Kathmandu/Brussels, 19 February 2009: Despite successful elections and a lasting military ceasefire, Nepal’s peace process is facing its most severe tests yet.
Nepal’s Faltering Peace Process,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the fragile state of Nepal’s peace process. Ten months after the elections, the constitution-writing process is finally getting underway, but major parts of the peace deal remain unimplemented. Impunity is rife, and public security alarmingly weak. The consensus underlying the process has frayed, relationships between the parties are increasingly acrimonious, and fundamental elements of the deal are being challenged. Key political players, particularly the governing Maoists and the opposition Nepali Congress (NC), urgently need to rebuild consensus on the way forward.
“The Maoists must take the first steps to restore trust by proving their commitment to non-violence and political pluralism”, says Rhoderick Chalmers, Crisis Group’s South Asia Deputy Project Director. “In turn, their opponents should offer constructive criticism within the framework of the peace process rather than spoiling for its own sake”.
The Maoist-led administration’s first six months have been frustrating, with the government’s achievements overshadowed by poorly handled controversies. The Maoists’ longer-term intentions remain suspect, their strong-arm tactics still allied to a revolutionary strategy aimed at a people’s republic. There is little unity of effort or intent among their coalition partners and the opposition NC is in organisational and political disarray. The established parties have yet to face up to the need for reform to counter their poor past record, become more representative and reconnect with voters.
Very different interests and positions remain to be bridged – a task that is possible but that cannot be wished away with over-optimistic language. Heightened tensions between the Maoists and the Nepalese Army underline the urgency of tackling the future of the security sector. Issues such as the implementation of federalism will generate intense debate. Addressing these challenges is the job of Nepal’s leaders. But the international community must recognise the fragility of the process and be prepared to stick with it.
International actors have played important roles in promoting peace and now need to maintain consistent pressure on all parties to live up to their commitments and encourage them to face the threats to peace. Allowing parts of the peace agreements to drift into abeyance will put the entire process at risk.
“A successfully completed peace process could have broad positive effects for the Nepalese people and for the region”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “The need is for carefully targeted assistance and political pressure”.
Contacts: Nadim Hasbani (Brussels) +32 (0) 2 541 1635
Kimberly Abbott (Washington) +1 202 785 1601
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*Read the full Crisis Group report on our website: http://www.crisisgroup.org