Another step on Nepal’s long march to peace.

In between 1996 and 2006 Nepal was caught in a civil war. The Maoists euphemistically named it the Peoples War. It was a medium scale civil war which started with the aim to overthrow the Nepal monarchy. It was started and led by Maoist insurgents and forces within Nepal. When unexpectedly the royal family assassination took place in 2001 (many blame the former crown prince but the cause of the event was never completely unveiled) the country was brought into further turmoil. It ended with a peace accord on November 21, 2006. The then king abdicated and Nepal became a federal republic. A democratic republic also as a parliament was instated and efforts started to draft a new constitution. In 2012 the country still doesn’t have a completed draft for the new constitution let alone an installed one. It still lives under parliamentary supported government guided regime and is still in the process of becoming a peaceful democratic country. The good thing is that Nepal has been able to rebuild society into a more open and democratic one and many Nepalis are actively involved in constructing their nation.

Maoist forces in training (photo courtesy of Khairul Today)

Still, a lot of problems, challenges if you will, exist. Crime rate is high especially concerning trafficking of women and children, drugs trafficking and domestic and gender based violence. The Maoist forces have still not completely integrated in the Nepal society and the level op corruption although being the glue in society is very high. Nepal is for all intents and purposes a very complicated country. Poverty is all around but at the same time Nepal has become one of the most attractive tourist countries in South Asia. After all, Chomolungma (‘mother of the universe’ as the Tibetan’s call her) is overlooking the country and with the name Mount Everest it attracts large number of western tourists to the country. And because of that attention and the mystification of the former Hindu kingdom many westerners are confronted with the vast amount of problems that Nepali society faces. Resulting in an extreme large number of NGO’s working in the country with volunters from all over the globe.

What’s lacking is a strong connection on political level with the international community. Reasons for that being that the international community is pre occupied with Africa and the Middle East and everything in the Himalayas seem to be under control. But is everything under control?

Nepal is walking the tightrope. Just today the Nepali army finally took over the maoist army camps which is a major step towards lasting peace. The Maoist are a force to reckon with. They have a formal position in Nepal’s parliament, just as the other communist parties have. The current governent after all is a Marxist/Leninist led government. The Congress Party with it’s traditional India link is currently not in the government seat but has been there for long. None of the parties have a majority. New elections are still not there because there is no new constitution as the drafting process is continuously sabotaged by some of the political parties involved and because of that it is unclear how the democratization and constitutional processes in the country will evolve in the coming years. Which is a pitty as they started off so well in 2006. The drafting process of the new constitution involves a couple of revolutionary novelties in South Asian politics and rule, like the formal dismissal of the caste system that has held the whole population captive for hundreds of years, the introduction of third gender as a legal and equal foundation for lesbians, gays and transgenders and the rights to education and health care for all citizens. Those are few of the amazing changes that this newly drafted constitution will bring to beautiful Nepal. When it gets there and if it gets there.

In the meanwhile the world economic crisis has hit the country hard. Energy is problematic as 100% of the oil reserves are managed by India and the production of electricity is way below the needs of the country. These two resulting in a hampering of economic activitities to an unacceptable level and gross unrest under the Nepali population. This, in combination with strong corruption and a weak and instabel government is continuously leading to bandhas (strikes) in the country. Especially in the densily populated and economic all important south of Nepal. The number of undisturbed working days available to build the economy is terrifying low. And then there still is that silent force of Maoist forces that has its position and power in the country and still has the risk of resurrecting itself if the political situation becomes undesirable for them. They have laid heir weapons down and are being integrated in the Nepal armed forces, their camps are now being taken over and at Thribuvan Airport there now is one checkpoint and not two (one of which was a seperate Maoist checkpoint). Their visible role in everyday life is decreasing fast and the Maoist veterans are slowly becoming part of the greater Nepal society. At least, that’s how it seems. But there are still political killings in the country and press freedom is threatened by continuous attacks on journalist. The government, being not very strong, is unable to dismantle the Maoist forces as they are in fact part of the current political system. And maybe they shouldn’t even try.

The good news is that today the Maoist army camps are no longer Maoist army camp but army camps from the Nepal army. That at least reduces the number of different armed forces in the country. The bad thing is that it didn’t happen voluntary but because of unrest in the camps making the handover of the camps two days earlier than planned to prevent outbreaks of violence.

Still, it’s a small but important step on Nepal’s log march to peace.

Alice Verheij © 2012

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