UN reports violence upsurge ahead of Nepal polls

March 23rd, 2008 - 12:59 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, March 23 (IANS) With a little over a fortnight left before Nepal goes to its first national polls after almost a decade, the UN has warned the government that there has been an upsurge of killings, intimidation against candidates and voters, and threats to disrupt the electoral process. The UN Mission in Nepal, which is supervising the guerrilla army of the Maoists and monitoring the state of security to assess if the historic April 10 constituent assembly election will be free and fair, said in its first election report that though Nepal was moving positively towards the twice-postponed election, there were still significant political hurdles.

This included violence by groups opposed to the election, serious violations of the electoral code of conduct and of human rights, and flouting of obligations regarding arms and armies.

In the southern plains of Terai, Nepal’s new Achilles’ heel where flaring violence derailed the polls last year, the UN agency said the activities of armed groups opposing the polls had intensified with an “upsurge of killings, violence, intimidation against candidates and voters and threats to disrupt the electoral process”.

The Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha, a former band of Maoists that is opposing the polls and this month gunned down a candidate, has outlined a series of actions planned to disrupt the election.

“Numerous reports have been received of candidates being pressured to withdraw their nominations,” the UN report said.

“Several candidates have reported receiving death threats over the telephone and candidates’ houses and party offices have been targeted with improvised explosive devices.”

While Kamal Prasad Adhikari, the candidate of a minor communist party, was assassinated in Banke district, Ashok Kumar Yadav, a candidate of the Communist Party of Nepal - Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) that is in the ruling alliance, was stabbed in Saptari district in the Terai.

“The situation risks becoming increasingly volatile,” the report said.

The UN body is also concerned at the poll campaign becoming increasingly violent, with daily reports of clashes between party supporters, use of other forms of violence, intimidation and threats.

“There is a marked gulf of distrust and hostility among political parties,” the report said.

It also pointed out that the Maoist cadres, especially their dreaded youth wing, the Young Communist League, were preventing other parties’ rallies and often using violence or threat of violence.

“The pattern of these incidents has raised serious questions about whether the Maoists, or significant parts of it, are willing to engage in a genuinely free and fair democratic process,” the report said.

UNMIN is also alleging that the Maoists have violated the peace agreement they signed two years ago by allowing their guerrilla army commanders to contest the election and soldiers to campaign for them.

The peace pact had seen both the rebels and the ruling parties pledge that the armies of both would remain confined to barracks till the election to create a fearless poll atmosphere.

The UN scrutiny has found a significant number of guerrilla combatants exiting from their cantonments to hit the poll trail in violation of the pact.

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