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NEPAL: Fears of renewed civil war as Maoists quit government

KATHMANDU, 19 September 2007 (IRIN) - There are growing concerns in Nepal that the country could be dragged back into a civil war as former Maoist rebels quit the government on 19 September.

Maoist ministers resigned from the government after most governing parties opposed Maoist demands that the monarchy be abolished by the time of the elections, scheduled for November.

The Maoists had earlier warned they would disrupt the parliamentary elections if their demands were not met.

Maoists joined the interim government in April 2007, a move that was seen as confirmation of the end of their armed rebellion.

In November 2006 they signed a peace agreement with the government to end a decade-long armed conflict which had killed over 14,000 and internally displaced 200,000 people.

“This is a serious situation and only shows that unity between the national parties is breaking up. We are closely monitoring political events,” said a foreign diplomat who preferred anonymity.

Foreign diplomats have appealed to the Maoists to rejoin the government so as not to jeopardise the peace process. At the same time many diplomats say there is no reason to panic as the Maoists have only quit the government and not gone underground to re-launch a war.

“Danger of conflict”

“There is a need to look for a new political consensus, failing which there is a danger of conflict,” said senior Maoist leader Krishna Prasad Mahara, adding that his party wanted to see the back of “regressive elements like the royalists”, but was not against the elections.

The Maoists want the elections to be based on fully proportional representation but the National Election Commission and the government say that is not possible.

Maoists have announced nationwide demonstrations 22-29 September.

“Our army will remain in the cantonments and will be involved in peaceful demonstrations in the streets,” said deputy Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai. He said the 12-point peace agreement with other national parties was still alive and had not been ended.

Analysts told IRIN that already panicking civilians were fearful of the possibility of Maoists resorting to arms.

UN concern

The UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) said there was a pressing need for all eight national parties, including the Maoists, to reach a common understanding. It also urged the international community, along with national parties, to focus their energies on resolving outstanding electoral issues.

“Given the potential negative implications of this step for the peace process, we urge all eight parties to intensify efforts to find a way out of the current stalemate. All parties should not only respect existing agreements, but redouble their efforts to ensure they are effectively implemented in the spirit of last year’s people’s movement and the aspiration of Nepal’s people for both peace and democracy,” said UNMIN spokesperson Kieran Dwyer.

He also called on the Maoist leadership to observe its commitment to keep former combatants in cantonments and not mobilise them for political protests.

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Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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