NEPAL: Time running out for peace process
More than 12,000 people lost their lives in the decade-long conflict
KATHMANDU, 1 February 2010 (IRIN) - Nepalese political parties and the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN
) need to work harder on the ongoing peace process, experts say.
"The political parties and UNMIN have a very tight deadline," Rhoderick Chalmers, senior analyst and South Asia deputy project director of the International Crisis Group, told IRIN in Kathmandu.
“They need to work more pro-actively… The peace process is being delayed,” Mohan Manandhar, a local analyst and senior adviser to the independent Kathmandu-based Organization Development Centre (ODC
Established as a special political mission in 2007 to support the peace process in Nepal, UNMIN’s mandate includes the monitoring of the management of arms and armed personnel of the Nepal Army and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN-M), which is now the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) and currently the main opposition party.
On 22 January, the UN Security Council extended UNMIN’s mandate for another four months, but it will conclude in May, at the same time as the interim constitution expires, leaving political parties little time to draft a new constitution.
More than three years have passed since the Maoists signed a peace deal with Nepal’s multiparty government in 2006, ending a bloody decade-long conflict which claimed the lives of more than 12,000.
Although some level of dialogue and communication between the major parties has been maintained, to date there has been no agreement on critical issues, including the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist army personnel, the democratization of the Nepal Army and the scope of presidential authority, says the latest report of the UN Secretary General
|UNMIN was given a limited mandate - a focused mission of limited duration. `Go in, do a particular task and leave’ was the idea. It didn’t turn out to be as simple a task as that.
“The tensions, deep differences and mistrust among the parties… have persisted,” the report said.
But while civilians and analysts blame politicians for the delays, politicians prefer to point the finger at UNMIN.
“Although UNMIN’s role is still very important in the current peace process, unfortunately, it has failed to play its part as we had expected,” Prakash Jwala, politburo member and senior leader of the United Marxist Leninist (UML), the largest party in the country’s 22-party coalition government, said.
“We’ve seen the Maoists walking out of the cantonments with their guns. The soldiers were also involved in criminal activities, but UNMIN seemed less critical about this,” said Ramesh Lekhak, a senior leader and central member of the Nepali Congress (NC), another major party.
Meanwhile, Maoist leaders say the most critical issue - the integration and future of the former Maoist army - remains unresolved.
“UNMIN has very little time. Who will mediate if it leaves without resolving this most important part of the peace process?” Lekhraj Bhatt, a senior UCPN-M leader, warned.
Photo: Naresh Newar/IRIN
|There are misunderstandings about the limits of UNMIN's monitoring role, says UNMIN chief Karin Landgren
Bhatt is concerned that the Nepal Army and the Ministry of Defence are already opposing the Security Sector Reform (SSR), which was supposed to reform and democratize the current Nepal Army, formerly known as Royal Nepal Army (RNA).
According to the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA), the SSR is the core element of the CPA and Maoists want the two armies to be united to form a new national army.
“Unless this happens, the peace process would remain incomplete and UNMIN’s role will also be half accomplished,” Bhatt said.
But despite the criticism, UNMIN says much of the process lies in the hands of the Nepalese themselves.
“We constantly face expectations that we should do more to support the process overall but this is a Nepali-driven peace process. We support that process and encourage it," Karin Landgren, representative of the UN Secretary-General to Nepal and head of UNMIN, told IRIN.
"UNMIN was given a limited mandate - a focused mission of limited duration. `Go in, do a particular task and leave’ was the idea. It didn’t turn out to be as simple a task as that,” she said.
“There is a tendency, whenever someone is outside a cantonment to say: How did UNMIN let that happen? But UNMIN is not enforcing the movement of the Maoists or controlling them. All these arrangements depend on a high degree of trust between the parties," she said, pointing out that UNMIN had a limited monitoring role.
In the absence of a final plan for the rehabilitation and reintegration of Maoist soldiers, it is very hard for UNMIN to work out how it is going to have an orderly exit, she explained.
“What is most urgent for us is that parties get on with the plan, share it with us, and then we look at where are the points - where are the benchmarks - that really enable us to say that we can now draw down.”