In a historic deal, Nepal to integrate 6,500 former Maoist combatants

After delays, deadlocks and five years of political drama, Nepal seems to have struck the right deal.

In a seven-point agreement, Nepal’s major political parties have agreed to integrate 6,500 of the 19,000 former Maoist combatants, Republica reports.

The former rebels have been living in separate cantonments across the country after the bloody conflict costing more than 13,000 lives ended in 2006. In an “April Uprising” in 2006 that can be compared to the Arab Spring, thousands of Nepalis revolted against the monarchy, transforming the country into a republic.

However, a new political system didn’t usher changes, as anticipated, for one of the world’s poorest nation blessed with rich natural beauty. The dream of a “new Nepal” was often muffled with mismanaged governance reflecting a murky future for the country.

After the king was dethroned and the constitution scrapped, an interim constitution came into effect. A Constituent Assembly with 601 members was appointed to write the country’s new constitution.

However, so far, Nepal hasn’t been able to draft its new constitution. Deadlines have come and gone and so have the leaders. In the past five years, Nepal has seen five prime ministers since 2008 when the country was declared as a federal republic.

None of them seemed to forge consensus on the making of a new constitution. The agreements that had to be made seemed larger than life. The integration of the Maoist combatants into the national security forces was one of the major hiccups in the entire process.

And this week, the country’s most hopeful prime minister, Dr Baburam Bhattarai, seems to have made his way through.

Republica, one of Nepal’s leading English dailies, has termed this agreement as “the most important breakthrough in the home-grown peace process after the signing of the epoch-making Comprehensive Peace Agreement on November 21, 2006.”

Despite all the cynicism and scepticism surrounding the deal, Nepali Times, an English weekly published from Kathmandu, writes, “We can all breathe a sigh of relief that the leaders have for the first time in a long time risen above their selfishness and partisanship to show some accountability to the people who elected them.”

This means that the Maoist combatants have new lives ahead, new adjustments to make and integrate into the real world.

According to the breakthrough agreement, the combatants who would voluntarily retire will receive between US$6,000 and $10,000 based on their position. There will also be rehabilitation packages between $7,600 to $11,400.

Another point in the deal mentions that the Maoists will also have to return the property that they seized during the armed conflict.

In the Los Angeles Times, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Chairman of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), was quoted as saying, “The agreement is what the people have been anticipating for a long time. It is now our challenge to complete the peace process.”

And certainly, peace, progress and prosperity is what all Nepalis from all fronts is anticipating.

No one can justify if the blood bath and killing of more than 13,000 Nepalis were necessary. The Maoists will always be accountable for pushing the country backward, wasting a decade that could have flourished Nepal’s development (or not). Their reputation, like it or not, will always be associated with the armed conflict.

An editorial in the Nepali Times just sums that.

“Baburam Bhattarai and Pushpa Kamal Dahal may find it difficult to publicly admit that a war that killed 16,000 Nepalis was unnecessary. But as a party that now believes in the ballot, it’s about time they pledged their allegiance to non-violent pluralistic democracy. All the same, it would be nice if they could say sorry.”

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