UNMIN’s Withdrawal Formally Winds up Maoist Army Cantonment and Barracking of the Nepal Army

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 20 Dec 2010

Bishnu Pathak, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service

1.      Setting

The Sanskrit adage Buvukshitah kim na karoti papam? (What vice is unthinkable to an empty stomach?) occurred in mind when we (including Freelance Journalist Jibanath Khanal) were deliberating upon the “U-turn” of Nepal’s peace process, wondering whether the successor of UNMIN could take over the monitoring and supervision of the arms and armies. While a full-stomach seeks freedom first, an empty stomach looks for food above all temptations. It is curious to note that despite endemic poverty in Nepal, none of the past understandings, agreements or peace accords signed between Seven Party Alliance (SPA)-led Government and the Maoists advocates for food, each of them goes first for freedom. The extension and withdrawal of UNMIN, the two opposite voices that have become public are, in fact, rooted in this same issue: food and freedom, which are the two wheels of a cart. Extremist thoughts can only impede the peace process, (re)integration and rehabilitation of the Maoist Army (MA) and drafting of a new constitution. Here, the study tries to focus on the integration and rehabilitation of the Maoist Army after the withdrawal of the UNMIN rather than considering the food vs. freedom agenda.

2.      Peace Talks and Demands of Neutral Mediation

In the first official peace talks (July 23rd to November 22nd, 2001), the Maoists presented the 31-point demands, including three main ones: (i) to dissolve the Constitution 1990 in order to draw a new constitution; (ii) to dissolve the then government and parliament to initiate a process for an interim government; and (iii) to institutionalize the process for a republican state, since the traditional monarchy had virtually been swept away.

However, the third round of talks was held at Godavari on November 13 where the Maoists suddenly dropped their third demand for a republican set up; instead put forward their bottom-line to hold an election for the constituent assembly (CA). On the one hand, the government rejected outright their main political demands, including CA elections, but on the other, it passed the controversial Armed Police Force Bill from the parliament. It must be noted that neither the then government presented its agenda against the Maoists’ demands nor its negotiation team had a clean and non-corrupt political image.

The coalition government that included NC and UML representatives, time and again stated that there was no alternative but the Maoists must give up their violent means after the inhumane attack at the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001 and USA’s declaration of total war against such terrorist acts.

Both Prachanda and Dr. Baburam Bhattarai jointly wrote a letter to the international community, such as UN, India, China, USA and the European Union, asking them not to interfere in the internal affairs of Nepal. Rather, they requested for assistance to initiate reliable talks and to mediate if possible. The Maoists had just two alternatives: either to accept the parliamentary democracy or to resume the People’s War.

The Maoist party unilaterally broke the four-month-long ceasefire on November 22nd, 2001. The following day, the CPN (Maoist) announced the setting up of central people’s government, the United Revolutionary People’s Council Committee (URPCC) under the leadership of Dr. Baburam Bhattarai and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on November 24th, 2001. The PLA subsequently attacked army camps, police stations and administrative buildings and destroyed a lot of public and private properties in the district headquarters of Dang, Syangja, Solukhumbu, Surkhet, Tanahun, etc. The Maoists reportedly killed 18 soldiers, 51 policemen, a chief district officer and four civilians. They had also seized large quantities of arms and ammunition (Pathak:2005).

On the night of January 29th 2003, a truce was agreed upon; it was first announced by the Maoists, and the government made its announcement only after one hour and half. Besides, the Maoists put forward pre-conditions to withdraw the previous government’s decision to declare CPN (Maoist) a terrorist organization; to withdraw the Interpol Red Corner Notices issued against the Maoist leaders; to withdraw the previous government’s decision of fixing price tag on the heads of Maoist leaders; and to withdraw all the alleged cases against the Maoists who were in custody or jail to resume the Peace Talks II. The government agreed to fulfill all of them.

Announcing the truce, Prachanda requested his PLA and political activists to suspend all kinds of guerrilla activities, including forceful collection of donations, and urged them to continue political activities across the country. He reiterated the three-step procedure to be concluded during the period of truce: promoting a roundtable conference with all the political forces, representatives of palace and civil society; such conference forming an interim government; and the government going for an election to a CA to draft a new constitution for the kingdom of Nepal. The government also presented its agenda for the first time in the history of Nepal, but the Maoists rejected it outright.

While the second secession of the third round of peace talks was going on in Purandhara VDC-3, Hapure village of the Dang valley, the then Royal Nepal Army attacked a group of Maoist district leaders meeting at Doramba, Ramechhap district at 10.30 AM on August 16, 2003 (Shrawan 32, 2060 BS). 18 unarmed Maoist activists were arrested, including the house owner and his son, by the army. And while they were brought to the army barrack, they were shot dead at Darakateri of Daduwa VDC at three hours’ walking distance from the house where the meeting was held. The victims were made to stand in a line and shot one by one. Their hands were tied behind their backs and most of them were shot in the head. It was condemned by all corners within the nation and beyond when the peace process also broke apart.

Having been suspicious of the Royal Palace, its army and other mainstream parliamentary parties, the Maoists repeatedly asked for a neutral mediation in both formal peace talks tenures, but in vain.  Even the UN and member countries of the European Union, such as Norway, Denmark, and Switzerland, expressed their interest to support the peace process. But, the NC-UML led government rejected the international mediation initiative straight away.

3.      Provisions or Rights of the United Nations Mission in Nepal

Both the mainstream parliamentary parties and the Maoists learnt some experiences from their past peace talks. The alliance between the extreme leftists, the Maoist party and the extreme rightist Nepali Congress succeeded due to growing orchestrated personal clashes and ego of NC President Girija Pd Koirala against the monarch on the one hand. On the other, the former monarch’s retaliation desire, Maha Bhrastra Rajnitik Partika Netalai Dekai Dinchhu (I will show my strength to the corrupt leaders of political parties). Interestingly, in the course of ongoing dialogue with the Maoists, Koirala visited New Delhi twice, overtly for  treatment; other leaders also followed him.

3.1 The 12-point understanding signed by the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) in New Delhi on November 22nd, 2005. Among other things, it said, “.…an understanding has been made to keep the Maoists armed force and the Royal Nepali Army under the United Nations or a reliable international supervision during the process of the election of constituent assembly…to accomplish the election in a free and fair manner ….” (Art 3).

3.2 The 25-point Ceasefire Code of Conduct signed between the Government of Nepal and the Maoists on May 26th, 2006 states, “Both parties shall ask national and international monitoring teams to monitor the ceasefire based on the mutual agreement between the two parties” (Art 21).

3.3 The eight-point agreement reached between the Prime Minister and Chairman of the Maoist Party on June 16th, 2006 said, “To request the United Nations to assist in the management of the armies and arms of both the parties and to monitor them for a free and fair election of the Constituent Assembly” (Art 3).

3.4 The six-point agreement reached to end the decade-old conflict between the SPA-led Prime Minister Koirala and the Maoist Supremo Prachanda at midnight on November 8th 2006 reads:

  • Relating to Maoist Army (MA): “…The United Nations would do the necessary verification and monitoring of them. Main camps would be in the following places: 1. Kailali, 2. Surkhet, 3. Rolpa, 4. Palpa, 5. Kavre, 6. Sindhuli 7. Ilam. There would be three smaller camps located in the periphery of each of these main camps. All the arms and ammunitions would be securely stored in the camps except those needed for providing security to the camp…” (Art 2).
  • Relating to Nepali Army (NA): “The Nepali Army would be confined to the barracks…. arms would not be used for or against any side. Keep similar quantity of arms of the Nepal Army in the store, seal it with single-lock system and give the key to the concerned side” (Art. 2).
    • “That all the Maoist combatants would gather into the camps by November 21st, 2006…. The United Nations would do their verification and monitoring” (Art. 6.2) “…the Nepali Army would remain confined in barrack by November 21, 2006, keep the specified number of arms in the store and the United Nations would conduct its monitoring” (Art. 6.3).

3.5 The five-point official letter written by Prime Minister and Chairman Prachanda separately to UN Secretary General urged to establish its political mission in Nepal on August 9th, 2006 states:

  • “Continue its human rights monitoring through OHCHR, Nepal” (Art 1).
  • “Assist the monitoring of the Code of Conduct during the Ceasefire” (Art 2).
  • “… to seek UN assistance in the “the management of arms and armed personnel of both the sides”; deploy qualified civilian personnel to monitor and verify the confinement of CPN-M combatants and their weapons within designated cantonment areas” (Art 3).
  • “Monitor the Nepal Army to ensure that it remains in its barracks and its weapons are not used for or against any side. The modalities will be worked out among the parties and the UN (Art 4)”.

3.6 The 10-point Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) concluded between the Government of Nepal and the Maoist party on November 21st 2006 reads:

  • Management of Armies and Arms: “In order to hold the election of Constituent Assembly in a peaceful, impartial and fearless environment…the 12-point Understanding, 8-point Agreement and 25-point Code of Conduct concluded in the past were recalled in, the 5-point letter sent to the United Nations and the decision taken in the meeting of high-level leaders held on November 8, 2006” (Art 4)
  • Concerning the Maoist Army: “… United Nations …combatants of the Maoists’ army shall be confined within the seven main cantonments at Kailali, Surkhet,  Rolpa, Nawalparasi, Chitwan, Sindhuli and Ilam. The sub-cantonments around the main cantonments shall be located at the rate of three each” (Art 4.1).
  • “… all arms and ammunition except those required for the security of the cantonments shall securely be stored in the cantonment and the keys shall be kept by the concerned party after installing a single lock. In the process of installing such a lock, a device with a siren for the monitoring by the United Nations for its record shall be assembled. While carrying out the necessary examination of the stored arms, the United Nations shall do it in the presence of the concerned party. Other technical details related to this process along with the camera monitoring shall be prepared through an agreement between the United Nations, CPN (Maoist) and the Government of Nepal” (Art 4.2).
  • “While the Maoist combatants stay in the temporary cantonments, the Government of Nepal shall provide rationing supplies and other necessary arrangements” (Art 4.3). “Security provisions for the Maoist leaders shall be made through an understanding with the Government” (Art 4.5).
  • In regard to Nepal Army: “The Nepal Army shall be confined within the barracks …. It shall be guaranteed that their arms are not used for or against any one…equal numbers to that are stored on-behalf of the Maoists, and shall be sealed with a single-lock and the key shall be kept by the concerned party….a device shall be used along with a siren for its record and for monitoring by the United Nations….” (Art 4.6).
  • “Both sides agree to allow the United Nations, International Donors’ Agencies and also Diplomatic Missions based in Nepal, national and international non-government organizations, press, human rights activists, election observers and foreign tourists for unrestricted movement in the State of Nepal in accordance with the law” (Art 5.1.12).
  • Implementation and Monitoring: “Both sides agree to cause to be monitored the management of armies and the arms by the Nepal based United Nations Mission …” (Art 9.2). “Both sides agree to cause to be supervised the election of the Constituent Assembly by the United Nations” (Art 9.3).

An agreement on Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies or AMMAA was signed between the Government of Nepal and the Maoist party in 2006. It further illustrates the peace accord on barracking of the NA and MA into cantonments, their weapons storage and control, their deployment and concentration, etc. It prohibited decree of both armies holding, carrying arms, displaying arms, intimidation any person, including internally displaced persons and any type of use of violence; and any type of arms and weapons targeted against each other. It also prohibited both armies any seizure of their equipment and property; ambushes, murder or violent operations, kidnapping, unlawful detention or imprisonment, disappearances; damaging/seizing public/private/government, military or UN properties and personnel; planting mines; recruiting additional armed forces; impede or delay the provision of humanitarian assistance, UN mission and ICRC; redeployment of military forces and equipments without the consent of the Joint Monitoring Coordination Committee (JMCC); and use of children who are 18 years old and under in the armed forces (Art. 5.1).

It clearly restricts violation of human rights, unauthorized troop movements, recruitment, conscription or mobilization; unauthorized replenishment of military equipment; humanitarian law or obstruction in freedom of movement of goods and services; espionage, sabotage, air surveillance and acts of subversion and military flights, or military flights utilizing civilian aircraft, over cantonment sites without 48-hour notification to the parties and the UN mission, except in emergency situations or medical evacuations (Art. 5.3).

4. Performances of the United Nations Mission in Nepal

Following the 4-point accord signed, UNMIN obtained a final four-month extension effective from September 16th, 2010.  The UNSC Resolution on September 15th, 2010 decided in line with the request from the Government of Nepal that UNMIN’s mandate will terminate on January 15th, 2011. This is the seventh extension to departure of the UNMIN. Previously six times such as I term (January 23, 2007- January 22, 2008), II term (January 23, 2008- July 23, 2008), III term (July 24, 2008- January 23, 2009), IV term (January 24, 2009- July 23, 2009), V term (July 24, 2009- May 14, 2010), VI term (May 15, 2010- September 15, 2010), and VII term (September 16, 2010- January 15, 2011) .

The Agreement on Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies (Nepal Government-Maoist Party: December 8th, 2006) formally invited UN to (i) guarantee the fundamental rights of the Nepali people to take part in the CA in a free and fair environment without fear; (ii) to ensure sovereignty for the Nepali people in the form of a progressive political outlet, a democratically  restructured  state, and social-economic-cultural transformation; and (iii) to fully observe the terms of the bilateral agreement witnessed by the United Nations; and (iv) to seek UN assistance in monitoring the management of the arms and armies of both sides (Pathak: Manuscript).

UN civilian personnel confine both the MA and NA and their weapons at their cantonments and barracks respectively and that their weapons are not used against each other.  Consequently, the UNMIN established its formal office in Nepal on January 23rd 2007 (Bimali and Pathak: December 16th, 2009).

The UNMIN registered 32,250 Maoist army personnel and only 19,602 (61% out of 32,250) have been verified comprising 15,756 (80%) men and 3,846 (20%) women who are living in 7 main and 21 satellite cantonments and Maoist weapons have been stored in the iron containers.  The MA personnel were first disarmed and demobilized.  The verification mission disqualified 8,640 (27%) Maoist army personnel as they did not appear in the interviews. 4,008 (12%) persons remain to be discharged including 2,973 minors (UNMIN: 2007).  Those disqualified were minors or had been recruited after May 25th 2006, the day of ceasefire.

After several months of intensive discussion among the political parties and UNMIN, the Maoist party, Government and the UNMIN signed an action plan to discharge the disqualified persons on December 16th, 2009.  Brigade commander of the MA Saral Paudel Sahayatri and Secretary of the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction Sadhu Ram Sapkota signed the plan for the discharge of disqualified MA personnel from the cantonments at a function.  The UCPN (Maoist) chair and former commander in chief of the MA, Puspa Kamal Dahal, Peace Minister Rakam Chemjong and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy attended as witnesses of the action plan.  The discharge of disqualified (minors and late recruits) MA was delayed by 10 days late than the time they set for December 27th.  Still, the entire discharge was completed within the stipulated period of  40 days.  In the course of transformation from military to civilian life, the first group of minors discharged were from the Maoist cantonment at Sindhuli on January 7th, 2010 (UNMIN: January 7th, 2010).

UNMIN stated that about 500 of minors were still under 18 years and 15 were under 16.  Similarly, another group of 1,035 were disqualified because they were recruited after the ceasefire in May 2006 that ended 10 years of armed conflict. Roughly one-third of the total number of those disqualified were female (UNMIN:  February 8th, 2010). UNICEF Country Representative Gillian Mellsop said, “The release of these young people today is not only symbolic for the country but a milestone for these young men and women who spent their formative years inside a military structure losing out on critical skills vital for adulthood.  All those concerned must now act swiftly to ensure that they reintegrate successfully and help build Nepali society fractured after this long conflict” (UNMIN:  February 8th, 2010)

The rehabilitation packages for reintegration to those discharged into the society and supported by the Government and the United Nations in Nepal include:  formal schooling, vocational training, training as health workers, and setting up of small/micro-enterprises. A discharged person shall have 12 months from the date of discharge to sign up for one of these packages.

A UN team will monitor the Action Plan that the discharged person will not engage in violent activities within Maoists affiliated organizations.  It is verified that the when the Maoist party shall have fully complied the plan, the party shall consider for removal the list of parties that recruit and use children in conflict through the annual UN Secretary-General’s report on Children and Armed Conflict. Under the Plan, monitoring will last for six months, and monitoring under Security Council (resolution 1612) will continue beyond that date (UNMIN: February 8th, 2010).

5.      At the Bottom

Constitution drafting and MA (re)integration into the security forces and/or in the society are the cross cutting and inter-woven issues. In the absence of one, another cannot function or be completed. Moreover, the MA (re)integration and rehabilitation has been a central axis of success or failure of the peace process. If the Maoist army completes (re)integration successfully, peace process would conclude promulgating a new constitution.  Since the very inception of first peace talks, namely 12-point understanding, 25-point ceasefire code of conduct and 8-point agreement, the Maoist party has advocated for the monitoring and supervision of the management of arms and armies. The UNMIN was established on the basis of the 5-point invitation letter sent to the United Nations Secretary General by the Prime Minister and Chairman of the Maoist party separately.  Moreover, the 10-point Peace Accord formally ended a decade-old armed conflict, the People’s War initiated on February 13th, 1996, respecting the people’s mandate for democracy, peace and progress.

CPA’s implementation and its impact have created a number of hot public debates over the years.  The task to keep arms in iron containers, the NA in the barracks and the MA in the cantonments has been completed and supervision is being continued. But, democratization of the NA and professionalization, rehabilitation and integration to the MA has come to a standstill. None of the commissions (namely, Truth, Peace and Rehabilitation, and State Restructuring) have been formed in spite of the CPA.  The possession, display and use of arms by the MA have been the cause of blistering discussions.  Monitoring of the disqualified-discharged has been a weak effort and less than half of the discharged persons are participating on vocational and health education trainings, sponsored school education, and other livelihood programs. The rest of the disqualified and discharged fighters are either involved in normal political activities or are associated with varied criminal groups. To this end, a further study is needed.

The Special Committee for Supervision, Integration and Rehabilitation (SCSIR) of Maoist Army has appointed Balananda Sharma (Rtd Lt. Gen.) as the coordinator of its 12-member Secretariat to bring the MA under the government control on November 30th, 2010 after two-and-a-half-month leadership vacuum. The SCSIR was formed three days ahead of the arrival of B Lynn Pascoe, UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs for an assessment of parties efforts to conclude the peace process by January 15th, 2011. The Technical Committee for Supervision, Integration and Rehabilitation (TCSIR) of MA which was formed in March 2009 agreed to form the SCSIR on September 17th, 2010.

The present caretaker government and its coalition partners have strong conviction that the newly formed Special Committee shall be an alternative to the UNMIN and so this Committee shall replace UNMIN and take over its mandate.  However, it is not true. First, the UNMIN had established its office under special circumstances and the special purpose of peace process accomplishment. Second, the UN is a neutral and common platform of all of its 192 member nations. Third, the Special Committee has been established as a political body on the basis of a  political decision. It is neither defined by agreements, including peace accord, nor does it have constitutional/legal authority. Fourth, the Committee is a sectoral body. It does not even represent all the political parties in the CA. Moreover, it officially closes with the power and politics. Such committee is often likely to function in favor of its respective party proximity rather than for the country as a whole and Nepali people in general. Besides, many political parties do not have their independent and well considered political stand, but do commit what other interested powers, including external ones, whisper in their ears. Fifth, the Committee should be empowered with experts in the area; there is no role of neutral experts as in the past. Sixth, the Agreement on Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies and the Joint Monitoring Coordinating Committee (JMCC) led by the UNMIN is going to end along its withdrawal. Seventh, the Committee represents from mainstream political parties at the CA and security institutions such as NA, MA, Armed Police Force and Nepal Police, where the Maoist party, half-part of the peace process, has been marginalized within Committee’s demography. Lastly, most of the constitutional bodies such as president, vice-president, prime minister, deputy-prime ministers, chairmen of the CA and the Constitution Drafting Committee are controlled by the non-Maoist parties.

The departure of the UNMIN while in midway of monitoring and supervision of the management of arms and armies and integration and rehabilitation of the MA would be a back drive of Nepal’s peace process until and unless the CA itself passes a resolution to replace the mandate of UNMIN by the Special Committee or another suitable Comprehensive Peace Accord is signed. In reality, the withdrawal of the UNMIN will officially end the Maoist Army cantonment, barracking of the Nepal Army and arms control, all at one go. However, another UN political mission, albeit with a different name, would be a must to accomplish the monitoring and supervision of the arms and armies of both sides, in addition to the necessary technical support to the Maoist army for (re)integration and rehabilitation.

It may be recalled here that the highest number of UN peacekeeping operations have been in former Yugoslavia where seven different named missions were completed and one is ongoing in Kosovo; in Haiti, four missions were completed and one is still ongoing; in Angola too, four missions were completed; so in East Timor where three missions were completed and one is ongoing; and so forth (Pathak: November 2, 2008).

Bibliography:

  • Pathak, Bishnu. November 2, 2008. The United Nations: Challenges for Peace. Basel: TRANSCEND Media Service.
  • Pathak, Bishnu. September 2005. Politics of People’s War and Human Rights in Nepal. Kathmandu: BIMIPA Publications.
  • Pathak, Bishnu. November 2, 2008. The United Nations: Challenges for Peace. Basel: TRANSCEND Media Service
  • Pathak, Bishnu. Manuscript. Civil Military Relations: Nepalese Perspectives.
  • Twelve-Point Understandings. November 22, 2005. New Delhi: SPAM.
  • Eight-point SPA-Maoists Agreement. June 16, 2006. Kathmandu: SPAM.
  • Six-point SPA-Maoists Agreement. November 8, 2006. Kathmandu: SPAM.
  • Agreement on Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies.  December 8, 2006. Kathmandu: Nepal Government-Maoist Party.
  • Bimali, Pawan and Bishnu Pathak. December 16, 2009. Child Soldiers: Crime against Humanity. Kathmandu: CS Center. Situation Update 89.
  • UNMIN. 2007. Arms Monitoring. Available at www.unmin.org.np retrieved on December 15, 2009
  • UNMIN. February 8, 2010. United Nations Press Release. Rolpa
  • UNMIN. January 7, 2010. Report of the Secretary-General on the request of Nepal for United Nations Assistance in Support of its Peace Process. New York.
  • Code of Conduct for Ceasefire. May 25, 2006. Kathmandu: Government and the Maoists
  • Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA). November 22, 2006. Kathmandu: SPAM.

_________________________

Mr. Pathak, who holds a Ph.D. in Conflict and Human Rights, has been working at the Peace and Conflict Studies Center,(PCS Center, formally known as Conflict Study Center or CS Center) as a Director. He is a Convener of South Asia: TRANSCEND International and Board Member of TRANSCEND Peace University. His book Politics of People’s War and Human Rights in Nepal is a widely circulated volume. He is the author of a number of publications on human rights, UN, security, peace, and federalism including Nepal’s 2008 Constituent Assembly Elections: Converting Bullets to Ballots, brought out by the East-West Center Bulletin, Washington.

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 20 Dec 2010.

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3 Responses to “UNMIN’s Withdrawal Formally Winds up Maoist Army Cantonment and Barracking of the Nepal Army”

  1. Yubaraj says:

    Well, the country again suffers in vicious circle of conflicts. Still there is a dilemma of peace process to reach in logical ends.

  2. keshar says:

    Some alternative provision has to be made; since UN does not want all its efforts to go in waste and like to ensure the achievemnts so far made to be preserved. UN has its own obligation to meet in place like Nepal and the special committe and secretariate will fall short to meet the neutral role played by UN bodies like UNMIN. UNMIN or other UN body by different name may come into being with renegotiated mandate.
    We made this issue complicated and more we prolong this issue more complicated it becomes in days to come.

  3. Dear Friends;

    Many thanks for your sharing very important thoughts in this critical circumstances in Nepal.