Report of the UN SG on the request of Nepal for UN assistance in support of its peace process (S/2007/235)


I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 1740 (2007) of 23 January 2007, which established the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN). The resolution welcomed the continued progress of the peace process in Nepal, and as requested by the Government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), or CPN(M), mandated a special political mission to monitor the management of the arms and armed personnel of CPN(M) and the Nepal Army, assist in monitoring ceasefire arrangements, provide technical support for the conduct of the election of a Constituent Assembly in a free and fair atmosphere and provide a small team of electoral monitors. On 8 February 2007, I appointed Ian Martin, who had been serving as my Personal Representative in Nepal, as my Special Representative and Head of Mission.

2. The present report reviews the progress of the peace process since my report to the Council of 9 January 2007 (S/2007/7) and the activities of UNMIN since its establishment on 23 January 2007, and assesses the continuing challenges and opportunities for sustainable peace in Nepal.

II. Progress of the peace process

3. Since the establishment of the Mission, the peace process in Nepal has made remarkable progress within a very short time frame, while experiencing a number of difficulties and understandable delays; however, consolidating those gains remains essential. Implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed by the Seven-Party Alliance Government and CPN(M) on 21 November 2006, has advanced. The parties agreed upon an interim Constitution, which was promulgated on 15 January 2007; the Parliament, which had been reinstated in April 2006, was dissolved and replaced by an interim legislature-parliament. The new body includes Maoist members in addition to those of political parties elected to the House of Representatives in 1999 and some nominated members of civil society. On 1 April 2007 the Seven-Party Alliance Government and CPN(M) ("the eight parties") formed an interim Government under Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, in which CPN(M) ministers hold 5 out of 22 Cabinet positions.

4. The Seven-Party Alliance had linked the inclusion of CPN(M) in the interim legislature-parliament and interim Government to progress regarding the management of arms and armed personnel. In all, 31,152 Maoist personnel have been assembled in 7 main and 21 satellite sites around the country, and 3,475 weapons have been registered. The weapons are now stored in containers with around-the-clock monitoring by UNMIN, with the exception of weapons retained for perimeter security at the cantonments in accordance with the 8 December 2006 agreement on monitoring of the management of arms and armies or for the personal security of CPN(M) leaders. The Nepal Army has stored the number and types of weapons equivalent to those stored by the Maoist army, under the same procedures for registration and monitoring by UNMIN. As of mid-April, UNMIN was ready to begin the second stage of registration and verification of Maoist combatants.

5. However, those important achievements have occurred against a backdrop of escalating social unrest and long-standing issues of exclusion, aggravated by the determination of traditionally marginalized groups to take advantage of the opportunity to press for adequate representation in the Constituent Assembly and by their dissatisfaction with the interim Constitution. Groups representing the Madhesi, the people of the Terai plains along Nepal's southern border, engaged in widening protests throughout the period from January to March 2007, demanding amendments to the interim Constitution and changes in electoral arrangements to guarantee representation in accordance with their proportion of the population in the Constituent Assembly and official bodies, together with a commitment to a federal State.

6. Some demonstrations turned violent, and in a number of cases the Nepal Police and Armed Police Force responded with excessive use of force. At least 18 out of 24 deaths documented by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Nepal between 22 January and 7 February were the result of police action; many others were injured, and there was extensive damage to property, including government offices. In the Terai, tensions and violence increased between protesters representing the Madhesi People's Rights Forum (MPRF), two armed factions of the Jantantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM) and CPN(M). Concerns were high that potential spoilers were seeking to take advantage of the unrest to derail the peace process, and some clashes took on a communal character between the Madhesi (those not of hill origin) and the Pahadis (those originating in the hills). Groups representing the Janajatis (indigenous people), including the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities, supported the Madhesi protests or asserted parallel demands for inclusion. At times, the demands from traditionally marginalized groups threatened to overtake the Government- Maoist peace process as laid out in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the interim Constitution.

7. The Seven-Party Alliance and CPN(M) struggled to respond to the crisis effectively through steps to restore law and order and through a substantive response to grievances recognized as legitimate. In a major speech to the nation on 7 February 2007, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, supported by leaders of all eight parties, announced significant concessions in an effort to calm the widespread Madhesi protests. The eight parties undertook to allocate 49 per cent of the Constituent Assembly seats to the Terai region, in proportion to its share of the population according to Nepal's most recent census, and to amend the interim Constitution to incorporate a commitment to a future federal State. The Government established a ministerial team to engage in dialogue with Madhesi groups and with representatives of other traditionally marginalized groups. Although the Terai protests abated, formal talks between the government team, MPRF and JTMM did not get under way before the establishment of the interim Government, which immediately appointed a new team to continue efforts towards dialogue. Other traditionally marginalized groups have continued to protest in support of their respective demands, with Janajati representatives expressing their preference for a round table with all protesting groups rather than separate negotiations focusing on individual communities.

8. On 21 March 2007 at least 27 people, mostly linked to CPN(M), were killed in the Terai town of Gaur, close to the Nepal border with India, after violence broke out at simultaneous rallies of CPN(M) and MPRF. The Maoists remained restrained after the deaths of their members, although Maoist combatants did briefly leave cantonment sites to peacefully protest the Gaur killings, in violation of the agreement on monitoring the management of arms and armies. The situation in the Terai has remained turbulent, with a number of militant factions continuing to operate, including the two factions of JTMM, the Terai Tigers, the Terai Cobra and the Nepal Defense Army (NDA), a fundamentalist group committed to a Hindu kingdom in Nepal, which has claimed responsibility for planting explosive devices at various locations, including at the homes of civil society activists in Kathmandu. The Gaur killings underscored the serious deficiencies of law enforcement in the country and the dangers of increased criminality along the border with India, which the Governments of Nepal and India are cooperating to address.

9. The participation of women in the peace process has shown little if any progress. As part of the effort to ensure the inclusiveness of the process, it is hoped that the interim Government and all concerned will make a renewed attempt to ensure a wider and deeper involvement of Nepalese women in the search for lasting peace.

10. Public security has been a matter of concern not only in the Terai but throughout much of the country. There have been widespread complaints that CPN(M) has continued to engage in a persistent pattern of low-level intimidation and threats against various sectors, particularly businesses in urban areas, leading to protests from the business community. The Young Communist League (YCL) established by CPN(M) at the beginning of February 2007 has taken individuals into its custody and engaged in other quasi-policing activities, raising concerns that the Maoists have failed to fully abandon parallel security mechanisms. The formation of the interim Government offers the opportunity for CPN(M) to participate within the Government in establishing public security, ensuring the full cooperation of its cadres with State law enforcement authorities.

11. As part of their negotiations leading to the formation of the interim Government on 1 April 2007, the eight parties adopted a common minimum programme, by which they renewed their commitment to past agreements, including building a conducive environment for a peaceful election. The parties agreed among themselves on 20 June 2007 as the date for the Constituent Assembly election, although the election date requires a formal decision by the interim Government and further amendment of the interim Constitution, which stipulates that the election should take place by 14 June. They agreed to establish a joint coordination committee of the eight parties to assist the interim Government, solve problems and monitor the implementation of the common minimum programme, and local monitoring committees in each district, comprising locally active political parties and others, to monitor implementation of the peace agreement. The eight parties decided upon, and the interim Government sent to the interim legislatureparliament, amendments to the interim Constitution providing for a two-thirds majority no-confidence vote against the Prime Minister, and a two-thirds majority vote to abolish the monarchy if the King is found to pose grave obstacles to the holding of the Constituent Assembly election. The interim Constitution otherwise provides for the decision to retain or abolish the monarchy to be decided by a simple majority of the first session of the Constituent Assembly.

12. The Seven-Party Alliance and CPN(M) originally decided in their agreement of 8 November 2006 that the Constituent Assembly election should be held by mid- June as the culmination of a timetable that had envisaged the formation of the interim Government on 1 December 2006. Since the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner on 30 October 2006 and of four other members in November and January, Nepal's Election Commission, with the support of UNMIN electoral advisers, has worked hard to make the necessary preparations to meet this already ambitious timetable. This has proved increasingly difficult owing to three key factors: the late passage of essential electoral legislation, making it impossible to meet the timetable for logistical and other reasons; the need to address the concerns of traditionally marginalized groups, including through the addition of constituencies and the consideration of quotas within the electoral system; and the time needed to create sufficient public security. On 12 April 2007 the Election Commission informed the interim Government that an election by the mid-June deadline established in the interim Constitution had become impossible and that a minimum of 110 days from the passage of the necessary legislation would be required. The interim Government has yet to act on the advice of the Commission.

13. The reluctance of the parties to postpone the date of the election reflected real concerns that the peace process might stall and encounter further difficulties from spoilers if its momentum were not maintained. Averting such dangers requires determined cooperation among the parties represented in the interim Government and the legislature-parliament, as well as civil society and all democratic forces in Nepal to create the conditions necessary for a credible Constituent Assembly election.