This is a significant progress in the peace process since the former rebels signed a peace agreement with the government in 2006. Tasks ahead: re-grouping the Maoist combatants, integrate some in a new agency under Nepal army and send the rest to home with some money.
Baidya unhappy, America happy (below)
Notwithstanding the reservations from the party’s hard-line faction, the UCPN (Maoist) has handed over the keys of at least two containers of weapons- in Chulachuli of Ilam and Shaktikhor of Chitwan- to the Special Committee for Supervision, Integration and Rehabilitation of the Maoist combatants. The Special Committee then handed over the key to the monitoring committee under it. But the Maoist party is yet to hand over the keys of other weapons containers in, for example, Talband, Kailali. The guerrillas here reportedly said that they hadn’t received formal letter from their higher-ups regarding the handing over of the keys to the Special Committee. The Committee is a government agency that is chaired by the Prime Minister and has representatives from Maoist and other political parties.
Earlier today, a meeting of the commanders of the Maoist combatants agreed to hand over the keys to the Special Committee. The meeting was held at the residence of party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal who ordered the commanders to hand over the keys to the Special Committee citing the Party’s agreement with the Madhesi alliance before the formation of the current government under the leader of Maoist vice-chairman Dr. Baburam Bhattarai last week.
UCPN (Maoist) Vice-chairman Mohan Baidya has expressed his reservations on Special Committee (SC)’s decision to hand over keys of weapons containers of all cantonments to the monitoring committee under it. Baidya who represents hardliners in the party had opposed the decision through a statement today. “The special committee’s decision to hand over weapons key on Thursday by 5 pm is an attempt to disarm and dissolve People’s Liberation Army. The decision has opposed standing and central committee decisions of the party which had decided to hand over the keys after the modality and rehabilitation packages have been finalized,” the statement reads.
US Embassy’s Statement on the Maoist Decision to Hand Over the Keys to Arms Containers: We welcome the decision by the Maoist party to hand over the keys to the arms containers to the Special Committee today. This is a promising step and we hope it signals the commitment of the UCPN-M to continue moving forward to complete the peace process. Doing so, however, will require that the UML, the Nepali Congress, and all other political actors respond with similar flexibility and constructive commitment to finally bring the Nepali people the peace and prosperity they seek and deserve.
AUG 31 – In a major breakthrough in the peace process, the UCPN (Maoist) on Wednesday (yesterday) agreed to hand over keys to arms containers to the Special Committee on Thursday (today). The decision to acquire the arms containers installed at cantonment sites was formalised by the Special Committee led by newly-elected Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai. The Maoist party’s consent to detach itself from its weapons comes four days after the Maoist vice-chairman was elected the PM.
“The Maoists were tied to this decision according to the Interim Constitution. It came late, but it is certainly a positive move,” said Nepali Congress member in the Special Committee Ram Sharan Mahat. “The agreement has helped us enter the real issues on integration and rehabilitation that are still unresolved.”
The handover of the weapons has been a bone of contention between the NC and the Maoists, the key stakeholders in the peace process. The NC has set “complete disarmament” of the Maoist party as a precondition for the formation of a national unity government under the Maoists.
Till date, PLA commanders hold the control of the keys of the containers that have weapons belonging to the former rebels. The weapons were registered by UNMIN in 2007.
Based on the Agreement on the Monitoring of the Management of the Arms and Armies (AMAA), the UN had registered 3,475 Maoist weapons at the seven cantonment sites and sealed 2,855 Nepal Army weapons at the Chhauni barracks of the Army with a single lock and handed over the keys to the sides concerned.
On Thursday, PLA commanders will hand over the keys to arms monitors deployed by the Special Committee at the cantonment sites. Eight arms monitors, including two representatives each from the Nepal Army, the Nepal Police, the Armed Police Force and the PLA and seven civilian staff, are stationed at the seven main cantonment sites and the Chhauni barracks, where the weapons are stored.
The keys of the container storing Army weapons will also be handed over to a joint monitoring team on Thursday, according to Maoist member in the Special Committee Barsha Man Pun. “We have made a breakthrough today by agreeing to bring both the combatants and the weapons practically under the Special Committee,” Pun said. “We hope that the decision will be instrumental in restoring the atmosphere of trust among the major parties.”
The first meeting of the Special Committee chaired by Bhattarai on Wednesday also decided to accelerate the combatants’ regrouping process. The committee has directed its secretariat to recruit seven survey teams comprising 210 personnel instead of four teams proposed by the previous government, according to Chief Secretary Madhav Prasad Ghimire, also the spokesman of the Special Committee.
The eight-member committee has agreed to take up contentious issues like integration modality, numbers, norms, rank determination and rehabilitation package for the former combatants in its upcoming meeting scheduled for Sunday.
Parties have committed that they would conduct Special Committee meetings at least thrice a week–on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The Special Committee’s decision followed talks between top leaders of the three major parties–UCPN(Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala and CPN-UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal–held earlier in the day in the presence of PM Bhattarai.
Dahal reiterated his party’s commitment to conclude the peace process in the next 45 days and stressed on “constructive support” from the opposition parties.
There are, however, differences of opinion between the NC and the Maoists on when the 45-day period kicked off, with the NC saying it started on Sunday, the day Bhattrai became the PM. Maoists say the period comes into effect once there is a larger inter-party agreement on peace process issues.