UN chief urges Nepal to begin army merger soon

November 1st, 2008 - 5:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Nov 1 (IANS) UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon winded up his two-day trip to Nepal Saturday, asking the government, the major political parties and the interim parliament to begin the integration of the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with the state army and discharge child soldiers as soon as possible.”The most immediate challenge ahead is to integrate and rehabilitate Maoist combatants,” the UN chief said while addressing a special session of the newly elected constituent assembly and also during a press conference later.

While welcoming the formation of a five-member special committee this week that has been mandated to supervise, integrate and rehabilitate PLA fighters with the Nepal Army within six months, Ban urged the political parties represented on the committee to ensure that the work was begun as soon as possible.

He also urged the government of Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda to formally discharge all child soldiers and disqualified fighters who are still barracked in 28 cantonments along with the over 19,000 PLA soldiers who have been certified by the UN as eligible for the integration.

The UN has released $10 million for assisting the Prachanda government to reintegrate the rebel fighters, generate youth employment and fund other rehabilitation measures.

Keenly aware of the growing rift between the Maoists and former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress party, which is now sitting in opposition and has refused to join the special committee, Ban also urged the parties to work “in a spirit of compromise and cooperation” on the future of the PLA, drafting the new constitution, which has to be completed in two years and other key peace-building initiatives.

Along with political transformation, Ban said Nepal needed social and economic transformation. “These are like the two wings of a bird; both are needed for this country to soar,” he said.

The UN chief indicated that the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), which is supervising the arms and fighters of the Maoists, is likely to get its tenure extended. He said the prime minister, Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav and President Ram Baran Yadav, all of whom he met separately, had agreed on that though the details were yet to be worked out.

However, he emphasised that the ongoing peace process and army integration should be “Nepali-driven” with the government and the major parties being in the driving seat.

Ban also met Koirala Saturday amidst growing criticism by the latter’s party men that the UNMIN was partisan towards the Maoists and turning a blind eye to their lawless deeds, an allegation that UNMIN chief Ian Martin has denied.

Ban also said he had discussed the situation in Nepal with the Indian government and Indian leaders during his visit to New Delhi.

They had all agreed, he said, that the developments in Nepal were positive and the international community was ready to assist in the peace process.

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