, and compensation for war victims’ families is long overdue, he said. President Carter also expressed regret for not establishing a National Peace and Rehabilitation Commission as mentioned in the agreement. "The exciting and innovative agreements signed with the Madheshis, indigenous people, and other marginalized groups have yet to be implemented,” he pointed out. [1]

President Carter also suggested the Government of Nepal to pay for the former Maoist combatants, now in the cantonments for a year, provide decent living conditions, and make arrangements to assist those discharged to assume normal life. He suggested the Maoists to account for the funds received for the cantonments and to immediately discharge all minors. He also asked the Maoists to return all land and property seized by them during the conflict as per the commitments they made earlier. "This commitment has not been respected and there are reports that they have recently begun seizing new land," said President Carter. He suggested that the Maoists and YCL (Young Communist League) cadres must stop activities such as violence, harassment and extortion as it was “unacceptable and was damaging the image of Maoists at home and abroad. [2]

On Wednesday, November 21, 2007, in a press statement Amnesty International (AI) stated that it is launching a 60-day program of action to hold both the Government of Nepal and the CPN-Maoist accountable for commitments made in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. AI is launching the program to mark the first anniversary of the signing of the CPA to renew the commitment to the promises of justice, security, social, cultural and economic equality and inclusion. “AI believes that without delivering on the promises of justice, security and inclusion in the CPA, there is a real danger of Nepal's recent tragic history repeating itself. Anything less would be a gross betrayal of the victims of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including hundreds of families still anxiously awaiting news of their missing relatives," the statement said. [3]

Both the Government of Nepal and the CPN-Maoist had made commitments in the peace accord that both the parties would make public the names of all the victims of enforced disappearance and abduction as well as those killed during the conflict and inform the families about what happened to their loved ones within 60 days of signing the CPA. However, none of the parties has shown any interest in investigating the crimes and punishing the perpetrators of crimes. In May 2006, the United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR) made public the authentic report on the enforced disappearance of at least 46 prisoners from Bhairab Nath battalion, Maharajgunj, Kathmandu in 2004; however, the Government of Nepal has failed to take any actions on it. [4]

On November 21, 2007, marking the first anniversary of the CPA, human rights activists expressed their serious concern over the human rights violation in Nepal even after a year since the Government of Nepal and the CPN-Maoist signed a Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA). “Both the Maoists and the government are violating the peace accord. The government has not shown any seriousness to make public the whereabouts of the disappeared citizens. Likewise, the Maoists must take the responsibility of the displacements of citizens from their villages," Dr. Gopal Krishna Siwakoti, president of INHURED international said. The failure to meet the scheduled timeframe in managing the arms of the Maoists and the Nepal Army has led to the emergence of different armed groups in the Terai," Siwakoti said. The Informal Sector Education Center (INSEC) also pointed out the government’s failure in maintaining law and order, and the Maoists continuing their illegal activities and violation of the rights of the Nepalese people. Human rights activist and conflict analyst Shovakar Budhathoki opined that the latest Terai problems were the creation of not implementing the peace agreement. He blamed the seven political parties for lacking seriousness in taking the corrective measures to take the peace process to a logical conclusion thereby giving way to anarchy across the country. “As the parties did not show their honesty to the peace agreement, most of the serious issues such as arms management, returning the seized property, problems related with locally displaced people and the agenda of disappeared people remained unresolved.” he added. [5]

On November 21, 2007, CPN-Maoist senior central member Ram Bahadur Thapa “Badal” said that there might be conspiracy to terminate the peace process by not implementing the resolutions passed by the Interim Legislature for declaring Nepal a republic and adopting fully proportional system prior to the CA polls. Foreign and royal forces have been raising voices such as reinstating the constitution of Nepal of 1990 for not letting the implementation of the House resolutions. [6]

The CPA was signed, expressing commitments to sincerely implementing various agreements and understandings including the 12-point understanding reached between the seven-party alliance and the Maoist in New Delhi, code of conduct between the government and the Maoist, competitive multiparty political system, civil freedom, human rights, complete press freedom and progressive restructure of the state. Similarly, it had announced to hold constituent assembly (CA) elections within mid June of 2007 and to begin new chapter in Nepali politics with peaceful cooperation, ending the armed rebellion started in 1996. After the signing the CPA, Prime Minister Koirala had said the Comprehensive Peace Accord had paved the way for building New Nepal; it had also given surprise to the international communities that Nepal was able to solve its problem with its own effort. On the occasion, Maoist Chairman Prachanda had also expressed his views that the continuity of the old system was broken by the CPA and it had given fullness to the efforts Nepali people had been making to make new Nepal since 1951. [7]

The signing of the CPA with Maoists on November 21, 2006, ended the decade-long insurgency and brought the Maoists into the mainstream of national politics and paved the way for the drafting of the interim constitution and culminated it into the Maoists joining the government on April 1, 2007. However, the CPN-Maoist pulled out of its ministers from the government of Nepal on September 18, 2007 on the pretext of the government not meeting their 22-point demand. Even after a year has already passed since the signing of the CPA, both the government and the Maoists have failed to act according to the letter and spirit of the CPA. [8]

One year after the comprehensive peace accord, the Maoists felt cheated by major political parties and the international community, and wanted to have a fresh start to the peace process. The postponement of the election for a CA scheduled for June 2007 peeved the Maoists. They believed that the election would have generated a strong enough political support. They also blamed India for supporting the Madheshi movement, and thus, weakening their Madhes base. A major question re-emerged was how to link the election with the peace process. The Maoists have begun to argue that the election was just a part of the peace process, and unless the peace process was secured, there was no point in holding the election. The Maoist definition of peace process appeared in their 22-point demand put forth by the fifth plenum in August 2007. [9]

On November 22, 2007, making public the progress made on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) during the one-year period, Minister for Peace and Reconstruction Ram Chandra Poudel said, "The government has been implementing the commitments made in the agreement with honesty since the beginning, but the CPN-Maoist is still carrying out anti peace activities." The government spent Rs. 2.15 billion on the management of CPN-Maoist combatants and their weapons. The government arranged the construction of seven main and 21 satellite cantonments and their infrastructure with basic facilities and disbursed salary of Rs. 3000 per month to each combatant for four months. "The army has fully abided by the peace agreement, this can be well substantiated from the fact that it has been confined within the barracks as per the agreement," Minister Poudel said. He informed that the government recently brought Nepal Trust Ordinance to use the property of late king Birendra, Queen Aishwarya and their family through it. "The government is not able to form different commissions including Truth and Reconciliation Commission and proceed their work as the CPN-Maoist has not agreed to participate in the commission," Minister Poudel said. [10]

The cabinet political committee meeting held on Wednesday, November 21, 2007 decided to instruct the concerned ministries to complete all the pending tasks concerned with the agreements signed by the Peace and Reconstruction Ministry with different agitating groups on different dates. The Ministry signed agreements with different agitating groups such as Madheshi Janaadhikar Forum, National Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (peoples), Joint Struggle Committee of Indigenous and Ethnic Communities and had forwarded the agreements to the political committee of the cabinet for endorsement and implementation. The political committee following the meeting held on Wednesday instructed the concerned Ministries to take the necessary steps toward implementing the agreements with the groups. [11]

The coalition government of the SPA headed by Girija Prasad Koirala was a failure in establishing peace not to mention a lasting peace. His ministers such as Ram Chandra Poudel, and Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat have been engaged in fueling the fire of dispute and debate rather than attempting to bring peace following conciliatory measures. Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula also has failed in maintaining law and order. He simply let the criminals continue to flog innocent people, collect donations, and abduct and kill innocent people. So, if these ministers have even a little sense of ethics and responsibility to their positions, and of keeping the prestige of their positions they needed to resign immediately from their positions paving the way for others to meet the aspirations of the Nepalese people for a lasting peace using the mandate given by them in the April Movement of 2006.

Footnotes:

[1] The Rising Nepal, November 24, 2007, “’CA election right way to republic, says Jimmy Carter 'Govt failed to improve camp conditions'”

[2] The Rising Nepal, November 25, 2007 “Mistrust behind political stalemate, says Carter”

[3] The Rising Nepal, November 22, 2007, “CPA completes one year Peace at precarious juncture: Amnesty”

[4] The Rising Nepal, November 22, 2007, “CPA completes one year Peace at precarious juncture: Amnesty”

[5] The Rising Nepal, November 22, 2007, “Violations worry activists”

[6] The Rising Nepal, November 22, 2007 “Fix process before polls: Badal”

[7] The Rising Nepal, November 22, 2007, “Comprehensive Peace Agreement marks a year”

[8] Nepalnews.com ag Nov 21 07, “First anniversary of CPA; experts stress more efforts to attain durable peace”

[9] The Himalayan Times, November 21, 2007, “Peace process in peril, polls uncertain”

[10] The Rising Nepal, November 23, 2007, “Govt to enforce peace deal, says Poudel”

[11] The Rising Nepal, November 23, 2007, “Ministries asked to implement agreements”

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