Spectre of Violence Remains After Maoist Victory
KATHMANDU, April 25/ 2008 (IRIN) – The Maoists won a resounding victory in the 10 April elections to Nepal’s Constituent Assembly but questions remain about their use of violence.
There have been several reports of party officials using violence against political opponents since the elections.
Maoist party leader Prachanda was equivocal when asked about renouncing violence following a meeting with UN officials on 24 April, saying: “Right now I cannot renounce every kind of violence but we want to leave the peace process to a logical conclusion and we want to create a model of peace, and through this we want to renounce reactionary violence.”
Nepal’s Maoist leadership met leading members of the international humanitarian community shortly before being confirmed as election winners.
At the 24 April meeting with foreign ambassadors, and UN and non-governmental organisation (NGO) staff at the UN’s Kathmandu headquarters, Prachanda was keen to assure international donors they were “aware of the realities of the 21st century”.
According to the UN Development Programme’s latest Human Development Index (based on 2005 data), Nepal is ranked 148 out of 177 countries in terms of per capita gross domestic product. Nepal’s literacy rate is just 48.6 percent.
After the meeting, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Robert Piper said: “We talked about education, we talked about local governance, we talked about constitution-making, health, infrastructure and the relationship between peace and development.”
“They have also been talking about creating incentives for people to move out of agriculture – because the land can’t support the population.”
Piper also said the prospect of federalism – pushed by the newly emerging Madhesi groups in the Terai region along the border with India – could have repercussions for the work of the UN and NGOs.
A move to federalism could lead not only to international agencies and NGOs running separate offices in autonomous areas but also having to develop different programmes according to the regional governments’ differing priorities.
The Madhesi – an umbrella term for ethnic groups in the southern Terai plain who have strong ethnic and cultural ties with India – took to the streets in violent protest last year demanding communal recognition and autonomy, delaying elections originally scheduled for 2007.
The government promised their demands would be addressed in the constitution but many Nepalis remain concerned about an increase in ethnic identity politics in a country containing such a diversity of castes and ethnic groups. Whilst the Maoists have promoted decentralisation of powers from Kathmandu to rural areas, they are a nationalist party and want to see the integrity of Nepal remain intact.
Piper said the Maoists seemed keen to prevent a vacuum developing during the transition of power, and that a committee was being drawn up by the Maoists to liaise with international agencies.
They have struck a moderate tone in recent days, promising to work with the private sector and international community. They have encouraged the defeated parties to remain in a coalition government.
The new Constituent Assembly is charged with drawing up a new constitution after a decade-long civil war which claimed some 13,000 lives.
Prachanda has promised that the first assembly meeting will abolish Nepal’s 240-year-old monarchy and turn the Royal Palace into a museum.