UN peace mission’s fate hangs in balance in Nepal

April 19th, 2009 - 4:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, April 19 (IANS) The UN, which played a key role in Nepal’s peace process that saw an end to 10 years’ communist insurgency and an election that made the Himalayan kingdom the world’s newest republic, may be asked to wind up its peace agency this year.
Nepal’s Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, whose former guerrilla party had insisted on UN monitoring when it began peace talks with a coalition government two years ago, has now indicated that the peace agency could have its role come to a logical end by July.

The UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), headed by Ian Martin, special representative of UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, was established in January 2007 after long opposition by Nepal’s neighbours India and China.

UNMIN was mandated to monitor the arms and combatants of the Maoists’ guerrilla army, which has been corralled in cantonments since they signed a peace pact in November 2006. Its other responsibility - to monitor the historic constituent assembly election - ended last year when Nepal voted overwhelmingly to oust its king Gyanendra.

UNMIN’s tenure was extended thrice as Nepal failed to hold the election in time.

After the election, though the world body lobbied to get UNMIN’s mandate extended, it was turned down by Nepal, under pressure from China and India.

After the election last year, UNMIN was downsized and its only current responsibility now is to keep watch over the cantonments.

Now, after long political squabbles, Nepal’s Maoist-led government has finally been able to form a committee that will address the contentious task of merging the Maoist army, the People’s Liberation Army, with the state forces, the Nepal Army.

Prachanda recently said that he expects the integration to be completed by July 15.

Once the feat is accomplished and the cantonments disbanded, UNMIN is expected to be told to pack up and leave.

Its current mandate ends July 23.

Prachanda this week met British undersecretary of state for defence and Minister for Veterans Kevan Jones when he reportedly told the visiting minister that the merger would be completed by mid-July.

“If things work as planned, we would be in a position to discharge UNMIN,” Prachanda reportedly said.

A second UN agency, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), that was established in 2005 to monitor human rights violations by the state as well as the Maoist rebels, is also nearing the end of its tenure in June.

However, unlike UNMIN, OHCHR is expected to get an extension.

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