Wednesday, July 3, 2013
In Nepal, a milestone achieved
June 04, 2013
Nepal has reached a major milestone this year as it continues on the path of peace and democracy. The country has just finished integrating former Peoples' Liberation Army (PLA) combatants into the national army, completing an arduous process that began in November 2006 with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord.
Former Maoist combatants gather at the Maoists' Fifth Division Headquarters in Dahaban, Rolpa, in western Nepal, in November 2011. Nepal has concluded the integration of Maoist fighters into its national army, and dissolved the committee that oversaw the process. [Kiran Pun/Khabar]
A total of 1,444 ex-combatants have joined the national army – and 71 have been awarded officer rank, including one colonel and two lieutenant colonels.
In April, parties who were signatories to the peace accord dissolved the Special Committee on Supervision, Integration and Rehabilitation of the Maoist Combatants, which oversaw the transition.
"The dissolution of the Committee marks the successful conclusion of one of the key components of the peace process," former committee member Minendra Rijal told Khabar South Asia. "We have been able to accomplish the task of integration and rehabilitation of the former Maoist combatants in our unique way."
A five-year process
In early 2007, the Special Committee formally began overseeing the management of over 32,000 Maoist combatants, quartered in seven main and 21 satellite UN-monitored cantonments throughout the country.
The number was later reduced to 19,602, as the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) disqualified thousands of combatants as minors or late recruits.
Stalled for years amid disputes over the number of combatants to be integrated, the process gained momentum in early 2012 with the Maoists agreeing to three options for the combatants in UN camps: integration, voluntary retirement and rehabilitation.
More than 9,000 combatants chose integration into the Nepal Army; 7,000 others opted for voluntary retirement and were released with cash packages ranging from NRs 500,000 to 800,000 ($5,711 to $9,138), depending on their former rank and date of commissioning. Only six combatants opted for the rehabilitation package.
Ultimately, 1,462 were selected for integration into the Nepal Army; 1,444 completed the transition. The remainder eventually accepted voluntary retirement and cash packages.
Although the process has been wrapped up, analysts say it would be a mistake for the country to turn its back on the ex-militants, given lingering hard feelings over the PLA's disbandment.
"Though the commanders are happy about it, a majority of the former combatants are very much disenchanted with the process. They have complained that their exit was not dignified," cautions Kiran Pun, a senior journalist with Republica who has been covering Maoist issues for years.
Nepal will need to address the concerns of disgruntled former combatants if it wants to ensure stability, he cautioned. Some, he said, are looking to a Maoist splinter group led by Mohan Baidya, which has threatened armed revolt to resolve what it regards as an "incomplete people's war".
By contrast, former Maoist Divisional Commander Santu Darai, who opted for voluntary retirement, hailed the postwar integration process as unique and successful.
"Nowhere in the world has the management of rebel combatants concluded as successfully as we could do in Nepal," he told Khabar. "Those who wanted to lead a civilian life were given the chance to opt for voluntary retirement and rehabilitation."
Some 17,000 people from both sides were killed in the 10-year Maoist conflict, and rebuilding destroyed physical infrastructure will cost billions of rupees. The war also impeded development, which had seen momentum after the establishment of a multi-party democratic system in 1990.
from Khabar South Asia