Nepal

OCHA Nepal Situation Overview Issue No. 36, 01 - 14 Nov 2008

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Highlights:

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

- A joint assessment on conditions of areas of returns of Koshi displaced completed

- Rising food prices, inflation contributing to food insecurity

- Successive strikes cause shortage of commodities in Panchthar District

- Government gives Terai groups deadline for joining the talks

- UN Secretary General Visits Nepal, Addresses the Constituent Assembly

- Clashes between youth groups allied to different political parties continue

CONTEXT

Political situation

On 31 October and 1 November, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon conducted an official visit to Nepal. He held meetings with the President, senior government officials including the Prime Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs and leaders of the opposition party Nepali Congress. He also addressed the Constituent Assembly (CA). While addressing CA members, the Secretary General offered congratulations on the historic transformation of the country and stated that the Assembly was the most inclusive people- driven legislative body that Nepal had ever had. He called on al  parties in the coalition government to maintain cohesion, while continuing to work with parties outside the government in the spirit of cooperation. The Secretary General also called on the government to move quickly with the discharge from the cantonments of individuals who were disqualified by the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN)'s verification process earlier this year.

Following announcement by the government on 28 October of the formation of the Army Integration Special Committee responsible for the supervision, integration and rehabilitation of the former Communist Party of Nepal- Maoists (CPN-M) combatants as stipulated in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Interim Constitution, discussions and consultations on the nature and form of this committee (AISC) continued. Nepali Congress (NC), the main opposition political party, refused to name a representative, maintaining that the consultation regarding the establishment of the Committee was inadequate, and objecting to the composition and terms of reference announced by the government.

Meanwhile, discussions on how to integrate former CPN-M combatants into the Nepal Army (NA) continued, with some members of CPN-M calling for bulk integration while the other major political parties thinking otherwise. Senior leaders of two major Terai based political parties joined in the debate, arguing that the 'Madhes' should be given more participation in the National Army. On 2 November, the Chairman of Terai Madhes Democratic Party (TMDP) stated at a press conference that Madhesi should be recruited in Nepal Army en masse similar to the calls by CPN-M leadership for integration of their former combatants into the Nepal Army (NA). Similarly, senior leader of Madheshi People's Rights Forum (MPRF) Sharat Singh Bhandari termed the integration debate as being against the spirit of past accords. On 4 November, the Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinator of the Special Committee (AISC) Bam Dev Gautam said that bulk integration of CPN-M former combatants into the NA is not possible since the Constitution and past pacts do not have specific provisions on integration. At present 19,602 former CPN-M combatants live in seven main and 21 satellite camps monitored by UNMIN.

On 9 November, the Nepali Congress (NC) submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister, demanding that the government implement past agreements including immediate return of properties seized by the CPN-M during the decade-long insurgency. Other demands in the memorandum include; reforming of the CPN-M youth wing, Young Communist League (YCL) and reconstitution of the AISC on the basis of political consensus. The NC threatened to halt the CA proceedings and launch other protest programmes if the government fails to take action on their demands. On 11 November, while addressing the CA, the Prime Minister stated that the government will among other things return all private property that had been seized during the insurgency by Mid December. He further stated that the government would compensate any loss of seized private property, end culture of impunity and review the terms of reference of AISC.

Further to the government's invitation to the Terai groups for talks in early October, on 8 November, the Minister for Local Development Ram Chandra Jha stated that the government has set 15 December as the deadline for all armed groups to come for talks to negotiate their demands. Local media quoted the Minister, who is also a member of the government talk's team, as saying that the government cannot wait forever for the groups and that the offer for dialogue from the government will be closed by mid December. The Minister also reportedly stated that around one dozen underground groups have so far come into contact for the talks that are likely to begin by mid-December.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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