Nepal

OCHA Nepal Situation Overview Issue No. 35, 16 - 31 Oct 2008

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Highlights:

- Inter Agency Standing Committee starts planning return of Koshi breach displaced populations

- Major reshuffle of Government Secretaries and Chief District Officers slows down flood relief efforts.

- Terai groups put forth preconditions for talks

- Government sets up Local Peace Committees

- Clashes between youth groups allied to different political parties continue

CONTEXT

Political situation

Discussions on how to integrate former combatants of the Communist party of Nepal-Maoists (CPN-M) into the Nepal Army (NA) continued, with CPN-M calling for bulk integration while the other three major political parties and a section of the NA thinking otherwise. On 16 October the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) of the United Nations in Nepal Ian Martin urged political parties to reach an understanding on CPN-M combatant's integration at the earliest starting with the urgent establishment of the Special Committee for Integration and Rehabilitation of the CPN-M combatants. On 20 October the government decided to form the special committee with representation from all political parties. The committee will have representatives from the government, the Nepal Army (NA) and the PLA. At present 19,602 former CPN-M combatants live in seven main and 21 satellite camps monitored by UNMIN.

In response to the government invitation to the Terai groups for talks in early October, Jantantric Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM-Jwala Singh), set four preconditions for its participation in the talks. These include the release of its arrested cadres and scrapping of all charges preferred against them; declaration of 'a ceasefire' from the government side; security guarantee for the talk's team and pulling back security personnel from the villages of Terai. JTMM (Rajan Mukti) also put forward some preconditions including re composition of government talks team. Similarly, Terai Samyukta Jantantric Party also responded with a nine point demand including a call for implementation of the right of self determination to the people of Terai/Madhes. On 26

October, The Minister for Peace and Reconstruction said that the Government had so far exchanged letters with nine agitating groups for over the talks. He said five of the groups have so far responded positively to formal call for talks and the government is waiting for further response from the other groups.

On 16 October, the government set up 7-member Local Peace Committees (LPC) and District Peace Committees in all of the country's 75 districts. The committee will help expedite relief and resettlement of conflict victims and also facilitate the ongoing peace process.

On 20 October, as part of a major administrative reshuffle since the CA elections, the Government transferred around 100 senior officials including 67 Chief District Officers (CDOs). Similarly, on 25 October 16 Secretaries were transferred to various ministries and PMO and 20 Joint Secretaries promoted as Acting Secretaries. This reshuffle affected some of the government officials involved in disaster response in both Eastern region as well as Mid/Far Western regions of the country due to leadership vacuum.

Various political parties have differing opinions on the CA rules and regulations which are hampering progress for

starting CA proceedings. The major differences are on use of vote of consciousness vs. use of party whips on major issues, the three biggest parties supporting the latter. The second issue of contention is on the appointment of the head of the Constitutional Committee (CC), the main body to draft the Constitution. Finally the Maoists have reservations on the proposal of CPN (UML) and NC on participation of experts in various thematic subcommittees. There have been 10 meetings of CA up to 19 October.

The Government withdrew 349 politically related court cases filed by previous governments against the then CPN-M insurgents and Madhesi People's Right Forum.

Safety and security

Incidents of bomb explosions, strikes/bandhs, extortions and killings continued to be reported. The reasons for such incidents ranged form making political statements to ordinary crime. On 18 October, an unidentified group exploded an IED on a road at Inaruwa-7 in Sunsari at night. No damages were reported. In a press release, the Madheshi Mukti Tigers (MMT) took responsibility for the IED explosion citing it as a warning for those people creating nuisance after drinking and for those trying to cause community rifts. Similarly, on 22 October, a gas bomb exploded in Land Revenue office compound in Janakpur, Dhanusha district, injuring 7 people. Several groups claimed responsibility for the incident.

On 20 October, in an interaction program in Dhanusa District, women journalists reported that they were facing constant threats from various armed groups while collecting and disseminating news in the region. According to the journalists, of the 200 women journalists working in the Terai only a half remain. Similarly Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce (FNCCI) reported 74 incidents of killings, abductions and attacks on business entrepreneurs in the fiscal year 2007/2008. During this period 48 enterprises were reportedly closed down due to constant intimidation by various groups.

As reported in the last issue, unlawful seizure of land by various groups continued. On 23 October CPN-M activists seized land belonging to Janjyoti Higher Secondary School in Tanahun District reportedly to build a memorial for CPN-M martyrs. The school authorities and other political parties have protested the move. On 24 October, Madheshi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) workers captured land and crops belonging to 14 Dalit families at Narsahi VDC, Nawalparasi District.

Strikes/bandhs caused by a variety of reasons continued throughout the country. Jeep entrepreneurs in Arghakhanchi District called indefinite vehicular strike in on 19 October, protesting against the decision of the Bus Entrepreneurs not to allow the Jeeps to ply along those routes where buses are operational. Similarly Hajj pilgrims of Muslim community continued their weeklong sit-in protest program in front of DAO, Banke in Nepalgunj, protesting against the increase on fare for hajj pilgrims. On 19 October, protesting against the reduction in working hours and subsequent cut in wages, workers of Reliance Spinning Mills in Khanar of Sunsari district shut down the factory and launched an indefinite transport strike in the Khanar (Biratnagar- Itahari route). Chandranigahpur section of Mahendra Highway in Rautahat district was blocked by locals on 23 October to protest killing of Local school teacher in Prempur Gohani VDC, of the district allegedly by CPN-M workers. Several blockade of main roads due to road accidents also continued in different parts of the country.

On 15 October, the Ministry of Home Affairs started removing unorganized street vendors from Kathmandu's street o ease the traffic situation. The vendors in turn organized picketing at District Administration Office and rallies to pressurise government to withdraw it decision. On October 23 the strike was withdrawn after talks with the agitating parties that allowed them to conduct business in alternative site.

During the reporting period, clashes between the youth wings of major parties continued. On 17 October, Terai Madhesh Loktantric Party called a strike in Kapilvastu District that paralysed normal life to protest against the 14/ 15 October killing of three party cadres of TMDP. The party asked the government to maintain law and order and boycotted CA meeting for three consecutive days from 19 - 23 October alleging involvement of CPN-M cadres in the killing.

On 20 October clashes were reported between CPN-M's YCL and UML's Youth Force over the death of an YCL cadre who fell over a cliff to avoid a Youth Force attack in Dhading District. In retaliation YCL cadres torched a UML cadre owned petrol pump and attacked the CPN (UML) office in the district. Local DAO had to clamp a night curfew along some sections of the Prithvi highway to bring the situation under control. This prompted the head offices of the respective political parties to provide directives to their youth to exercise restraint and co-exist in harmony. Even after the directive YCL and Youth Force in Pokharavindi, Siraha District clashed on 23 October over the formation of a local consumer committee leaving one YCL cadre dead and several others injured.

Reports of abduction continued. On 18 October, Two employees of Plywood factory were abducted by cadres of JTMM (Jwala Singh) near East - West highway section of Mahottari district. Similarly, on 16 October, a resident of Arnami Papri VDC- 2 and another of Chadralalpur VDC-2 in Siraha District were abducted from their houses.

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