Update: Nepal Army has expressed its commitment to work under the direction of an elected government, whoever comes to power, reports Nepalnews. The army representative in Joint Monitoring Coordination Committee (JMCC) Shiva Pradhan is learnt to have said so during the meeting of the JMCC held Tuesday in the capital.
“It is entirely up to the political leadership. All we are saying is that the army has special characteristics. It must not be politicized.”- A Nepali Army spokesman
By Jay Shankar
Nepali Army said it will refuse to accept former communist rebels into its ranks while they remain “politically motivated and indoctrinated,”‘ a move that may delay the Himalayan nation’s peace process. “They cannot be integrated into the army as of now,” Ramindra Chhetri, director of army public relations, said in an interview in the capital, Kathmandu. “They need to be disarmed, de-mobilized, rehabilitated and reintegrated.”
The rebels sent 23,500 fighters into 28 camps and stored 3,428 weapons under the supervision of the United Nations as part of the peace accord that ended their 10-year insurgency. The agreement said rebel fighters will be rehabilitated and may join the ranks of the army.
Nepal returned to multiparty democracy last week, holding its first general election since 1991 under the terms of the November 2006 peace agreement. The former rebel Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) will probably win most seats in the new parliament that will draft a constitution to abolish the monarchy after almost 240 years.
Puspa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda), the leader of CPN (Maoist), on Jan. 9 accused the government of delaying the integration of his fighters into the army, saying the holdup may harm the accord that ended the civil war in which 13,000 people died. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala said in the same month he opposes former guerrillas joining the army because he doesn’t want the institution to be politicized. He suggested former rebels be recruited into a security force for industries. “There is a lot of posturing by the army,” said military and political analyst C.K. Lal. “Between the army and Maoist demands there are a lot of gray areas. All that the Maoists need is rehabilitation with honor.”
Confined to Bases
Under the 2006 peace accord, both the army and the Maoists were confined to bases and the army didn’t participate in the elections, Chhetri said. “It is entirely up to the political leadership. All we are saying is that the army has special characteristics,” he said. “It must be respected by all stakeholders. It must not be politicized. The army lost 1,012 soldiers during the insurgency.”
Nepal faced a similar problem in 1951 when fighters of the Nepali Congress were to be integrated, Lal said. The Nepal Police was formed as a result and Nepali Congress members recruited. “There was only the army until then,” he said.
The Maoist fighters, who follow the ideology of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong, may become part of a security force or used to protect national parks and resources or to guard television and telephone towers and radio stations, Lal said.
“They have abandoned the war,” he said. “They are asking for uniforms, barracks to live in, a hierarchy which clones the way they lived earlier. The higher commanders can be absorbed by an inter-forces commission. It is possible to work this out.”
Jay Shankar is a journalist with Bloomberg where this article originally appeared .