The UN Mission in Nepal-UNMIN’s Humiliating Withdrawal
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 21 Mar 2011
The United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) was invited after a series of formal and informal agreements and understandings signed by both parties, the CPN (Maoist) and the then Government of Nepal (GoN) to accomplish the peace process. On August 9, 2006, the Maoists and the GoN sent a 5-point joint letter to the UN Secretary General to establish the UNMIN with provisions to continue human rights monitoring. The letter asked to assist in the monitoring of the truce, managing arms and armed personnel on both sides – the Maoist Army (MA) and the Nepal Army (NA) – deploying qualified civilian personnel. It also requested for technical support and observation of elections to the Constituent Assembly to be held in April 2008.
The Agreement on Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies (December 8, 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.
The UNMIN started its work with the assistance of UNDP, UNICEF and Interim Task Force from January 2007 for an initial period of one year. The UN political mission was deployed in Nepal with a strength of 200 international civilians, 337 local civilians, 72 military observers and volunteers. The task was not completed by the stipulated date and the Government of Nepal extended its tenure six times.
The UNMIN obtained a final four-month extension effective from September 16, 2010. The UNSC Resolution on September 16, 2010 decided in line with the request from the Government of Nepal that UNMIN’s mandate will terminate on January 15, 2011. This is the departure extension of the UNMIN. The UNMIN initiated its activities from January 23, 2007 for a year and ended in three years, 11 months and three weeks. The Nepal Government extended UNMIN’s tenure for six-month three-time on January 23, 2008, July 24, 2008 and January 24, 2009. Nine months and three weeks were allocated for its fifth-time extension of its tenure on July 24, 2009. The sixth and seventh times extensions had been on May 15, 2010 and September 16, 2010.
The UNMIN deployed observers at the 7 main and 21 satellite cantonments following the 10-point Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) on November 21, 2006 and the AMMAA. The UN personnel confined both the Maoist and Nepalese Army personnel and their weapons to the cantonments and barracks respectively and their weapons were not used against each other.
The UNMIN registered 32,250 Maoist Army personnel and only 19,602 (61% out of 32,250) were verified comprising 15,756 (80%) men and 3,846 (20%) women from all cantonments. Some 3,475 weapons from both armies were stored in iron containers. The MA were first disarmed and demobilized. A total of 8,640 (27%) MA personnel were disqualified as they did not appear in the verification interviews. A total of 4,008 persons were disqualified including 2,973 (74%) minors (below 18-years till May 25, 2006). The rest were recruited after May 25, the day of the ceasefire. Among 4,008, only 61% (2,394) attended during the disqualified/discharged 40-day work-plan from December 17, 2009 to January 25, 2010.
The UNMIN’s criticism started before its establishment. First, since the 12-point understanding signed in New Delhi on November 22, 2005, the Indian establishment tried hard to influence the Maoist party. India informally proposed to cover all financial costs of the MA and technical cooperation for their professional training. However, the Maoists refused this.
Second, the Maoist party had been demanding for neutral mediation, mainly from the UN since its Peace Talks II in August 2003. India was irritated as the Maoists and the Government of Nepal had formally invited the UN.
Third, India and its ally had great hopes that the Maoists would be wiped out in the Constituent Assembly elections. The anti-Maoist newspapers had conducted information warfare against the Maoists, writing that only 15 to 20 CA members from the Maoists shall be elected in the first-past-the-post (FPTP) elections.
Fourth, the Maoists became the largest party, winning 50% seats from 240 constituencies in the FPTP. However, the Nepali Congress (NC) won 37 seats and the CPN (UML) just 33 seats in the FPTP despite the alleged financial, moral, technical and strategic support from India. Now, the Maoists represent 40%, NC 19% and UML 18% out of a total 598 seats in the CA.
Fifth, the Maoists became the largest party in CA and led the first DR of Nepal. While the Maoist-led government resigned because of confrontation with the Nepalese Army, Madhav Nepal of the CPN (UML) succeeded to replace him. Nepal was defeated in two constituencies in the CA elections. The coalition said that UNMIN is biased and has been supporting the Maoists to stay for a longer period in Nepal. This may have been partially right. However, the criticism was promoted by India. A Switzerland-based Transcend Media Service on ‘Who is Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal?’ in “Nepal’s Peace Process towards Ambiguity” dated May 10, 2010, wrote “Madhav Nepal has long been tapped by Indian power and politics before 1990.”(See http://www.transcend.org/tms/2010/05/nepal’s-peace-process-towards-ambiguity/).
Sixth, the NA denied attending the JMCC meeting headed by the UNMIN at the end of its tenure. The NA leadership chose the wrong NC-UML partners at the wrong time under the backing of India and polluted its neutral image.
The UNMIN obtained a final four-month extension effective from September 16, 2010 till January 15, 2011. The UNMIN ended its role owing to heavy criticism from non-Maoist parties and returned from Nepal. It withdrew leaving reintegration, rehabilitation and democratization half-way, unlike many other UN missions in the world.
Besides Nepal, eight political missions are working in the world. They are: UNTSO in the Middle East (May 29, 1948- ); the UNMOGIP in Jammu-Kashmir (January 1948- ); the UNSCO in the Middle East (June 1994- ); the BONUCA in the CAR (December 31, 2001- ); and the UNAMA in Afghanistan (March 28, 2002- ). Similarly, UNAMI in Iraq (August 14, 2003- ), the UNIOSIL in Sierra Leone (August 31, 2005- ); and the BINUB in Burundi (January 1, 2007-) have been established by the UN Security Council.
A Special Committee (SC) has replaced the UNMIN and implements its mandate against provisional ethics. The UNMIN was established under Nepal’s special circumstances. It was a neutral and common platform while the SC mostly comprises political actors on the basis of a political decision. The role of the SC is neither defined by agreements and accords, nor does it have constitutional authority. There is also no role for neutral experts. Indeed, the humiliating withdrawal of the UNMIN has officially led to the closure of the Maoist Army cantonment and barracking of the Nepalese Army, even though both forces obey the peace process’s disciplines.
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 and Approaches to Peacebuilding with peace-conflict lifecycle in “Experiments with Peace” in October 2010, Oslo.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 21 Mar 2011.
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