Nepal Army: Transition and Swear Allegiance

Inside: Nepal Army: swearing of allegiance

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Yes, after the Parliament Proclamation, the Royal Nepal Army is now Nepal Army and the king is no longer the Supreme Commander of the military. But only in paper. The transition hasn’t started yet.

By Shobhakar Budhathoki

Nepal’s military has always played a primary role in dismantling the democratic system and in establishing an authoritarian royal regime in the country. Although the Nepalese military has demonstrated a relatively good performance record in UN peacekeeping missions, it has maintained an exceedingly destructive identity domestically and has maintained its loyalty only to the monarchy and has engaged in actions to suppress the people’s aspirations for democracy both with its involvement in the 1960 coup and again in 2005.

During the 30 years of the autocratic panchayat regime (1960-1990), the military was used to carry out repressive measures against democratic forces and was responsible for disappearances and killings of political party activists. After the restoration of democracy in 1990, the military was, in theory, placed under the National Security Council headed by the Prime Minister. In practice, the King, as the supreme commander of the army continues to exercise authority over military deployment and the daily business of the army through the military secretariat located inside the palace. In principle, Nepal’s military was not created for encounters within the country or for internal affairs, and in fact was not deployed for the first five years of the insurgency launched by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists). The army even often refused to assist in emergency operations to rescue the Nepal Police during the insurgency. (article continues after the box)

Nepal Army: swearing of allegiance
By Nepali Bai

A fierce battle is raging in army headquarters and in the Palace Army Secretariat. To whom will the Nepal Army swear allegiance? Every officer in the army, like every other citizen of Nepal, is contemplating his or her future. At this moment in Nepal’s history, only the army can reverse the gains of the Andolan and only at a terrible cost in more innocent Nepali lives and only for a very brief period. Any attempted military coup will be a colossal blunder!

Who will obey orders and from whom? Who will renounce fealty to monarchy and swear loyalty to their nation–to a sovereign and democratic Nepal? The king could summon his generals and his palace guard to the Tundikhel, and in the presence of the country’s elected representatives, lead the swearing of allegiance to the nation. The king could hand over the baton to the Prime Minister, resign his commission as commander in chief of the army, salute the new commander in chief as appointed by the House of representatives, and return to the palace. Had the king of Nepal any sense of honor, any understanding of duty, any true affection for the people of Nepal, any foresight, this is what he would do. This will not happen.

Amongst the generals, loyalties to the house of Gorkha dating back to the original Gorkha conquest of Nepal are being challenged. Many of the generals are generals by inheritance and expect to pass on to their sons their position. Class, caste, and hereditary privilege has created an army incapable of suppressing a popular uprising and has no place in a modern army. Those officers who refuse to swear allegiance to the Nepal House of Representatives must honorably resign their commissions and retire from the army. Many must expect that not only their military but financial records will be minutely scrutinized, and for every violation of Nepali and international law they will be vigorously prosecuted.

Those generals who step forward and swear allegiance to the nation will command the loyalty of every professional soldier in the army. Amongst those in the lower ranks who have served honorably and bravely, and demonstrated their skills of leadership and command, there exists no possibility, under the existing system of promotion, that they can rise to the top of the chain of command, and they know it. They know that only a democratic government can create an army where ability and service will provide an equal opportunity for every soldier to rise through the ranks with the very best reaching the highest levels of the officer corps. Those soldiers of every rank who step forward gladly to swear allegiance to the Nepal House of Representatives and to protect and defend a free and democratic Nepal will earn the gratitude of the Nation.

As King Gyanendra took the throne after the mysterious royal massacre in June 2001 (that killed a total of 10 royal family members including the whole family of King Birendra), the military suddenly became enthusiastic to play a proactive role in internal issues, including the custom offices of the Nepal- India borders and ongoing violent conflict. The army has carried out the instructions of the palace and ignored those of the prime minister by refusing to engage during the emergency situation mentioned above, carrying out security operations during the 2001 ceasefire and dialogue period, and refusing to return to their previous non-engagement status after the 2001 “state of emergency” thereby continuing their deployment without legal authority. The military has also acted as the private army of the king when they provided full support of the King’s assumption of all executive powers in October 2002.

The army also played a provocative and offensive role aimed at disrupting the peace process in 2003. The army, and armed police under the “unified command,” played the lead role in planning and executing the King’s February 2005 coup that established an authoritarian and dictatorial regime. The military also carried out numerous brutal operations and indiscriminate killings during the 2005/06 Maoist unilateral ceasefire including the Nagarkot massacre, and the Palpa and Morang killings. Last, but not least, the military was aggressively deployed against the people’s nonviolent movement that reached its peak in April 2006, and are responsible for injuring thousands, killing nearly two-dozen peaceful protestors, and for systematically committing some of the most egregious human rights abuses.

During the King’s direct rule (February 2005–April 2006), the military led the unified command (comprised of the armed police and regular police) and carried out numerous brutal acts of suppression of the democratic movement and killed innocent civilians in the name of eliminating the Maoists throughout the country.

The military came to the street to suppress peaceful demonstrations in April 2006 and indiscriminately fired on crowds in different parts of the country that killed at least 21 Nepali citizens and injured more than five thousand peaceful agitators, that resulted in hundreds being permanently disabled. Before the nonviolent demonstrations, and even prior to the 2005 coup, the military was responsible for disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and using torture, all on a systematic level.

The Army has never demonstrated its commitment toward the people and instead has blindly supported the King’s autocratic steps. The institution of the military has neither practiced democratic principles, nor made any attempt to detach itself from the picket of the monarchy. Instead, the military has acted only to please the monarchy and carried out actions as the monarchy’s personal army.

The structure, system, and methods of the army are in themselves autocratic and feudal. Only royal relatives or those among the privileged elite may be among the top-ranking officers and advisers to the palace. Therefore, the army, in order to serve a democratic nation and terminate the practices that are illegal (torture, disappearances, etc…) it must face a restructuring and transform from a “Royal Army” to having a loyalty to the people’s institutions such as parliament, and to an army who respects and abides by the rule of law. Despite the promises of the new government to put the military under the parliament, whereby respecting the people’s aspirations during the movement, the act of doing so has not materialized properly and in a timely manner. Even if the legal changes are made by the new government the genuine conversion of loyalty from the monarchy to the citizens of Nepal will not be achieved, and as long as the army remains under the command of the King, legally or not, democracy and its institutions in Nepal are under threat.

Therefore, some essential steps must be immediately taken to compel the military to be accountable to the people. The following actions are also recommended to complement the new government’s attempts to restructure the military and increase international support to achieve this noble mission of the people’s government to create an actual Nepali people’s army.

1. Call on the international community to continue the suspension of all military aid, whether financial, trainings, or weaponry, until the full transition of the army.

2. Immediately address the atrocities occurred during the peaceful movement and expel those responsible for abuse and acts of excessive force.

3. Conduct an investigation of systematic human rights abuses committed by the military that are outlawed and publicly punishable and include systematic abuses such as rape, torture, disappearances, arbitrary detention in military barracks, and extrajudicial killings.

4. Expel the Chief of Army Staff, as the government suspended a total of nine senior officers of Nepal Police and Armed Police, including three heads of the security forces on the charge of their involvement in suppressing democratic movement.

5. Immediately terminate the military secretariat located inside the palace as part of the process of creating a Nepal Army.

6. Seize the passports of all military commanders throughout the country who prepared strategies and issued orders to field commanders, and field commanders who were deployed to suppress the peaceful movement and carried out atrocities in the name of controlling the insurgency, until they can be fully investigated and charged and tried in order to prevent their efforts to flee prosecution.

7. Terminate all services rendered by the state to former military senior officers, such as private protection and other state privileges.

8. Suspend field commanders who were personally involved in suppressing the peaceful demonstrations either by issuing orders, or being complicit in the actions of his unit (many can be identified according to their deployment in areas where serious incidences occurred), until they can be tried for their actions.

9. Freeze the bank accounts of high-ranking officers of the security forces, while the military has been identified as one of the most corrupt institutions by the Auditor General’s office. This will assist in preventing them fleeing prosecution for either human rights abuses, abuse of power, or misuse of funds.

10. Call on the international community to refuse entry into their countries of human rights abusers, including military officers and those being investigated, and to make public the international bank accounts of those perpetrators.

11. Urge the UN Security Council and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to immediately suspend the Nepali military’s participation in peacekeeping operations and establish a pre-condition of resumption only after the complete democratization of the military, including its demonstration of loyalty toward the citizenry.

12. Request the international community to deny all types of short-term or long-term jobs to Nepal’s current or former military officers because of their involvement of carrying out atrocities and human rights abuses.

13. Work with the human rights community to determine the strategy for efforts to hold perpetrators to account after the initial judicial commission’s report and set up a separate tribunal.

14. Announce incentives programs for the military’s pro-democratic officials, who support the investigation process, as well as incentive programs set up by the people’s government to assist lower ranking soldiers and gain their loyalty. These incentives can include promotion, education, home loans, technical skills and professional opportunities, etc.

15. Establish a panel of military and government officials, and civil society members to oversee the functions and restructuring process of the military, and appoint the acting Chief of Army Staff (COAS).

16. Invite international retired senior military officers to hold interactive sessions with Nepali military officers about the essence of human rights, democracy and rule of law, as well as explore the importance of political parties and nation’s army.

(UWB received both articles in email)

Published by UWB

Pioneering blog from Nepal...since 2004.

89 thoughts on “Nepal Army: Transition and Swear Allegiance

  1. yeah gurkhali the maoists are going to lay down their arms because you wish it.

  2. Maybe not Kirat,

    But at least their intentions will be clear. If they do not want to lay down their arms then what is the point of negotiations? Is it okay for you then that the maoists form an interim government with their arms? Is it okay for you then that the maoists go for CA election with their fully armed PLA?
    I think most people will say No it is’nt okay. If this is the case then the negotiations should end.

  3. Kirat,
    Great line, but there is a time and place to take risks and carry out change.

  4. gurkhali,
    Who can tell what the Maoist’s intentions are? They can lie about their intentions. My point is that a strong, professional army must be used as a deterrent.

  5. Maoist intention is clear, achieve through barrel of a gun. lets not pretend otherwise. The political parties who attended a meeting recently in Delhi agreed in principle to make Nepal, Bhutan. Ask the participant, not me, is it not so? This is a confirmed news, people. Now, we have army but experts like Kirats are thinking of dismantaling in the name of professionalism. Welcome to Nepal without the king, parliament, and Army. God save Nepal

  6. Kirat,
    Even the govt. can lie about their intentions, but atleast the whole world will have heard the committment as opposed to not saying anything. If they lie, they will never be trusted ever again.

  7. So whose suggesting to leave the army as it is? It is just not the right time that is the point.

  8. ck2, now is the best time my friend. There has never been a better time.

  9. gurkhali, the Maoists lie everyday. Why do you want to trust them every other day?

  10. Kirat,
    Let us end this argument because as far as reforming the army is concerned I feel now is absolutely the wrong time (reforms only after maoists lay down their arms). So there is no point in continuing as our minds are already made up.

  11. Kirat,
    Now you’re on the borderline of being childish. I think like ck I will also end my discussion with you.

  12. Ha, ha agreed. Hope we don’t have a royal takeover backed by the Army by then!

  13. Overkill you dolt. I have been stating that the army needs to be made more stronger-but more professional-with it’s allegiance to the people via their elective reps. How do you interpret that to mean dismantling the army?

  14. some of u are too cynical, some over-zealous, some paranoid,…lets hope for stability and pray….pray to whom by the way?? too many different gods right now….right ?? lets ask giriza…..

  15. maybe he can make another proclamation to find out who id the real god

  16. There time and place for everything. I do not understand your point “make them more professional…” tell me how? Are you a good judge of that, back it up. If you cannot then do not touch it.

    When you talk about allegiance to people, you confuse me, really, you do. Are you talking about People Liberation Army or Army of a country. And how naive can you get, to leave it at hands of politicians, have you seen it anywhere? You make judgment call as if you are the expert but the way I see it, you are nowhere near it.

  17. You guys here who are supporting the Nepal Army can see the UN report on torture and disappearance in merosansar.com. Do you have any respect for these “animals” ? Its like Abu Gharib and Guantanamo.

  18. Congratulations to Shobhakar Budhathoki for his insightful article titled “Nepal Army: Transition and Swear Allegiance.”

    Until and unless the century-old nepotism and favaoritism get exterpited, Nepal army’s reputation will remain the same: a corrupt army of the Shah dynasty, not a truly army of Nepal.

    Uday Lama

  19. About the Nepal Army or the RNA-People seem to have amazingly short memories. Please note that the RNA engaged the Maosist for four years from 2002 till the recent ceasefire. In these four years what did the RNA, who had the backing of arms and training from India, US and the UK achieve? A big fat zero! It was hoped that the RNA would inflict enough damage on the Maoists to force them to come to the table for talks. Was this achieved? No, but instead the opposite was. The RNA’s incompetence only made the Maoist more bolder than before. They even started trying to blockade Kathmandu!

    So this is the report card of the RNA after four years of engagement with the Maoist: Total failure. The Maoists are even stronger today. The RNA has almost 80,000 soldiers the Maoists around 25,000. The RNA gets billions of rupees from the state budget, the Maoists have to rely on donations and extortions and arms stolen from the Army. The RNA has been in existence for over 50 years, the Maoist PLA less than 15 years.

    The RNA is an abject failure. This is an indisputable fact.

    Yet when calls for a revamping of the Army is made so that it can become a more effective fighting force and so that it cannot become a weapon of the palace but a defender of the Nepali people-you guys object.

    Some of you say it is not the right time, some of you say there is no need for reform.

    Time is now. The janandolan is fresh in our memory, the eyes of the world are on Nepal, the UN has never taken more interest in Nepal than now, Royalist reactionaries are itching for a revolt, KG’s defeat is fresh in his mind, Maoists are menacing the society with their extortionist demands and yet you guys say time is not now? Wake up! There has never been a better time.

    I am not an expert on military affairs but I do possess common sense. I am afraid those who oppose the immediate revamping of the RNA are either idiots, royalists or maoists. Because the Army becoming strong and professional with an allegiance to the people of Nepal can only benefit the common people of Nepal.

  20. kirat,
    I am 100 percent with you. i think our army was “lazy” for the last four years. Actually it was used to crush the political parties than to Maoists. It was kept that way because King wanted to prolong his rule saying that they were faced with terrorism. Our army top brass who boast of their professionalism should agree that they are a failure as national army. They could not protect the people from the Maoists uprising. Reality is as simple as that.They were much more involved in torture and corruption than protecting the people and the country.

  21. Someone is wanting to prevent the Army from earning some money from Foreign assignments and giving reason that the top brass has misused soldiers money earned from Foreign assignments..quite silly..
    Someone wants to replace RNA/NA with Maobadi…again quite silly..

    Someone thinks Army was lazy..

    He should reflect on whether our politicians were not more lazy..if they were not lazy it was only because they were busy making money and later blaming KG(I am no fan of KG) and every King even Prithvi Narayan(God Bless His Soul- he gave us Nepal,he set up a secular kingdom that lived most honourably for over 230 years)..

    Some one says the Maoist PLA existed less than 15 years..or the same time that our politicians started their power and money games after KB opted out of power….

    DONT PLAY POLITICS with the RNA/NA…

    REMEMBER in India NEHRU played politics with the Army because he had a false fear of a coup after the coup in Pakistan. RESULT was INDIAN ARMY got a BIG BEATING FROM CHINA in 1962…

  22. I am shocked that nobody has responded to what Nepali blogger said. Aren’t we supporters of democracy? Are we not on the side of freedom of expression, justice, and peace? Aren’t we supposedly proponents of *rational thought*?
    Democracies do not exist to provide liberties to a select few, or those on the side of the “winners”. I would be the first to say that Tulsi Giri, Kamal Thapa, Pyar Jung Thapa, and an array of other ministers and security-chiefs MUST be brought before courts, and made to account for their disgusting actions. However, NONE of 1 – 6 even suggests any form of democratic sentiment. (May I assume that nobody replied to this comment because the suggestions were so preposterous?

    “1. Expel all army men from their jobs and replace them with Maoist militia who have fought hard to give Nepal so much.

    2. Pass another “democratic” decree from parliament to ban any word of support towards the Army

    3. Appoint Ram Bahadur Thapa alias Badal (no relations to Pyar Jung Thapa) as the next extremely-supreme-commander-in-chief of the Army.

    4. To erase any reference to monarchy in the Ary or in Nepal, ban all publications, stories, books and other references with the words “raja” or “shahi” or “rani” or anything remotely royal.

    5. Imprison Shahs, Ranas, Shahis and other people with royal-sounding names.

    6. And, to make sure the conspirators do not take this decree as another “excuse” for protests, imprison anyone who opposes such “democratic” measures.

    Look at Mozambique for one example. Look at Angola for another. What do you think would happen to the country if more than 80,000 suddenly lost their jobs? Even if one were to support the Maoists/the Maoist fighers *unconditionally*, consider the impact on society and the economy. And Badal as commander-in-chief. Oh yes. Because *he* is absolutely free from responsibility of *any* human rights abuses and thus the best choice as C in C. Of course.

    The poster her/himself made clear the democratic nature of her/his suggestions. Very “democratic” measures indeed.

  23. That said, I don’t know how I feel about the role of an army in general, and my general attitude towards armed forces can’t apply here. But, if the role of an army is to protect the people of the country it is in – be it from natural disasters or other calamaties/uprisings – then it needs to be a stable force, not one made up solely of thousands of teenagers.

  24. simsim,

    This is perhaps the form of ‘democracy’ the Nepalese love and practice.

  25. Before you go on terming Lazy RNA, and lazy this just look up yourself in the mirror. Arm chair quaterbacks or back seat drivers are hazards.

    If RNA is touched then NO MORE NEPAL. Already Nepal is coming apart at the seams. Just heard that there is a outfit called “Kirat Automonous Movement,” which allies with Maoist, explain this. All this strife was to create false pride of communities to make themselves distinct and different from one another. Disintegration of the state, is this all real? God Save Nepal.

  26. I’m from Bangladesh and we have a system where our head of state, the president, has a very ceremonial role. He has absolutely no teeth and must follow the line set by the political party that placed him in that position.

    You speak of democracy, but there will be no balance should the royal family be dethroned. A democracy with no balance is not a democracy. You will have a farce democracy like we have in Bangladesh–where the prime minister has complete say without being held to any accountability and when the next party is in power they abuse it just like the previous one.

    Keep your monarchy, not because of tradition or any other excuse some have offered on other pages, but because someone unelected and not effected by the political parties needs to play the role of the referee.

    The people of Nepal can always do it, but is it really in the interest of the country to have a massive people’s movement every ten years with the help of a group that has been labeled a terrorist organization by many?

  27. Bengali_Friend, more than your idea of democracy, can you tell me how you have kept your army in check? You used to have military coups before, the last one being Ershad.

  28. Bengali_Friend,

    We live in the times (in case of Nepal) where it is either ‘this’ or ‘that’ with a very remote possibility of co-existence between the two. I am not sure whether your suggestion would be even given a chance to be regarded as an option. Any one with this idea may be branded as ‘royalist’ or ‘feudalist’. And, of course, once anyone has authority, s/he would like to throw the accountability out of the window. Moreover, they will create fear reminding what had happened during the past so that people continue supporting them whether they contribution or not.

  29. it should have been ‘whether they contribute or not’ in the last line.

  30. Bengali friend, what you spoke is right but Nepal is beyond reason and rationality. All is in the name of People’s movement now- you can kill, extort, and loot a bank all in the name of people’s movement.

    There is no one to see or even make an effort to understand the effect of “dayafter.” The perception is, change is good without understanding the underlining factor, future reprecussions, and cost of change.

    This is why we are in this situation. I commend you for your neigborly suggestions.

  31. Kirat,
    We send them on UN missions and let them make money. The Bangladeshi Armed Forces is one our country’s biggest commerical companies. They own everything from factories to 5-star hotels. As such they are no longer interested in “petty” civilian politics.

    You mentioned Ershad. There are many in Bangladesh who say that he was an arch-angel compared to the “democratic” politicians we have today. They do worse, but it’s ok as it is done in the name of democracy.

    Our last coup attempt was in 1996. It turns out that it was instigated by members of the opposition political party at the time.

  32. Bengali-Friend, thanks for you input. Yeah, unfortunately democracy can go terribly wrong as our two countries can testify. But I hear you guys are doing quite well on the economic front right now.

    For me the Army belongs to the barrack except when there is an emergency-but even then their actions should be for the benefit of the people and the country and not themselves. I know living in S. Asia it sounds naive but hey the armies of India and Western Europe actually carry out these ideals. I wonder what it is about our cultures that make this so difficult?

  33. if they don’t lay doen they must be fought not let them hae their aa staff trained and they are getting soilers by the day and they are arming themselves so i don’t know what is goverment doing….. ROYAL NEPALI ARMY RULES

  34. “For me the Army belongs to the barrack except when there is an emergency-”

    With all due respects, a Maoist insurgency is an emergency.

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