Nepali Times
"Don’t be too impatient about the peace process"


Nepali Times: Are we jumping the gun to start the DDR process when peace deals are not even complete?
Dan Smith:
The implementation has to come when the time is right but preparation should begin now. In fact, the process of discussing DDR can itself bring the sides together. That discussion is itself part of the peace process.

Several international DDR missions are coming to Nepal. What role will they play?
DDR is very interesting because on one hand, it is very technical-it's about collecting weapons and counting them and making them unusable. And it is also identifying who are combatants. On the other hand, it is also a political, social and economic process. Politically, it is based on agreements between the parties. Socially and economically, DDR is about reintegrating those who had been fighting or were in the army back into civilian life. There also need to be decisions taken by Nepal about, for example, how big its armed forces should be when peace is finally achieved. Because that number is likely to be smaller than the combined size of the current Nepali Army and Maoist forces. At the same time, there is lot of expertise and advice that can be given from outside. You will probably need international observers to monitor the process and certainly you need that for social and economic management of the process.

What is your assessment of the peace process to date?
It is at a very early stage now and two things are important. One is to maintain forward momentum to fulfil the points of the eight-point agreement. The second is to not be too impatient about the peace process. There will many difficulties along the way. If you take any example internationally, you will find very uneven progress. So, people need patience and determination in equal measure. The two agreements which were reached do provide a good basis for a peace process as long as they are implemented.

But is disarming only the Maoists enough?
No. The question is what the role of the military is to be in a peaceful Nepal and how big a force is needed to fulfil that role. The size of the Nepali Army has increased during the war and a large army is an economic burden for the country to carry. The whole issue of management of arms and DDR is one which applies on principle on both sides.

How long does the DDR process take?
In some circumstances, the disarmament phase is never really completed because people wrongly hang on to their weapons. Demobilisation can be over fairly quickly in many cases, in six to nine months. Reintegration is the more complicated part. The international community is only now learning that reintegration means more than training somebody with new skills. It means the ability of people to return to their towns and villages and find a decent job there. If you think of Ireland, Bosnia-Hercegovina, there are peace processes still going on, even nine and 11 years after the peace agreements were first signed.

What message are the Maoists trying to give by displaying their armed militia during the peace process?
I don't think it is dangerous. Whenever an organisation, whether it is the army or the Maoists, shows you something, it is to reveal the best side of themselves. I don't think in any sense it is dangerous or wrong of the
Maoists to show that they are a well organised force.

Where are women and children in the DDR process?
There are women involved whether they are fighting or not. And sometimes the DDR process focuses purely on those who have guns and who actually fought. But those who did other tasks, not necessarily military, also have a stake in the process, they also need to be looked after and reintegrated. The issue of reintegration of child soldiers can be an enormous one because, depending on what age they were recruited at, they may have very little sense of life except in the military or with rebel forces.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)