By Dinesh Wagle (back in Kathmandu)
Wagle’s Web Log
So the best thing about the month of August was the joint letter by the government and the Maoists to the United Nations on the contentious issue of, in the very much vague terms, Arms Management. Arms Management! The term has got so much attention and widespread publicity that it reminds me of some of the most widely used terminologies in Nepali politics: Tanakpur Kanda, Satta Samikaran (power equation), Pajero Sanskriti (Pajero culture), Trishanku Sansad (hung parliament), and Floor Cross etc. Then came words like conflict resolution, peace process, ceasefire, constructive king, magh 19 ko Shahi kadam (Feb 1’s royal takeover) and of course, the arms management. (By the way, there are many things to manage in Nepal. Kathmandu metropolitan city was recently criticized for its inability in Waste Management.) Some of these terms were quickly utilized by the mushrooming non government organizations (NGOs). Now, as we are talking about arms management, another term, primarily in English, has taken over the spaces in media: DDR. (No, it’s not the famous DPR or Detailed Project Report related the super famous Mahakali treaty.) DDR stands for, if you don’t know it already, Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration. (DDR is becoming a buzzword in Nepali media and if you don’t know it, you must feel that you are lagging behind in the apparently fashionable, and let me use the term, lucrative, mission of conflict resolution and peace building.)
The use of DDR has intensified as the talks of UN involvement are gaining momentum. People who are introducing this term to Nepal are mostly UN wallas including our own Kul Chandra Gautam. Kathmandu based UN walla Matthew Kahane and guest UN walla Stephen De Mistura, who created pressure for the Maoists and the government to reach an agreement on arms management, also talked about DDR. [We also heard Dan Smith of British peace-building NGO talking about DDR in Nepal. I took part in a video conference with an American army officer a few weeks ago in which he talked about DDR like scenario for Nepal. This morning I was talking with an American girl who is here to study about DDR for woman Maoist guerillas.] Everyone, it seems, is talking about DDR. Still UN is the key player so I checked the website of UN in Nepal to get UN’s take on the terminology which states that UNDP and other UN agencies have been actively engaged in the DDR of ex-combatants since 1991. (Unfortunately, UN’s page for “DDR of Women and Children” is under construction.)
UN Take on DDR
DDR is a complex process, with political, military, security, humanitarian and socio-economic dimensions. It aims to address the post-conflict security challenge that arises from ex-combatants being left without livelihoods or support networks, other than their former comrades, during the critical transition period from conflict to peace and development.
DDR seeks to support the ex-combatants’ economic and social reintegration, so they can become stakeholders in peace. Despite concerns that ex-combatants receive disproportionate benefits in the post-conflict phase, there is a growing consensus that a focus on former combatants in DDR programmes is necessary and justified in order to build confidence and security in war-torn societies, thereby reducing the obstacles and blocks to broader recovery efforts. To achieve the security objectives of a DDR programme, support should be given to achieve full initial socio-economic reintegration of ex-combatants. However, in the context of longer-term reintegration, a balance must be struck between supporting ex-combatants’ specific needs and the needs of the wider community in order to prevent resentment. Emphasis should be placed on moving quickly from ex-combatant-specific programmes to community-based and national development programmes. Failure to do so will result in ex-combatants continuing to identify themselves as belonging to a special group outside society, retarding their effective reintegration into local communities. source
DDR in Nepal: A British NGO’s Understanding
Excerpts from an interview of Dan Smith of International Alert (IA):
Q: Local peace experts say that Nepal is running out of time for the DDR process.
A: Whenever you start the process of planning and discussing you could always think that it was a good idea that you could have started before. I wouldn’t really say that it is too late now to begin. I simply say that there is no point in putting off the discussion on planning. In fact the process of discussing on DDR is itself a discussion that can bring both sides together. That discussion is itself a part of the peace process.
Q: How do you see the peace process developing in Nepal?
A: The peace process is at a very early stage now. If you take any other example internationally you will find very uneven progress in a peace process. So, people need patience and determination in equal measure and you have to all the time be pushing forward not to be too disappointed when there is a roadblock. If you keep the momentum growing, you will go through. But it is a complicated process and time-consuming one.
Q: There are reasons to believe that international DDR missions are already here or arriving in the country soon. What can the Nepalese expect from them?
A: DDR is a very interesting phenomena. It has many components. For DDR to be successful it needs not just a good disarmament and demobilisation programme but also a need for a good economic programme. There also needs to be a decision taken by Nepal about, for example, how big its armed forces should be when peace is finally achieved. That number is likely to be smaller than the combined size of the Nepalese Army (NA) and the Maoists forces. You have to have a plan for bringing those numbers down. So for all these, the key decisions are of the Nepalis. But at the same time there is lot of information about expertise and advice that can be given from outside. You will probably need some sort of international observers to monitor the process and certainly you need international assistance for the social and economic managements of the process. And this is what the DDR missions will be about.
Q: The Maoists are asking why should only they be disarmed. Is the DDR process good enough if it only disarms them?
A: No. That is what I mean by necessity to fix the size, to have a sense of the size of armed forces that a peaceful Nepal requires. Sovereign states have armed forces, border and internal security. So what is the role of the military to be in a peaceful Nepal and how big a force is needed to fulfill that role? The size of the NA has increased during the war. A large army is an economic burden for the country to carry. There is every reason to want the army to be only as big as it needs to be in order to fulfill its role. The whole issue of management of arms and DDR is one which applies on principle on both sides.
Q: Normally, how long does DDR take place in a country like Nepal recovering from conflict?
A: Well, it depends on how you define it. In some circumstances the disarmament phase is never really completed because people wrongly hang on to their weapons. There is a very sad and regrettable feature of bringing conflicts to an end that quite often the weapons used in the violent conflict come into the society and underworld – into the hands of the criminals. Demobilisation can be over fairly quickly. In many cases, it can be done in six to nine months. Reintegration is the more complicated part. This is where the international community is only now learning that reintegration means more than training somebody new skills. It means the ability of the people to return to the towns and villages where they came from and find there a decent job. That is more than a short training programme to assure one. The peace process as a whole lasts for several years, five to 10 years in many places. So it is a long slow process for a society to develop a self-sustaining peace process.
Q: Nepalese women and children seem to be invisible in the talks about DDR process in Nepal. Are they being totally neglected?
A: When it comes to DDR there are women amongst them whether they are fighting or not. And sometimes DDR process focuses purely on those who have guns and who actually fought. But those who did other tasks, not necessarily military, also have a stake in the process. They also need to be looked after and reintegrated. The issue of reintegration of child soldiers can be an enormous one because depending on what age they were recruited at, they may have very little sense of life except in military or in the rebel forces.
In Africa there have been children recruited when they were seven or eight years old and then they go through brutal experiences. So for them to reintegrate into normal life is an enormous challenge.
Q: What are your concerns if DDR process is delayed in Nepal?
A: If in the long term, four or five years time, you have an elected parliament that includes Maoists but also their military force – which are still of the same size with plenty of weapons – and an army with the same size, you both have an economic burden on the country and a permanent risk of return to conflict. I don’t think you will have political stability with that. If instead of having a DDR process, which is organised and planned, you just get the Maoists essentially laying down the weapons individually after leaving the Maoist forces in an unplanned and disorganized way, then you will have a country with a lot of weapons in it that are not under legal control and that do not belong to the police or recognised authorities. That means the crime could get more violent. It also means that if things go wrong politically in a few years time, it might seem tempting for somebody to start a new rebellion rather than try to sort it out in a peaceful way. So if you don’t have DDR, you essentially leave problems around that will come back to you later.
Q: Local experts have accused the government and Maoists of not having a clear plan for the DDR process.
A: Yes, there is no current plan on DDR. Of course, there needs to be one at some point and negotiating that is part of the peace process.
Then there is an article by Shobhakar Budhathoki in today’s Kathmandu Post with DDR on its title:
Disarmament expert, Joana Spear, outlines in a book entitled, Ending Civil Wars: The Implementation of Peace Agreements, five main factors that determine the success of DDR. They include the feasibility of the agreement and its aims; the implementation environment; the capability and resources of international implementers; the attitude of warring parties; and effective verification. Several of these are not yet present for a successful DDR process in Nepal.
Maoists, Nepal Government Send Common Letter to UN
KATHMANDU, Aug 9 – Settling the dispute over the management of Maoist arms and their fighters, the government and the Maoists on Wednesday finally agreed to keep the rebel combatants in specified “cantonments” and Nepali Army personnel within barracks.
After weeks of controversy over the government’s letter inviting the UN to help in decommissioning the rebel fighters, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Maoist Chairman Prachanda signed separate letters of similar content, inviting the global body to help monitor the arms and armed personnel of both the sides.
They sought the UN’s role in five areas vis-à-vis observation of the constituent assembly elections, monitoring of rights violations and implementation of the 25-point code of conduct agreed to govern the ongoing ceasefire.
“Both the sides have agreed to seek UN’s assistance to monitor and verify the confinement of the CPN-Maoist combatants and their weapons within designated cantonment areas,” the letters stated.
Koirala and Prachanda, however, have sought deployment of civilian personnel for the job of monitoring the activities of both sides.
The negotiating team heads said they have also sent a copy directly to the UN by email to meet the Wednesday deadline set by a high-level UN assessment mission that returned to New York last week after studying possible ways of UN assistance in Nepal’s peace process.
Making public the five-point letter sent to the UN, the talks team leaders said this was the third important deal they have made so far to establish peace and democracy in Nepal–after the 12-point understanding (November 22) and the eight-point agreement (June 16).
Sitaula said today’s deal was significant as it was aimed at liberating the people from the threat of weapons on both sides. “We are confident that we can settle all contentious issues through mutual dialogue.”
Mahara termed the letter a “milestone” in addressing the people’s aspirations for peace and said the deal was “historic”. He said Nepal’s politics has taken a new course from today and entered a new phase of implementing agreements in practice.
The signing of the letter has addressed the most sensitive issue, Mahara claimed. “Managing the armies, the major means of war, is itself a sensitive matter,” he said. “We are open to discuss any modality and believe that Nepal may have its own unique modality.”
UN assistance sought for:
1. Continuing OHCHR monitoring of rights situation
2. Helping monitor the 25-point Code of Conduct
3. Confining Maoist combatants and their weapons in designated cantonments and letting the UN monitor them
4. Confining Nepali Army personnel and their weapons in barracks to ensure that they are not used for or against any side
5. Observing the constituent assembly election
Before I end this article, I want to mention about our own experience of DDR 56 years ago. There were no UN and mushrooming Nepali and British NGOs to advise on DDR but Nepal managed to manage Nepali Congress’s Jana Mukti Sena (Peoples’ Liberation Army).