Nepal: US Official Urges End To Political Violence
U.S. Official Urges Nepalese Leaders to End Political Violence
Washington -- As Nepal's leaders continue to work out their political power-sharing following the April elections for the country's Constituent Assembly, the United States seeks an end to political violence and the opportunity to continue helping Nepal face its long-term challenges.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Eric Feigenbaum met with Nepalese leaders in June to discuss Nepal's political process, U.S. concerns over violence and the role the international community can play as the country seeks stability, democracy and economic improvement.
Describing his trip June 18 in Washington at the U.S. Institute of Peace, Feigenbaum said he had met with many political and civil leaders, including Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) leaders. The party won the majority of Constituent Assembly seats April 10. (See "Maoist Rule in Nepal Marks Potential Turning Point for Group.")
He said he relayed the same message to all his Nepalese interlocutors: "On the political process, we think April 10 is a very meaningful day in the history of this country. Something happened that day, and so, on the first instance, we congratulate the people of Nepal on their achievement of holding that election."
But, he added, "The point isn't just to look at April 10. The question is what happens now."
Nepal's departing prime minister resigned June 26, paving the way for a coalition government led by the Maoists.Nepal faces many challenges, and Nepalese now are focused on issues of immediate concern, such as forming the new government, he said. At some point, the debate among the political parties on how to share power will come to an end and the real business of governing the country will begin, he added. Long-term challenges such as fuel supply and commodity shortages, reducing endemic poverty and development concerns will need to be addressed along with the Constituent Assembly's drafting a new constitution, Feigenbaum said.
"Whatever party Nepalese politicians come from, the expectations of their constituents are very high that they'll get down to the business of governing the country, and how they govern the country, that's going to be the interesting question," Feigenbaum said, adding the United States wants to help the country as it faces these challenges.
The Bush administration has conducted a "very substantial, multidimensional" assistance program in Nepal, ranging from economic aid to programs supporting democracy and government institutions, security, health and education.
"We've also taken a particular interest in the peace process and the democratization process," he said, and participated in the April 10 election by supporting and training the election commission, providing ballots and other forms of assistance.
But, the State Department official said, politically motivated violence is continuing. "I have to say, candidly, we're very very concerned about the level of violence in this country." That violence now seems focused on small-scale political attacks, he said.
Feigenbaum said he had spoken with Maoist leaders about the violence in Nepal, but "it's not just a message for the Maoists." Due to their activities over the years, the Maoists are designated as terrorists on two State Department lists. That designation bars its members or associates from entering the United States.
Much good will has been built up between Americans and Nepalese over the 60 years of diplomatic relations, exchanges, tourism and other interactions between the two peoples, he said.
"We take an interest in a stable, democratic and prospering Nepal. That's our basic interest and it hasn't changed, election or no election."