In the last two weeks or so the mood in Kathmandu has shifted palpably. The triumphant elation that dominated the first two months after Jana Andolan II (“People’s Movement 2,” the first being the violent pro-democracy protests of 1990) first gave way to stagnation, and now appears to be shifting into a sense of simmering frustration and deep foreboding.
We still have no announcement of elections for the Constituent Assembly, which will be charged with rewriting Nepal’s Constitution and determining her future course. This was the number one demand of April’s protests, and frustration with the delay is steadily mounting.
Political foot-dragging on the Constituent Assembly issue contrasts sharply with a hasty peace agreement reached between conflicting parties just over a month ago, which now appears to be creating more problems than it solves. The mess reflects the cardinal rule of old-style Nepali politics: any agreement/accord/law/policy that is hashed out by politicians on paper need not have any connection with reality.
This backdrop of democratic stalemate is punctuated by the seemingly endless squabbling between the Maoists and the Seven-Party Alliance (SPA). Everything from the details of the peace accord, to disarmament provisions, to the potential role of the UN, is being hotly contested. Indeed, it appears that the common ground that the two parties found in their opposition to the King has sadly given way to nearly insurmountable differences.
To add insult to injury, Prime Minister G.P. Koirala, one of the few politicians with any credibility in the eyes of the key players in this drama, has fallen seriously ill. While he claims to be on the mend, in the last month he has had a prostate operation and been hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat. There is a great sense of foreboding as to what may transpire if he were to leave the political scene at this extraordinarily delicate moment.
These events have made me wonder why it is that countries with the most severe obstacles to peace and development always have bad luck pile on just as an opportunity for a breakthrough presents itself. The Nepali people have worked so hard, struggled so dramatically, suffered so much, to reach this point. And now the possibility of durable peace and meaningful reform might be slipping from their hands.
Of course, I sincerely hope that I am wrong about this. But as recent developments in East Timor, Sri Lanka, and in the Palestinian Territories make clear, peace processes are long, arduous, messy, and prone to backsliding. Given the length and intensity of Nepal’s conflict, there is little reason to believe that rebuilding this country will be any less challenging.
The next few months will test the mettle of the Nepalese people, and especially the nation’s political leaders. While the resolve of the citizenry is beyond question, let us hope that key politicians will rise above past pettiness to make tough compromises and show courageous leadership. Anything less may mean disaster for this beautiful land.
Posted By Nicole Cordeau (Nepal)
Posted Jul 13th, 2006