Nepal

OCHA Nepal Situation Overview - Apr 2007

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Issue No. 12

Highlights:

- Ministerial team formed to address concerns of marginalised groups

- Election Commission announces that it is not technically possible to hold Constituent Assembly polls in June

- CPN-Maoist and Madhesi parliamentarians disrupt House business

- Bandhs called by Madhesi and other groups continue to paralyse life in East and Central Terai

- Citizenship Certificate distribution continues to be dogged by claims of irregularities

- New groups continue to pose challenges to humanitarian and development work

- Delivery of services by state in Terai districts hampered by Madhesi and other groups

- Reports of new displacements in East and Central Terai Districts

- Positive winter crop yield expected in many districts, but shortfall remains in Mid and Far West regions

- Improvement in nutrition standards reported in Bhajhang District

Kathmandu, 3 May 2007

CONTEXT

Politics and major developments

On 8 April 2007, the government of Nepal formed a three member ministerial team headed by Peace and Reconstruction Minister to hold talks with Madhesi, Janajati, Dalits and other marginalised groups who have been engaging in protests for the last three months. Following invitation for talks by this team, several groups including Madhesi Peoples Rights Forum (MPRF) welcomed the move to try and resolve Madhesi issues through dialogue, with Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) suspending their planned strike programmes to give room for talks. On 26 April MPRF formed its talk team and submitted the names of team members to the Ministerial team.

On 10 April, pursuant to the Tripartite Agreement on Management of Arms and Armies, the Nepal Army (NA), under supervision of UNMIN registration teams and arms monitors started locking up an equivalent number of weapons registered by the CPN-Maoist in 14 storage containers at its Chhauni barracks in Kathmandu. This process was completed on 12 April with reportedly 2855 weapons (including rifles, machine guns, sub machine guns, pistols and mortars) registered by the UNMIN teams.

During the reporting period, a number of CPN-Maoist s' PLA were reported to have threatened to leave the Cantonment sites, citing poor living conditions. A joint committee composed of government and CPN-Maoist formed to assess the living conditions at the cantonments made recommendations for improvement of the living conditions at the cantonment sites. However, before the recommendations could be implemented, wind and rain is reported to have destroyed the temporary shelter of the CPNMaoist combatants, forcing a number of them out of the cantonments into the neighboring villages in Nawalparasi, Kailali, Ilam and Chitwan sites.

Citizenship card distribution continued to be dogged with controversies, especially in the Terai districts, with claims that brokers were involved in getting money to secure Nepal citizenship certificates to a number of Indian nationals. In Central region's Sarlahi district, some citizens had reportedly filed cases at the District Administration Offices (DAO) against individuals who reportedly aided the acquisition of citizenship certificates for their relatives from India. On 8 April, a group of brokers that included some Indian nationals reportedly locked up local leaders of the 8 political parties and the VDC Secretary at Govindapur VDC of Morang District after they were deprived of citizenship despite having paid money. There were widespread claims that Indian citizens reportedly paid between 2-20,000NPR to acquire Nepali citizenship. On 9 April, activists of Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM- Jwala Singh) reportedly abducted the CPN-Maoist Area Secretary from his residence at Dewahi VDC-6, Rautahat District on claims that the abducted CPNMaoist leader was helping a non-Nepali to acquire Nepali citizenship certificate.

On 12 April, the Electoral Constituency Delimitation Commission (ECDC) submitted its report to the Prime Minister, proposing a total of 240 electoral Constituencies for the Constituent Assembly (CA) elections from the current 205. The ECDC proposed additional 35 constituencies (28 in the Terai and 7 in the Hilly region), justifying the proposed increase on the basis of population growth, with each electoral constituency having up to 96,000 voting population. The ECDC proposal, which if implemented, would leave the Terai districts with 116 and the hilly districts with 124 electoral constituencies were rejected by both the Madhesi groups and the CPN-Maoist.

On 12 April, the Election Commission declared that it was technically not possible to hold free and fair CA elections on 20 June as previously suggested by the political parties. The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) stated that the Commission requires 110 days for preparation after the government has passed all the required legislation and settled the pending political issues. The CEC asked the government to announce the CA elections date taking into account the foregoing factors to enable the EC plan accordingly. Following this announcement, the leadership of the 8 political parties at different levels engaged in political debates as to who should take responsibility for the delay and the way forward, but no conclusions were reached. The announcement by CEC that holding CA elections in June was not possible also attracted protests from CPN-Maoist cadres across the country, including combatants from Chitwan and Nawalparasi Cantonment sites, who temporarily came out of their cantonment on 14 April to protest against delay in holding CA elections. On 15 April, the CPN-Maoist Chairman Prachanda stated that if the CA polls could not be held on schedule, the basis of unity among the eight parties had ended and new understanding should be reached on the process of declaring Nepal a republican state, including options for a referendum to decide on the fate of the Monarchy. On 27 April 62 political parties had reportedly submitted applications for registration to the Election Commission to enable them participate in the CA elections.

On 18 April, CPN-Maoist members of Interim Parliament started disrupting parliamentary proceedings demanding immediate announcement of date for CA elections, declaration of Nepal as a republican state and better management of the Cantonment sites. The CPN-Maoist also sought an apology from the Home Minister for the police raid on Young Communist League (YCL) offices. Similarly the Members of the Interim Parliament from the Madhesi community joined the CPN-Maoist in disrupting the business of the Interim Parliament demanding among other things the setting up of a high level judicial probe into the violence in the Terai, adequate compensation to the victims of the Terai violence and scrapping of ECDC report. On 25 May, due to these disruptions as well as the projected absence of the house speaker and his deputy, parliamentary proceedings were adjourned for two weeks.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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