Nepal government in breakthrough agreement with ethnic group

Report
from Deutsche Presse Agentur
Published on 30 Aug 2007
Kathmandu_(dpa) _ The Nepalese government and an ethnic group representing the minority Madhesi community reached a breakthrough deal Thursday to defuse months of tension in the southern part of the Himalayan nation, officials said.

The government and the ethnic Madhesi People's Rights Forum (MPRF) said they reached a 22-point agreement that will halt protests which have periodically crippled commerce in the restive south.

"Nepal is now on its way to becoming a federal autonomous state with guaranteed representation of all ethnic groups in all levels of government," MPRF president Upendra Yadav said. "All our protest programmes have now been withdrawn."

The government agreed to provide compensation to those killed during violent protests in southern Nepal during January and February.

It also promised to form a commission for the restructuring of the state and ensure representation of all communities in administrative decisions.

But the government did not agree to the MPRF's key demand for full proportional representation in electoral system.

"We have decided to pursue the issue after the constituent assembly elections," Yadav said, referring to the body that will rewrite Nepal's new constitution. "But we are excited about the agreement with the government."

MPRF is the largest ethnic minority, representing nearly a third of Nepal's 27 million population, and the agreement is expected to boost the government's efforts to resolve southern unrest in the run-up to the November elections.

The group was involved in violent protests demanding greater representation for ethnic Madhesi community that resulted in the deaths of at least 55 people earlier this year.

The government has intensified its attempts to hold talks with disgruntled ethnic groups, whose protests are seen as the biggest threat to holding free and fair elections.

Political analysts say despite the agreement with MPRF, peace in southern Nepal is still not assured as smaller militant groups have not agreed to enter negotiations with the government. dpa kr tl

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