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Kamala Sarup: UN To Mediate The Conflict In Nepal

UN To Mediate The Conflict In Nepal


By Kamala Sarup

Speaking to this scribe at New Jersey, The Peace Media Research Center's advisor Dr. Alok K. Bohara, said:

"There are three areas: Providing technical assistance: The warring sides still have to do all the talking and offer compromises, but a team of mediation experts can handle all logistics. They can create an atmosphere of dialogue, organize news releases, and help diffuse tensions, and also provide some parameters.

"Monitor elections: There is no alternative to elections and it must be free and fair. Even if we have an all-party government, this must be our priority. The international community can provide help to monitor such elections. Post-conflict reconstruction: The international community can create a trust fund to address the needs of the people, especially those who are directly affected by the conflict. Kul C Gautam's effort in this area has been commendable, and he could be a good resource person. The most hard-hit areas like Rolpa, Rukum, and Salyan and others such as Jajarkot and Jumla must get immediate attentions: job training, schools, health posts, feeder roads, agriculture extension programs, just to name a few.

"The UN can play a similar role as I outlined above. They also can put pressure on the King to reconcile with the political parties. These two forces must come together to address the Maoist problem collectively. An all-party government is a good start.

"The neighbors like India and China and other forces such as the US and the UK should welcome the help of the UN and should not view this as an intervention. The Maoist insurgency has cost many lives and the economy of a tiny country like Nepal is in shamble. The UN's role in the reconstruction is vital and it can also provide a neutral buffer. In fact, any involvement of the other countries can be very tricky. It is quite sad to see a country like India, such a big power in the region, not welcoming the UN to mediate the conflict in Nepal".

The Peace Media Research Center is a media watch group for conflict resolution. It's mission is to disseminating the body of knowledge regarding peace through research and education.

The Media Research Program will develop and disseminate valuable knowledge on the prevention, and peaceful resolution of conflictsthrough meetings, written articles and other forms of research.

Dr. Alok K. Bohara further said:

"The situation is very dangerous and sad in Nepal. Children and other citizens are being kidnapped in droves in remote places by the Maoists; they are overrunning security posts killing dozens; raising taxes openly all across the rural areas; there are cases of rights abuses by the security forces, and here we have our monarch and his hand-picked government focused on arresting professionals, elected parliamentarians, students, and housewives for violating rally related ordinances. You have a picture of a beheaded Nepali in the street of Beni (an area recently attacked by the Maoists), and then you have a woman bleeding from the policeman's stick in the capital.

"Something is wrong with this picture! Misplaced priorities, perhaps, and the King must pay attention to this. Assistant Secretary Christian Rocca's latest speech has also urged the King to form an all-party government. Perhaps the King has been advised not to fight two battles at the same time. Nevertheless, the current demonstrations on the street show that the political forces are serious about their liberty and political rights".

Dr. Alok K. Bohara has published close to 60 peer-reviewed articles in well-known professional journals; has mentored and produced several PhD students; involved in several National Science Foundation grants; has taken on several university-wide assignments; and has published several opinion pieces in Kathmandu based newspapers further added:

"I believe in protecting and promoting the views of the ethnic and political minorities, and if that's what they are worried about then there are ways to achieve them. One does not need to go on a scorch-earth policy of killing, kidnapping, and infrastructure destruction.

"Forming of regional governments and some form of proportional representation system of election can be made a part of the negotiation strategy. They can demand regional universities and perhaps insist on sharing the revenue from the hydro resources with the central government. A 50/50 formula between the regions and the center can be a devolutionary mechanism. Other ideas could include targeted programs, such as, temporary quota system in education and jobs and so on.

"On the other hand, if they really want the Constituency Assembly as a single most goal, then they must be ready to renounce armed struggle, surrender arms to the UN (e.g.,) and embrace elections run by a neutral party (an all-party government perhaps). But all that may be part of a negotiation. They should also listen to the political parties and see what their demands are. You cannot just scrap the hard-fought democracy and a constitution for some unknown form of system they refer to vaguely as people's democracy".

"The NRNs can provide moral support and perhaps add to the noise, but the main thrust must come from the forces in Nepal. The Nepali Diaspora including the NRN can be very useful in drawing attention. For example, this petition drive has been picked up by the National Public Radio station (Chicago), and they have provided a link on their web.

"The congressmen from the area can be made aware of such events through these types of channels. With the growing interest of the US government, it becomes important to educate the US policymakers about the situation in Nepal. The group like the NRN can be that vehicle. The current petition is an excellent example of their collective effort".He said. Dr. Bohara has given his level best to write about constitutional reforms, corruption, public opinion, devolution, liberal democracy, conflict, and higher education. He also went to Montreal to present a paper last month on the state versus the Maoist conflict.

On a different note, currently he is trying to establish a research agenda at the University of New Mexico (Department of Economics) on issues related to Nepal: women's empowerment and its effect on education and health status, conflict and its consequences, and social capital and environmental degradation, technological adoption, SAFTA and its implication, and the GIS methodology and its application and the list goes on.

"They are the warring factions with guns and there is very little trust between the two. The atmosphere of understanding will take root when these parties sit down for a dialogue. That's why a third party intervention by an entity like the UN is so essential to provide a buffer zone between the two. Our petition urges all the political forces in Nepal to use the help of UN.

Many democracies around the world have taken years to mature, and we are going through a similar process. Our political leaders could have done the same. Instead, our political process was very unstable during the last 12 years, and people were crying for good governance. Twelve prime ministers in as many years and the politicization of our institutions did not help the situation. I hope we learned the lesson here. A prolonged conflict is not in the best interest of anyone. The geo-political reality will not allow a one-party communist state in Nepal, and going back to an autocratic type party-less system is only a dream. A multi-party system in the form of liberal democracy is the answer. All the protagonists have something to gain by coming together".

Dr. Alok K. Bohara, currently a tenured full professor of economics, Department of Economics, University of New Mexico since 1987 further said:

"For now, the ball is in King's court. The King must return the favor to the Nepali people by handing back the power to the elected representatives, and he must show his flexibility on some key constitutional issues such as, ensuring the sovereignty of the parliament and relinquishing the control of the Army to the civilian authority. An all-party government must also show its willingness to negotiate and offer some compromises.

"At least not yet, but it is dangerously getting close to being one. In fact, Nepal is a confused state. After much struggle, Nepal became a democratic country, and the people were overjoyed with hopes and high expectations. Yet at the same time we "allowed" an insurgency to breed and get out of control. Instead of pointing fingers, however, we need to work towards creating a set of mechanisms to prevent it from happening again. We must put in place some constitutional reforms. The foremost is the creation of an all-party government, and such interim government must be led by the major parties".

Dr. Bohara also spoke about a media watch said: "It is a noble cause especially during the time of this crisis. A media watch group is needed to monitor the progress in Nepal and your endeavour will help this effort".

The Peace Research Center is founded with a strong belief to educate people on conflict resolution through innovative research, dissemination of information and negotiable agreement. Some of the main focus of the center has been on disarmament, conflict resolution, peace and crises.

The Peace Media Research Center will conduct policy-oriented activities and engages in the search for solutions in cases of actual or potential violent conflict. The Peace Research Center calls upon Media to be fair, accurate and must present all points of view. . It will also organize interactions, talks, seminars and conferences on conflict resolution and related issues.

*************

(Kamala Sarup is a Co-Ordinator of a media watch group - The Peace Media Research Center - and can be reached at peacemedia@gmail.com )


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