Ten years of CPA: Well begun, half done

- John Narayan Parajuli, Kathmandu

Nov 21, 2016-

As the parties mark the 10th anniversary of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that brought an end to the decade-long armed conflict and ushered in an era of peaceful politics, the verdict remains mixed on how successful the process has been.

“Our peace process has been largely successful,” said Barshaman Pun, Maoist leader and a key interlocutor during the peace process. “But in areas such as transitional justice and socio-economic transformation, much remains to be done.”

Pun points out  the declaration of republic, the drafting of the constitution by the Constituent Assembly and management of the arms and armies on both sides of the conflict as the key achievements.

In many ways, progress on other aspects of the peace process hinged on the success in managing the erstwhile rebel army. Yet Nepali actors chose not to follow a typical UN modality of managing armies first or even sequencing the peace process. The UN-supported peace processes have followed a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration modality for the management of arms and armies.

“In Nepal we did the opposite,” said Balananda Sharma, former coordinator of the Army Integration Special Committee Secretariat that advised and assisted the political actors in addressing the fate of the Maoist combatants. The armies were put in 28 cantonments and duly recognised as equal to the state forces.

Contrary again to the UN sequencing of the peace process elsewhere, Nepali actors chose to hold the elections to the Constituent Assembly—another key milestone of the CPA—while the rebel armies remained in uniform in cantonments. There were speculations as to why the late Girija Prasad Koirala agreed to such sequencing.

There are suggestions that Koirala in fact gestured then-CPN-Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the rebel leader, to inflate the number of Maoist combatants—as deterrence against any potential move by then-Royal Nepal Army and King Gyanendra Shah.

“And that’s why our peace process is different,” said Sharma, referring to home grown modality. “Eventually, we addressed the fate of the two armies.”

But the issue of Army integration has been a sore point within the Maoist parties. There is general consensus within the Maoist factions that the issue was poorly handled by the party leadership. Even former Maoist commanders say the rigid stance taken by the party on the numbers initially and mixed messages on the rehabilitation package, as well as the failure to address the fate of those deemed “disqualified” by the UN verification process, have left a significant number of former combatants deeply disillusioned.

“We made many mistakes initially when we insisted that all the combatants should join the Army and shun the severance package,” said Chakrapani Khanal Baldev, the former Maoist commander who is the current chief political adviser to Prime Minister Dahal. “Even if the 6,000-8,000 combatants that the Army was willing to take in had been integrated, the situation would have been different today.”

The writing of the constitution by the CA was another key milestone. But it came five years later than promised and after two elections. The constitution is still being contested by some sections of the society.  “The CPA itself was exclusionary in nature. It did nothing to address the issues of Madhes,” said Laxman Lal Karna, co-chair of the Nepal Sadbhawana party, a constituent of the Madhesi Morcha that has been agitating against the exclusionary provision in the constitution. “As long as the demands of Madhes aren’t addressed, Nepal’s peace process will remain incomplete.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Nepali Congress leader Bimalendra Nidhi echoed a similar sentiment.

Addressing a conference on the 10th anniversary of the CPA, organised last week by the Nepal Transition to Peace Institute (NTTPI) in Kathmandu, he said that amending the constitution would complete the peace process.

But some key Maoist leaders disagree on the measure of success.

“The commitment expressed in the CPA has only been partially fulfilled and a lot remains to be done,” said Dev Gurung, a senior Maoist leader known for his strong ideological stance in the party--referring to the absence of a tangible socio-economic transformation of the country. Gurung and many other Maoist leaders focus particularly on Articles 3 and 5 of the CPA. Article 3 promises socio-economic and political transformation, inclusion and affirmative actions to make an end of the exclusionary character of the state while restructuring it. Article 5 focuses on transitional justice and healing the wounds of the conflict.

“The key objective of the CPA was to end fighting, heal conflict wounds and restore public trust,” NTTPI Chairman Daman Nath Dhungana, a key facilitator of the peace process, said last week. “The war may have ended from the point of view of killing and violence, but the door for lasting peace hasn’t opened yet.”

While PM Dahal, the CPN (Maoist Centre) chairman, told a television programme last week that there has been “qualitative improvement in the nature of politics” in the last decade, he has admitted earlier that with the benefit of hindsight, things could have been done differently.

Published: 21-11-2016 08:43

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