[Marxism] Nepal: Peace Pact Signed

Sayan Bhattacharyya ok.president+marxmail at gmail.com
Tue Nov 21 22:23:18 MST 2006


International Herald Tribune

Nepal government, rebels sign peace deal to end
decade-long conflict

The Associated Press

Nepal's government and communist rebels have signed a
peace deal, formally ending a 10-year insurgency that
left 13,000 people dead, and paving the way for the
one-time guerrillas to join an interim government.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Maoist rebel
leader Prachanda signed the accord at a Katmandu
convention hall packed with cheering officials,
dignitaries and foreign diplomats.

The agreement came after months of negotiations that
centered on how to disarm the insurgents and bring
them into the government, which they helped bring to
power by backing mass protests in April against the
royal dictatorship of King Gyanendra.

"This ends the more than one decade of civil war in
the country," Prachanda, who goes by a single name,
declared after inking the deal. "We will now turn to a
campaign of peace and building a new Nepal."

During the war, the Maoists took control of wide
swaths of this Himalayan country best known as a
magnet for Western hippies in search of Eastern
spirituality and mountain climbers looking to scale
peaks — including the world's highest, Mount Everest.

The rebels built schools, set about breaking down
Hindu caste barriers and aided poor farmers, many of
whom still live in near-feudal conditions.

But the Maoists were also know for their rigid
communist orthodoxy and a puritanical streak, and for
murderously enforcing their will on opponents. What
influence the new government will have in areas they
still control remains to be seen.

But on Tuesday, the focus was on cementing a lasting

The deal "has opened the door for a permanent peace,
and Nepal has entered a new era," Koirala said.

More than 13,000 people were killed before a
cease-fire was declared in April following the weeks
of mass pro-democracy protests that forced Gyanendra
to restore Parliament, which he had usurped 14 months

For those displaced by the war, like Sangita Tamang, a
domestic servant from eastern Nepal who fled a few
years ago to Katmandu, the accord brought hope for a
fresh start.

"Finally we can return to our villages and see our
family and home," she said.

For those who took part in the protests, the deal
reaffirmed the power of the people in a country that
first experimented with democracy as recently as 1991.

"This day is why tens of thousands of Nepalese took to
the streets earlier this year," said Prabesh Gurung, a
college student.

The accord came a day after a government commission
blamed Gyanendra for the brutal crackdown on the April
protests that left 19 people dead, and recommended he
be punished.

The rebels agreed on Nov. 8 to confine their fighters
to seven camps and lock up their weapons under U.N.

Under Tuesday's deal, the rebels are to join the
interim parliament by Nov. 26 and will get 73 of the
chamber's 330 seats. Koirala's Nepali Congress will
remain the biggest party with 85 seats, and the
Maoists will share second place with Communist Party
of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist). The rest of the
seats will be held by other smaller parties.

The rebels' large number of seats is sure to give them
a significant role in a new interim government, which
is to be in place by Dec. 1. Officials were still
working out the details of how the administration
would be set up.

Perhaps more importantly, the rebels will get to play
a major part in deciding how and when to elect a
constituent assembly that is to rewrite the
constitution and decide on the monarchy's fate.

The assembly was a key demand of the protesters.
Centrist parties favor a constitution that preserves
the monarchy in a ceremonial role, while the Maoist
rebels want the crown abolished.

Tuesday's deal, bringing the staunchly anti-royalist
rebels into the government, is an ominous portent for
Nepal's centuries-old monarchy, the world's last Hindu

That a party so thoroughly dedicated to eliminating
the monarchy is now set to play a large role in the
interim government is a major departure from Nepal's
tradition, which holds that kings from the Shah
dynasty are reincarnations of the Hindu god Vishnu.

Gyanendra seized power in February 2005, saying he
would bring order to a chaotic and corrupt political
scene and quell the Maoist insurgency.

Since restoring Parliament, Gyanendra has been
stripped of his powers, command over the army and his
immunity from prosecution.

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