The peace process that ended a 10-year civil war in Nepal has remained largely stalled over the past three months, with tensions and mistrust between Maoists, the Government and army threatening its very survival, according to a new United Nations report issued today. “The major disagreements that have brought the peace process close to a standstill remain unresolved, increasing the risk of its collapse,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in the report to the Security Council, referring to the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist army personnel and the democratization of the Nepal Army, the main combatants in the war, and the scope of presidential authority that replaced the monarchy.
“Positions have hardened at the opposing ends of the political spectrum, which has seriously eroded the common middle ground that had, from the outset, defined the peace process and remained its driving strength. There is a growing and worrying risk of the political discourse being dominated by extreme voices and the focus shifting away from the peaceful and democratic path,” he adds, calling on all parties to overcome their differences.
The report focuses on the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) set up at the request of the Government of Nepal in 2007 to monitor the management of arms and armed personnel of the former Royal Nepal Army and its foe, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which is now the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M). Its present mandate ends on 23 January, and Mr. Ban recommends that the Council renew it should the Government so request.
“The country is now entering a crucial period,” he writes. “The coming few months before the May 2010 date for the promulgation of a new constitution are critical for the successful conclusion of the peace process. While it is my desire to see UNMIN complete its mandated tasks and end its presence as soon as possible… withdrawing the Mission at this particular time of heightened tension would not be the wisest course.”
Citing the significant gains since the end of the war, including holding elections which resulted in a broadly representative Constituent Assembly and declaring a republic, Mr. Ban stresses that integration and rehabilitation of Maoist army personnel and democratization of the army are critical. “Regrettably, there is little progress to report on this front,” he writes.
“As the stalemate has continued, tensions have risen within and among the parties, and talks among senior leaders of the Nepali Congress, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) and UCPN-M have remained inconclusive,” he adds. “The brinkmanship and confrontation between the Maoists and the Government, accompanied by a sharp and dangerous hardening of positions, is making a negotiated solution significantly more difficult.”
He cites as violations of the peace accord the UCPN-M-led protests calling for “civilian supremacy” that disrupted daily life as well as the functioning of Government offices around the country, sharply escalating tensions over seizure of land and crops by people with the support of UCPN-M-affiliated organizations, and the repeated call for fresh recruitment for the army.
Turning to UNMIN operations, he notes that its Arms Monitoring Office continues verify compliance by the army and Maoists with restrictions on their weaponry, maintaining round-the-clock surveillance at the army weapons storage site in Kathmandu, the capital, and the weapons storage areas in the seven main Maoist cantonment sites. The Office also investigated Government allegations of misconduct by Maoist army personnel outside the cantonments.
But neither the army nor the Maoists have carried out previous recommendations to confirm the number of their respective personnel and increase their cooperation with UNMIN on the notification of troop movements, nor has there been progress on formalizing confidence-building measures related to joint humanitarian and mine action-related activities, he says.
On human rights, Mr. Ban reports no substantial progress in addressing impunity and ensuring accountability for human rights violations committed during or after the conflict, with the Government promoting to second-in-command of the army a major general who commanded a then-Royal Nepal Army brigade linked to arbitrary detention, torture and disappearances in 2003/04.
For its part, UCPN-M failed to take any action to address the alleged involvement of party members in serious crimes, both during and since the conflict, including the killings of a businessman and journalists and the bombing of a bus in 2005 that resulted in the death of 36 civilian passengers.
UNMIN has an authorized strength of 278 personnel. As of December, of 192 civilian personnel, 31 per cent were women, as were 5 of the 72 arms monitors.