A Peace Process That Was Not “HOMEMADE"

AP

Last week, High Commissioner of the UN Human Rights Council Michelle Bach Bachelet expressed her willingness to offer any assistance that Nepal needs in pursuing the visibly stalled transitional justice system, an integral part of the peace process initiated in 2006. Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali declined the offer, saying Nepal’s peace process is a "homemade" one, and that it would pursue the transitional justice process on its own. While Minister Gyawali echoed the voice of Prime Minister K P Oli and the Nepal Communist Party that rules the country with a two-third majority in parliament, the claim of Nepal’s peace process being a "homemade" one is an utter lie.

 

Nepal's peace process was designed on foreign soil, and executed in Nepal with a visible collaboration with the international community, mainly IndiaUnited Nations and the European UnionIn November 2005, India played an active role in bringing the Nepali Maoist group that had raised armed insurgency against the state and seven other political parties,including the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, together under a 12-point pact that pledged to overthrow the "absolute monarchy." 

 

The pact that was signed in Delhi included bringing Maoists to the peace process and engaging the United Nations or a "credible international agency" as mediator. Pranab Mukherjee, India’s then-Foreign Affairs Minister, who later became the president of the Republic, admitted for the first time to Al Jazeera on January 27, 2007 to India having played a mediator role that counters the claim of Nepali politicians from Prachanda to BaburamBhattarai and from K P Oli to now Gyawali that it was a homemade peace process.

 

As a crucial follow up to that pactexactly a year after, Prachanda and then-Prime Minister G P Koirala signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. It was witnessed by the representatives of the international community in Kathmandu that, among other things, agreed to entrust the responsibility of supervising the Constituent Assembly election that was to take place almost two years later, and managing arms and combatants from the rebels as well as the state sides to the United Mission to Nepal, headed by Ian Martin.

Evidently, the decision to involve the UNMIN was a clear fall out of the 12-point pact authored by and in Delhi, clearly defying the tactical claim of Nepali political parties signing the agreement in general and that of the ruling party leaders,including Prime Minister K P Oli in particular.

Maoists, with Baburam Bhattarai as the Head of the people'government and Prachanda as Supreme Commander of the combatants and Chief of the Maoist Party, approved the killing of "class enemies" and those representing the old regime headed by the King. The decade-long armed conflict, which ended with the India-mediated 12-point pact, left 17,000 people dead and more than 2,000 missing. The CPA signed in November 2006 had pledged to form a Truth and Reconciliation Commission by early January 2007 to investigate cases of gross human rights violations, including enforced disappearances both by the state and the rebels. However, nothing except moves to institutionalize Nepal’s political transformation—to a secular federal republic from a Unitary Hindu Kingdom—got priority attention of the actors, all signatories to the 12-point pact. They chose deliberately to ignore the mandatory provision of the CPAto constitute the TRC and pursue Transitional Justice.

 

The Government formed a toothless TRC in 2014, with members chosen with partisan consideration, but with a concealed intention that none from the erstwhile Maoist side would be prosecuted. Only those representing the old state, possibly ex-king Gyanendra and some Nepal army officials,were meant to be prosecuted. However, as differences between Prachanda and K P Oli arose less than a year after their respective parties—Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists and Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist--merged to form the Communist Party of Nepal, Dahal sensed that the TRC could recommend his prosecutionagainst the spirit of understanding reached with Oli at the time of merger. 

 

The TRC has now become defunct and the future of the investigation of human rights violation cases uncertain after its Chief Surya Kiran Gurung resigned last month, apparently to protect Prachanda, the man who recommended Gurung to the post. Conflict victims are agitated and angry as the chances of their getting justice becomes more remote each day.

 

It was against this backdrop that the High Commissioner of the UN Human Rights Council had offered to assist Nepal in pursuing the Transitional Justice cases during her meeting with Minister Gyawali, who had gone to Geneva during the last week of February, leading the Nepali delegation in the 40th annual event of the UN Human Rights Council. The minister declined the offer, claiming that the government of Nepal was capable of tackling the Transitional Justice issue on its own, as the peace process was a "homemade" one and that scope of involving outsiders was almost nil. This has, however, triggered the old debate with a new intensity.

 

In fact, Nepal's peace process was never a homemade one. Apparently, the international community also recognizes this situation to be a tactical one to conceal the parties' role in the crime of making the peace process a partisan affair.

 

Exactly a month before the High Commissioner of the UN Human Rights Council took up the issue with Minister Gyawali, ten diplomatic missions, including the UN Resident office, the US Embassy, European Union and the Embassy of Switzerland, asked the government to secure public trust on how it wants to tackle the transitional issue, drawing a sharp rebuke from Prime Minister Oli who called it a "not acceptable outside concern."  All of these missions, anticipating such a response from the Nepal government, had made it a point to call the peace process a homemade one. 

 

In fact, the international community, as well as the Nepali actors, especially the ones who signed the Delhi-mediated 12-point pact, were one on isolating the main representative of the old regime--the Monarchy--who the Maoists had said was their main enemy when the CPA was signed in November 2006. The CPA was rather signed between two allies--Prachanda and G P Koirala--thus keeping one side of the conflict out of the peace and negotiation process and keeping the possibility of revival of conflict in the future alive. 

 

Such a move was not only witnessed by the international community, but clearly endorsed as well, keeping revival of the conflict a distinct possibility. Moreover, a powerful faction of the Maoist Party, led by Netra Bikram Chanda Biplab, who was one of the Deputy Commanders of Prachanda during the decade-long conflict, is still talking about taking the "revolution" to its logical conclusion. The fact that Biplab group still has weapons from that time indicates that the UNMIN did not perform its responsibilities honestly and efficiently. Signatories to the Delhi pact were more focused in exercising power separating political changes entirely from the peace process and transitional justice, with the tacit approval of the international community. 

 

Today's mess and confusion, and the denial of justice to the conflict victims was not entirely unanticipated. The peace accord will remain faulty and even become counter-productive if one side of the conflict continues to remain outside of the peace process. Nor will the political change and the three-year-old constitution institutionalizing it have a longer life, since political actors have chosen to appropriate power, ignoring their responsibility to combine the peace process with transitional justice.