The conflict in Nepal seems to have hit a roadblock. But I suppose the road was never going to be easy.
The Maoists have been given provisions to disarm by the government, which threatens to stalemate the talks. These provisions to give up their arms were not outlined in the original twelve-point agreement between the Seven Party Alliance and the Maoists. Additionally, they were not part of the new eight-point agreement between the Parties and the Maoists. However, the request for UN assistance in managing Maoist arms was in the letter sent by Prime Minister Girija Koirala to UN General Secretary Kofi Annan.
This letter has become a sticking point between the government and the Maoists. It has basically given the Maoists reason to stall. Both sides have a deep suspicion of the other – and for good reason, I suppose. The Maoists have continued to abduct and extort, and the government hasn’t been completely inclusive of the Maoists (as evidenced by the letter to the UN). The Maoists stress that there needs to be major changes to the Nepalese Army – including sacking the generals responsible for suppressing April’s Jana Andolan.
The government argues that they want to start the process of demilitarization, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR). They threaten that they will not make an interim government without it. The experts on DDR are split between whether decommissioning should start before or after finalization of peace talks.
The decommissioning process, however, is likely to not be an easy or quick endeavor. In Northern Ireland, the decommissioning of arms of paramilitaries has been a key issue in the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. When I was there in 2001, this was the main topic of discussion. The main Unionist party refused to sit with Sinn Fein, which has links to the IRA, until the paramilitaries began to hand over their weapons. As a show of good faith to the peace process, the IRA weapons were “put beyond use” – as in, they were rolled over by bulldozers or cemented over. Five years later, the Independent Monitoring Committee, in charge of managing the ceasefire, stated they had reports that not all IRA weapons and ammunition had been handed over for decommissioning. Thus the battle continues.
Taking the example of Northern Ireland, it’s easy to see how the decommissioning process can produce additional hurdles in the peace process. As elections for the constituent assembly is set to begin within a year, both sides want to assure that they will be free of intimidation. In the current state of the talks though, loss of momentum can prove to be costly.
This is not to say that Maoists should keep their weapons forever. However, considering how far things have come now, each decision made must stand the test of durability. The addition of another condition for either side may not be particularly useful or practical.
Posted By Lori Tornoe Mizuno (Nepal)
Posted Jul 24th, 2006