July 2006 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 June 2006
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ASIA

Nepal

Expected Council Action
In July the Council is expected to consider the future of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN). Its mandate expires on 23 July. The Secretary-General’s report is likely to contain an analysis of the implications of developments for the future of the peace process and UNMIN’s role.

At the time of writing the Nepal government had not yet formally asked for an extension although it has indicated to UN officials that it is likely to do so.

Key Recent Developments
A series of events led to the resignation on 4 May of Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, a Maoist leader who is known as Prachanda. These events raised constitutional and procedural questions relating to the powers of the prime minister, the president and the Nepalese army. On 20 April the army chief, General Rookmangud Katawal, was asked to provide clarification on several issues. These included the recruitment of personnel by the Nepalese army in late 2008, the extension of the terms of eight retiring brigadier generals and the boycott of the national games by Nepalese army participants because Maoist army athletes were taking part.

On 3 May the largest coalition partner, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) party, withdrew from the government, leaving Prachanda’s party, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) in the minority.

On 3 May the Cabinet sacked the army chief Katawal, Prachanda then appointed Chief of General Staff Kul Bahadur Khdaka, the second in command of the army, as acting chief. However, on that same day President Ram Baran Yadav wrote to Katawal and instructed him to continue as army chief. Prachanda resigned the next day, pulling his party out of the government.

The Secretary-General’s 24 April report provided an overview of developments and a midterm review. It said that there had been examples of “not insignificant positive measures” such as public consultations on the new constitution, revival of long-dormant government bodies and peaceful by-elections in six constituencies. The tone of the report was guardedly positive although it warned of differences among political parties and an atmosphere of mistrust. (Many of the differences have become more acute in the following months.)

The Secretary-General’s Representative in Nepal, Karin Landgren, briefed the Council on 5 May. The stand-off between the Nepalese Army and the leader of the governing coalition, the UCPN-M, had by that time come to a head, resulting in the resignation of the prime minister. Following the debate, the Council adopted a presidential statement where it expressed its concern over the political crisis in Nepal and underscored the urgent need for the government and all parties to work together. It also reaffirmed its support for UNMIN and recalled the Nepalese government’s commitment to discharge minors from the cantonment sites.

Following the withdrawal of the Maoist UCPN-M party, a new coalition government was formed, led by Madhav Kumar Nepal of UML. These events resulted in street protests and strikes. On 11 June the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Nepal expressed its concern that increased violence by political parties and affiliated groups could jeopardise the peace process. There were also protests following the new coalition government’s reinstatement of Katawal as army chief on 19 June.

The Army Integration Special Committee, set up on 16 January, appears to have stopped its consultations. The Special Committee’s role is to supervise the integration and rehabilitation of former Maoist combatants. It was meant to implement decisions on integration and rehabilitation within six months. The Technical Committee under the Special Committee appears to have continued its meetings.

There had been some movement on the issue of child soldiers before the political crisis in May. The Special Committee had on 11 February requested the government to go ahead with discharging and rehabilitating Maoist army personnel disqualified during the UNMIN verification process, including 2,973 minors. However, all discussions appear to be suspended for now.

A video of Prachanda stating that the number of UCPN-M combatants was inflated during the UNMIN verification led to some Nepali parties questioning the UN’s verification process and asking for re-verification of the UCPN-M soldiers. UNMIN, in a press statement, made it clear that it had been asked to register and verify only according to whether combatants had joined the service before 25 May 2006 or were born before 25 May 1988.

The OHCHR presence was renewed for three months in early June by the Nepalese government. This appears to be an interim measure while further consideration is given to the request for OHCHR to stay for another two years.

During his visit in June, Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said India was committed to assisting Nepal in its transition to multiparty democracy and in the peace process. The Nepalese prime minister is expected to visit India in August.

Key Issues
A key issue is how much the political developments in May, the deep political polarisation and lack of trust and confidence among parties will affect the peace process. The development of multiple power centres is a concern.

For the Council, immediate issues include whether to renew the mandate for UNMIN in July and whether to seek to play an active role in persuading the government to establish a high-level coordination committee and other multiparty mechanisms such as a peace and reconciliation commission to encourage political leaders to reengage in multiparty discussions.

Also an issue is the unrest following the pull-out of the UCPN-M and the new government’s decision to reinstate the army chief. There are press reports indicating that Prachanda plans to start another “people’s movement…to establish civilian supremacy”.

An issue of concern is that former combatants, including almost 3,000 minors, have now been in camps for two years and could become increasingly restive if there are no signs of imminent release. A related question is ensuring that integration and rehabilitation does not result in large numbers of former combatants released into Nepalese society without jobs.

Another increasing concern is whether the drafting of the constitution can now be completed by the May 2010 deadline.

Continuing issues which could affect the peace process are:

  • lack of progress on return of property;
  • the need to keep political youth groups under control;
  • stalling on setting up transitional justice mechanisms which could establish accountability for human rights violations; and
  • meeting the demands of traditionally marginalised parties and groups.

Options
Among the options are:

  • choosing not to renew UNMIN (which is possible but unlikely given developments since the January renewal);
  • extending UNMIN’s mandate by the period requested by the Nepal government with no mandate change; and
  • extending UNMIN’s mandate with changes to its mandate such as formally including the provision of assistance to the Technical Committee established under the Special Committee.

Council and Wider Dynamics
Given the deterioration in the political situation, most members support the continuation of UNMIN and feel that withdrawing would clearly send the wrong political signal. Nor do they think this is the right time for further downsizing and moving towards an exit strategy. Some feel that, in line with the ongoing UK-France peacekeeping review, possible benchmarks should still be put in place, but perhaps once the implications of the changed political situation are clearer.

There is, however, an underlying wariness about UNMIN staying on in a simple monitoring role for too long. The sense is that the Nepalese government is unlikely to ask for a different mandate, but some members would prefer to see a new mandate better adapted to current realities and clarifying the respective responsibilities of UNMIN and the Nepalese government.

China continues to emphasise the need to complete UNMIN’s role as soon as possible. However, it is likely to go along with a request from the Nepalese government to renew UNMIN’s mandate.

Members including France, Austria and Costa Rica voiced their concern about the delay over the discharge of minors during the May debate and are likely to bring this issue up again.

India, a non-Council member with a keen interest in the issue, believes that it would not be good for UNMIN to get involved in issues such as the separation of forces which are highly political and likely to result in a long-term presence.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1864 (23 January 2009) extended UNMIN until 23 July 2009.
  • S/RES/1740 (23 January 2007) established UNMIN for 12 months.

Selected Reports of the Secretary-General

  • S/2009/221 (24 April 2009) was the interim report reviewing progress in the peace process and implementation of UNMIN’s mandate
  • S/2009/1 (2 January 2009) was the report of the Secretary-General on the request of Nepal for UN assistance in support of its peace process.

Selected Meeting Records

  • S/PV.6119 (5 May 2009) was the meeting record of the 24 April Secretary-General’s report.
  • S/PV.6069 (16 January 2009) was the meeting record of the Secretary-General’s January report.

Other

  • S/PRST/2009/12 (5 May 2009) expressed concern about the political crisis in Nepal.
  • UNMIN press statement on the recruitment of new personnel (23 December 2008)

Other Relevant Facts

Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission

Karin Landgren (Sweden)

Size and Composition

About 275 including about 73 arms monitors

Duration

23 January 2007 to 23 July 2009

Cost

$24 million

Full forecast