Thursday, January 06, 2011

Nepal: Peace process largely deadlocked as UN prepares to leave

Karin Landgren, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Nepal

UN - Just 10 days before the United Nations ends its mission to help Nepal close the book on a disastrous decade-long civil war, the peace process is largely deadlocked and predictions of its failure could become a self-fulfilling prophecy, a senior UN official warned today.

There has been little progress on the most critical issues of forming a new government and integrating 19,000 Maoist former rebels, and scant advances on a new constitution, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Representative Karin Landgren told the Security Council in her final briefing as head of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN).

The political mission was set up in 2007 after the Government and Maoists reached a peace agreement ending a war that claimed 13,000 lives.

“While Nepal’s dramatic political gains are not likely to be reversed, the risks have clearly grown,” she said. “There have at times been fears among many Nepalis over the prospect of a ‘peoples’ revolt’ which remains an explicit Maoist threat; of the president stepping in…; or of an army-backed coup. Any such measures would sorely threaten peace and Nepal’s fragile democracy.”

UNMIN is due to leave the country on 15 January, as its Security Council mandate expires then. Its activities included monitoring the management of arms and armed personnel of the Nepal and Maoist armies, while the parties themselves were to complete the reintegration and rehabilitation of the former Maoist rebels either with the Nepal army and police or in other sectors.

The arms monitoring has been “strikingly successful,” with violations the exception, but the parties have yet to agree on a monitoring mechanism to replace UNMIN when it ends its mission, Ms. Landgren said. “It is not clear what will happen after UNMIN withdraws,” she added, warning of “a legal void.”

Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal has proposed that the Nepalese army be exempted from monitoring as set out in the original agreement with UNMIN, and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) has rejected the proposals.

As for the Maoist reintegration, major issues remain unresolved, including the number to be integrated into the security forces, whether they will be integrated into the army and police or other forces and the value of the proposed rehabilitation packages, she noted.

There has been little progress on forming a new Government since Mr. Nepal resigned in June. “At issue is not merely whether a new government can be formed, but whether Nepal’s peace process can move forward without it,” she warned, citing growing differences within and mistrust between the major political parties.

“The failure of the peace process to advance has strengthened the hand of those on all sides who deride it as unproductive or far too slow,” she said, noting how close the Constituent Assembly had come to a premature end in May due to these differences, with traditional parties demanding that the UCPN-M embrace multiparty democracy and the UCPN-M perceiving that it was being deliberately marginalized.

“Now there is a real risk that the failure of the peace process will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

She urged the parties to show flexibility and compromise in charting the way forward and she praised UNMIN for performing its mandated tasks even as the process is incomplete.

“This peace process can be brought to a close in two ways: satisfactorily, through the negotiated resolution of outstanding issues, or abortively, with one or more parties reneging on their solemn commitments,” she concluded. “Setbacks and challenges are inevitable but it is in the interest of the country, the region and the international community as a whole that the peace process be maintained, respected and steered to a proper close.”