10 November 2008 Cooperation among Nepal’s key parties remains “critical” to the success of the peace process, which has made important progress but still faces difficult issues such as the integration of the former Maoist combatants, the top United Nations envoy to the country said today.
The unresolved issue of combatants still remains “very important and quite difficult” for the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), although its mandate is even more limited following Constituent Assembly elections, Special Representative in Nepal Ian Martin told a news conference in New York.
The peace agreement, which ended a decade-long civil war between Maoists and the then-government that claimed an estimated 13,000 lives, provides for a committee of all major political parties, including the Nepali Congress which went into opposition after the formation of the Maoist-led Government, to integrate and rehabilitate Maoist army combatants.
“The Government has announced the establishment of the special committee and indeed the Secretary-General welcomed that during his visit [earlier this month], but there is still a negotiation going on regarding both its composition and its terms of reference before the Nepali Congress is willing to nominate representation to participate,” Mr. Martin said.
Mr. Martin, who briefed the Security Council on Friday, said the country is going through “a very profound transformation” from what he experienced in 2005, when he arrived to the UN human rights office in Nepal at a time when armed conflict raged, the then king exercised executive authority and democratic rights were under attack.
“It is by any standards extraordinary that now only a little over three years later Nepal has taken decisions that have made it a republic,” he added, noting that it had declared itself a federal democratic republic but still had to draw up a new constitution to give reality to the transition to federalism. “That’s a difficult issue because different groups mean different things [when they speak of federalism],” he said.
“One of the most remarkable aspects of the transformation has been the coming to the fore of ethnic groups that have traditionally been marginalized and now for the first time are much more strongly represented in a uniquely inclusive constituent assembly.” He warned that such a profound transformation “should lead us to expect that it will have difficulties along the way.”
Mr. Martin stressed that the issue of former combatants would not be easy. “There are widely differing views among the political parties and sometimes within them regarding the extent to which Maoist army combatants should or should not be integrated into the State army and in what manner,” he said.
He cited other problems, such as the weak implementation of other peace process commitments which remain at issue among the parties and also commissions that have yet to be formed.
“Commitments to compensation to victims of the conflict, to investigations into the fate of those who disappeared, to the return of displaced persons and property seized during the conflict, to ensuring that the youth groups of political parties remain within the law – all of these need to move beyond rhetoric into practical measures to put them into effect,” he said.
Mr. Martin noted that the Security Council had itself called for the political parties to cooperate “in a spirit of compromise” to complete the peace process.
The Secretary-General noted that in his meetings with Mr. Ban in Nepal, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal expressed his view that a UN presence in Maoist army cantonments would remain necessary pending integration and rehabilitation.
But, given that “even under the most optimistic assumptions” that process will not be completed by the time UNMIN’s current mandate expires at the end of January, Mr. Martin said the Secretary-General had urged that the Government come forward very soon with any request for an extension.
“The Secretary-General and we all share the desire of the Council to bring UNMIN’s mandate to completion as soon as possible, to draw down further and close the mission, but of course in a manner that does not jeopardize the peace process,” he said.
News Tracker: past stories on this issue