Revolution #72, December 10, 2006
From A World to Win News Service
Nepal Maoists and government sign peace agreement
It was reported in the media that on November 21, formal agreements were signed in Nepal between Chairman Prachanda, the leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and Girija Prasad Koirala, the Prime Minister of the current government of Nepal.
According to the U.S. media, the background leading up to this has been a country beleaguered by “out of bounds” rebels. But, in fact, it is the old state in Nepal—including its army and the social conditions it has enforced on the people—that has been widely exposed to very broad masses of people in Nepal as an oppressive and illegitimate power. In opposition to this, the new people’s power in large parts of the countryside—brought into being by ten years of Maoist-led people’s war and a people’s army—has created important beginnings of something truly liberating. This, along with the huge struggle in April 2006, involving many class forces against the Nepalese monarchy, has brought events in Nepal to this current juncture, which now poses major questions about how to go forward from here.
We need to understand this current agreement more fully, and in particular the thinking of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). We do believe that revolution is what’s needed. In Nepal that means a new democratic revolution which is a step in a socialist revolution there, and part of a struggle toward the goal of communism worldwide. This requires a whole new state—a revolutionary state which gives backing to the masses of people in making deep changes, including in fundamental economic and social relations. The people’s war in Nepal set out ten years ago to do that, and it has now reached a very important crossroads. While the path to revolution is not straight, all major steps in any revolutionary process need to be understood and evaluated in relation to achieving these fundamental goals.
The following article by A World To Win News Service contains the basic news about the content of the agrement that was signed. We are printing it here for our readers’ information.
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November 27, 2006. A World to Win News Service. “This ends the 11 years of civil war in our country,” declared Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) Chairman Prachanda as he and Prime Minister G. P. Koirala signed a “Comprehensive Peace Agreement” at midnight 21 November. The CPN(M) and the seven-party alliance currently governing the country agreed to form a transitional government by December 1, and hold elections for a constituent assembly to establish a new constitution and governmental system by next June.
The government declared the following day a legal holiday and asked people to carry out the traditional Deepwali lighting ceremonies. The CPN(M) called for victory rallies and mass meetings that day.
Friends of the revolution in Nepal around the world are asking how to view this agreement in light of the CPN(M)’s stated objectives when it launched the people’s war February 13, 1996 – the carrying out of a New Democratic Revolution as the first step toward socialism and communism.
After ten years of people’s war the great bulk of Nepal’s countryside had been liberated by the CPN(M)-led People’s Liberation Army. In areas under the control of the PLA, organs of people’s power were created and real transformations have hammered away at the centuries-old backward social system headed by a king who claimed to be the reincarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. The poor peasants, oppressed nationalities and victims of the vicious caste system stood tall and helped exercise power together with those from the upper castes who broke with Brahmanism. In a few years the formerly horrendous position of women in Nepal went through astounding changes, with women playing a vital role in the revolution, enrolling in the PLA in vast numbers (35 percent of the troops) and starting to create a new democratic culture where more and more women and men married whom they wanted, going against barriers of caste or family.
The armed protectors of the old state known until recently as the Royal Nepal Army has been more and more holed up in the capital and a few major towns and a few heavily fortified barracks in different parts of the countryside, unable to travel except by helicopter or in large convoys. The RNA received substantial support from the US, India, Britain, China and other reactionary states, but is widely hated by people in city and countryside alike. Almost all Nepalese consider the king himself guilty of the murder of his brother and much of the rest of the royal family in a 2001 palace massacre. In April 2006 the monarchy in Nepal was further battered by a massive movement in the capital and other cities demanding the end of the monarchy. As a result of this movement and the on-going people’s war, the king was forced to take a back seat and he restored the previously dissolved parliament. The Royal Nepal Army was rebaptised the Nepali Army but the old murderous commanders stayed the same. A ceasefire was declared between the Nepali Army and the People’s Liberation Army. What kind of society, what kind of state, will be established throughout Nepal has been the uppermost question on the mind of the whole society.
Arrangements for the two armies
Under the new agreement, the People’s Liberation Army is to be confined to seven cantonments (designated areas), with three smaller camps within each cantonment. Most PLA members were reported to have arrived in a cantonment by the time the agreement was signed, and the rest were expected shortly. These areas were chosen by a joint committee of the PLA, Nepali Army and UN.
The agreement states, “After placing the Maoist combatants within the Cantonments, all the arms and ammunition except those required for providing security to the Cantonments shall be securely stored and the keys to the single lock shall remain with the side concerned [the PLA]. The UN shall monitor the process of placing the weapons under a single lock by keeping records and fitting a device along with a siren. In case of need to examine the weapons placed under the single lock, the UN shall do so under the presence of the concerned side. All the technical details along with camera monitoring shall be prepared under the joint agreement of the UN, CPN (Maoist) and the Government of Nepal.”
The Nepali Army (ex-Royal Nepal Army), for its part, “shall be confined within the barracks. Guarantee that the arms shall not be used for or against any side. The Nepali Army shall store the same amount of arms in accordance with those of the Maoists and seal it with a single lock and give the key to the concerned side [the Nepali Army].” The rest of the arrangements are the same as for the Maoists, according to the unofficial English translation provided by the Kathmandu daily Kantipur. (Both that translation and the one posted by Nepalnews.com are used in this article. They differ slightly.) According to the media, the PLA has some 35,000 members and the Nepali Army almost three times as many. Since both sides would lock up the same number of arms, this implies that the Nepali Army would not put most of its weapons under lock and key.
The Council of Ministers, which is to be formed by December 1 and include CPN(M) ministers, is to “control, mobilise and manage the Nepali Army as per the new Military Act. The Interim Council of Ministers shall prepare and implement a detailed action plan for the democratisation of the Nepali Army by taking suggestions from the concerned committee of the Interim Parliament. This shall include tasks such as determining the right number of [soldiers in] the Nepali Army, preparing the democratic structure reflecting the national and inclusive character and training them as per the democratic principles and values of the human rights. The Nepali Army shall be giving continuity to tasks such as border security, security of the conservation areas, protected areas, banks, airport, power houses, telephone towers, central secretariat and security of VIPs.” Another section states, “The government shall be taking care of the security arrangements of the Maoist leaders.”
This new government is to provide rations for the PLA members in the cantonments, which is no small matter since it involves concentrations of thousands of soldiers in each one. “The Interim Council of Ministers shall form a special committee in order to inspect, integrate and rehabilitate the Maoist combatants,” the agreement continues. Both armies are forbidden to wear combat uniforms or carry arms “illegally” while travelling outside their confinement areas, or at public gatherings, and to recruit soldiers and procure new weapons. However, “the security forces deployed by the interim government shall have authority to conduct routine patrols, explore in order to prevent illegal trafficking in weapons, explosives or raw materials used in assembling weapons, at the international border or customs points, and seize them.” Further, the Kantipur translation says, “The Nepali Police and Armed Police Force shall give continuity to the task of maintaining the legal system and law and order, as well as criminal investigation as per the norms and sentiments of the Jana Andolan [the April mass demonstrations that forced the king to abandon direct rule] and the peace accord as well as prevailing law.”
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s Personal Representative Ian Martin and other UN officials have been closely and directly involved in the process. The next step after the Comprehensive Agreement and a precondition for further steps, Martin said, is a tripartite agreement concerning the details of the management of arms and armies between the government, the Maoists and the UN team he heads. Although high US and EU officials have been on the spot and the US, UK, India, Japan, Norway, Switzerland and Israel have issued statements welcoming the agreement, the UN Security Council has yet to meet to formally consider the subject. Once it issues a mandate, arrangements can be finalized to send UN personnel – 60 monitors to start with, Annan said – tasked with ensuring that neither side can access its stored arms without setting off alarms, being filmed by surveillance cameras and otherwise detected.
A letter sent to the UN by the prime minister and Maoist party chairman in August, reaffirmed by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, asks the UN to play a continuing role in Nepal in terms of five issues: monitoring the human rights situation, helping monitor the 25-point Code of Conduct between the two sides, confining the two armies to their camps and barracks, monitoring the locked-up weapons and acting as observers during the election of the constituent assembly. With the signing of the peace agreement, the UN High Commission for Human Rights has said her organisation would focus on Nepal’s districts and step up monitoring in rural areas.
The interim government, legal system and the king
Prachanda and Koirala reached an extensive draft agreement at a summit conference 8 November that was to be finalized and signed by 16 November. Why this did not happen has not been fully explained, although the November 21 Comprehensive Agreement reaffirms that draft and contains it as an annex. Nor is there any word yet about the interim constitution that was to be finalized and signed by November 21. That constitution is to be the basis and guide for the new government and its measures. The Comprehensive Agreement states that the existing legal system and constitution will prevail until an interim constitution is adopted, and after that the old laws will continue in force unless they are “inconsistent” with the new constitution. The Agreement also says, “Both parties agree not to operate parallel or any form of structure in any areas of the state or government structures as per the letter of the decisions of November 8.” Those decisions specify that “The people’s government, people’s courts run by the CPN (Maoist) would be dissolved on the day of the formation of the interim parliament. Interim bodies will be formed at the district, city and village level.”
According to the 8 November document, the interim government to be formed by December 1 will be headed by a cabinet to include Maoists. In addition to 209 current members of parliament from the seven-party alliance, the interim single-chamber parliament is also to include 73 new Maoist representatives. There will also be 48 new seats apportioned to members of “civil society” from among supporters of all of the different political formations in the country. Of the new total of 330 seats, the CPN(M) would have only a few less seats than the biggest party, the Congress Party, and the same number as the second biggest, the UML. Some former members of parliament – 11 according to a newspaper report – deemed “pro-regression” because they “opposed the people’s movement” are to be excluded.
The Comprehensive Agreement strips King Gyanendra of “any authority regarding the governance of the country”, but not of his crown. The property of the former king (Gyanendra’s brother) and his wife is to become a state trust. All properties Gyanendra personally acquired since he took the throne (palace, forests, parks, heritage and archaeological sites) are to be nationalized. The continuation or ending of the monarchy is to be decided by a simple majority vote at the first meeting of the constituent assembly, which is to decide the country’s future form of government.
Speaking at a gathering of politicians, diplomats and other prominent people after signing the agreement, Chairman Prachanda said, “This moment marks the end of the 238-year-old feudal system,” referring to the date when the monarchy began.
The agreement expresses “determination for the progressive restructuring of the state to resolve existing problems in the country, based on class, cast, religion and sex; reiterating the full commitment towards democratic values and acceptance, including the multiparty democratic system of governance, civil liberty, fundamental rights, human rights, full press freedom and the concept of the rule of law; keeping democracy, peace, prosperity, economic and social change, and independence, indivisibility, sovereignty and self-respect of the country at centre… declaring the beginning of a new chapter of peaceful collaboration by ending the armed struggle throughout the country since 1996, through political consensus between the two sides to ensure the sovereignty of the Nepali people through a constituent assembly, a forward-looking political solution, the democratic restructuring of the state and economic, social and cultural transformation.”
Later, it pledges these specific goals: “To adopt a political system that complies with universally accepted fundamental human rights, a multiparty competitive democratic system, sovereignty inherent in the people, the supremacy of the people, constitutional checks and balances, the rule of law, social justice, equality, an independent judiciary, periodic elections, monitoring by civil society, complete press freedom, people’s right to information, transparency and accountability in the activities of political parties, people’s participation, and an impartial, competent and fair concept of bureaucracy.
“To address the problems related to women, Dalits, indigenous people, Janajatis, Madheshi, oppressed, neglected, minorities and the backward by ending discrimination based on class, caste, language, sex, culture, religion, and region and to restructure the state on the basis of inclusiveness, democracy and progression by ending the present centralised and unitary structure of the state.
“To keep implementing at least programmes of common consensus for the economic and social transformation to end all forms of feudalism.
“To adopt the policy to implement a scientific land reform programme by ending the feudalistic system of landholding, follow the policy for the protection and promotion of national industries and resources. To adopt policy to establish rights of all citizens in education, health, housing, employment and food reserve. To adopt policy to provide land and other economic protection to landless squatters, Kamaiya, Halia, Harwa, Charwa and economically backward sections. To adopt policy to severely punish people amassing properties by means of corruption while remaining in government posts. To form common development concepts for economic and social transformation and justice and to make the country developed and economically prosperous, at the earliest time. To follow the policy to increase investment in industries, trade and export promotion in order to increase opportunities for income generation by ensuring professional rights of the labourers.”
Both sides are to immediately return all seized property, including public and private buildings and land, release all people detained and political prisoners, provide details on the disappeared, allow displaced people to return home without obstacles and “not to discriminate or exert pressure” on people because of the political affiliation of family members. Measures for the relief of those harmed or displaced during the war are to be taken up by a National Peace and Rehabilitation Commission. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission is to “probe about those involved in serious violation of human rights and crime against humanity in course of the armed conflict and develop an atmosphere for reconciliation in the society.”
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