Nepal parties agree on future of former rebels

Story highlights

  • Up to 6,500 former Maoist rebels will be integrated into the national army
  • The rest of the ex-combatants will be offered rehabilitation packages
  • Maoist rebels signed a peace deal in 2006, ending their decade-long insurgency
Nepal's main political parties on Tuesday agreed to integrate up to 6,500 former Maoist rebels into the national army, ending years of negotiations.
The rest of the roughly 19,500 U.N.-verified combatants will be offered rehabilitation packages worth up to 900,000 rupees (about $11,500), as per the agreement.
The Maoist rebels fought a decade-long insurgency to end the Nepalese monarchy. They signed a peace deal in 2006 with the then government, after King Gyanendra was forced to give up most of his powers.
According to the 2006 deal, Maoist fighters were to be integrated into the security forces, but political parties disagreed as the number of combatants, their role in the army and the size of the rehabilitation packages.
Nepal formally became a republic in 2008, following elections in which the former rebels became the biggest party, but fell short of a majority in the 601-member parliament.
Maoist combatants have been living in seven cantonments across the country since 2006. U.N. observers monitored the camps between 2007 and January, when they pulled out because of the lack of progress on a deal to decide the former rebels' futures.
According to Tuesday's agreement, signed by leaders of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) and the United Democratic Madhesi Front, former Maoist combatants will not be given a combat role in the national army.
Instead they will be used in construction, development, natural disaster relief activities, industrial security and forest protection.
The former rebels will be provided a bridge course and be integrated on an individual basis, as per the army's norms.
The agreement was announced at a press conference at which leaders of the four parties were present.
In a statement welcoming the deal, the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu called it a "landmark agreement" and commended "all parties involved for their statesmanship and leadership in forging consensus in this crucial area, which marks a critical step forward in completion of the peace process."
Still, despite Tuesday's deal, a radical faction within the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) said it is against the agreement and will protest it.
"This is humiliation for the People's Liberation Army (of the Maoists)," said Ram Bahadur Thapa, leader of the radical faction of the UCPN (Maoist).
Nepal now has the task of writing a constitution, the first draft of which is expected by the end of the month. A previous deadline was extended three times.
Nepal's non-Maoist parties had been insisting on an agreement on the combatants before finalizing the constitution, while the Maoists had been demanding the two discussions proceeded together.
The radical faction of the Maoists has wanted integration of about 10,000 former rebels, integration on the basis of units rather than an individual basis, and combat roles in the army for the ex-Maoist fighters.