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No peace dividend

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

Then-Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and rebel leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal signing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Kathmandu on 21 November 2006.

As Nepal marks the tenth anniversary of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that formally ended the decade-long Maoist war, the peace process may not be as fragile as feared before, but is far from complete.

When Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and the rebel leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) signed the CPA on 21 November 2006, it fuelled hope for peace and prosperity among Nepalis exhausted by the decade-long war in which 17,000 people were killed.

Dahal is now Prime Minister for a second time, and said this week that the first 10 years of the peace process were “encouraging” as integration of ex-combatants into the army, promulgation of the constitution through an elected assembly and declaration of a republic became possible in this period. He also claimed that Nepal’s peace process moved relatively faster than in many other countries.

Political analysts agree that Nepal’s peace process has achieved major milestones in the last decade, and is unlikely to unravel. After all, Dahal is in a coalition with his erstwhile mortal enemy, Sher Bahadur Deuba of the Nepali Congress as his partner. Particularly after the promulgation of the new Constitution, the probability of former rebels deviating from the political mainstream is slim.

But a section of former rebels led by Netra Bikram Chanda is threatening to take up arms again. “The relevance of the CPA expired long ago, when the first Constituent Assembly was dissolved,” said Guna Raj Lohani of the Chanda-led Maoist faction. “The country is now regressing, and we need a sustained struggle against this parliamentary system. If the state suppresses us, we are prepared to retaliate.”

Unlike the Chand Maoists, Madhesi parties have not totally rejected the constitution, but they want it to be amended so they can have greater representation in Parliament and other state organs. They are now obstructing the restructuring of local bodies and have warned of resurgence of extremist outfits in the Tarai if their grievances are not addressed. This raises the spectre of the Maoist class war being replaced with sectarian or ethnic conflict.

Transitional justice – an important component of the peace process – is still elusive. Nearly a decade after the signing of the CPA, the government finally formed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission for the Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP). But these transitional justice mechanisms lack resources and strong mandates. Conflict victims have also questioned the process and legitimacy of these commissions.

“It is true that several milestones have been achieved in the last 10 years, but they mean nothing to us,” said Bhagi Ram Chaudhary of the National Network of Families of Disappeared and Missing Nepal. “For us, the peace process has not even started.”

When the CPA was signed, the political leadership described it as the onset of an era of prosperity. But economic growth rate has been disappointing with not much investment in manufacturing sector.

The number of able-bodied Nepalis migrating out of the country surged during the conflict, and was expected to go down after the ceasefire. But that did not happen: over 3.5 million Nepalis have gone abroad to work abroad in the last 10 years, up from 758,000 migrants in the previous decade.

Om Astha Rai

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One Response to “No peace dividend”

  1. Links for 21/11/16 – Jaya Jung Mahat on Says:

    […] The ten years of peace without prosperity in Nepal […]

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