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Nepal Monitor: The National Online Journal

Special Editorial: Waging Peace

Nepal has just moved past the era of gladiators. But waging peace is not easier. It will take many ten years to heal the wounds of the 10-year war, and to attend to the deeper needs of citizens.

The historic peace deal (Brihat Shanti Samjhauta) signed by the government and the Maoist rebel groups in Nepal on Tuesday (November 21, 2006) no doubt heralds a beginning of a new era in this Himalayan nation of ours. The proclamation of the end of the decade-long civil war has come as a big respite for the 27 million citizens inside Nepal, and many outside the country.

The Maoist conflict (and with that the prolonged armed violence), which has so far resulted in the loss of more than 13,000 lives, had been a major concern for Nepal as well as the world, especially since the late 1990s.

wagingpeace.jpgWith the deal, the country’s polity has seen a radical change. Nepal, which for many is still an ancient land, has just moved past the era of gladiators. The fighters have finally given up their weapons, and they say this time they are not playing any game. They say they are serious and really mean what they say. They say they will do, whatever they have to do, by means of peace. Is it doves vs doves, then?

It is like the little kids in the block, who squabbled with each other and bullied each other until they entered adulthood and saw no reason to continue to bother the other side. Ten years is a long time to grow up.

Tuesday's peace deal is “historic” in several ways. First, it has bidden farewell to the politics of weapons, violence and terror. Second, it has bridged differences among the political parties and suggested that a nation can unite with a profound sense of national reconciliation when it comes to democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people.

During his short speech just after the signing of the accord, Maoist leader Prachanda said the deal was a testimony to the fact that Nepal, despite its geographical and economic constraints, retained the influence to display political will-power to resolve its problems on its own. Also, he asserted that the agreement is evidence that he and his party supported progress, not fundamentalism, and that they were always “open” to finding solution through dialogues and negotiations. Apparently, he was indicating that the rebels had taken to arms and weapons as an auxiliary means to social transformation. Since now they are allied with other major political parties, one may take this as a clear hint that the rebels would now stick to the accord sincerely.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala too was upbeat. He referred to some of the doubts of foreign nations, particularly the United States, over the negotiation process with the ultra-left rebels, and confessed that he had only followed the “duties” of a “democrat” when trying to win the confidence of the Maoists by putting his entire political career in wager. And the result, at least for now, has proven successful.

What remains to be seen, however, is the sincere implementation of the accord. If only the political vision displayed now by the leaders is carried ahead, Nepal definitely could take quick leaps towards progress. Whether the parties would be able to maintain this exemplary display of political will-power for national reconciliation would be seen on how they move ahead in forming interim parliament, interim government as well as holding free and fair election to Constituent Assembly in the forthcoming days.

For, unless the Constituent Assembly elections are held peacefully, unless far-reaching progressive reforms are made in the country and unless arms are fully consigned to the UN supervision, peace accord would only remain an interim arrangement. The nation needs permanent peace for its progress.

One of the most critical and immediate needs is to find closure to the past human rights violations and atrocities committed by both sides in the conflict. Somebody has to be accountable for those evils. In fact, at one time or another, during the 10-year conflict, every major political leader or party (not to mention the sidelined monarchy) has had blood in their hands. The proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission is the right step in this direction, and it remains to be seen how fairness and justice will be played out in the new Nepal.

Waging peace is not easier than waging war. And ten years, or even 20 or 30 years, may not be enough to undo the scars of the war, to heal the wounded and the hurt and to attend to the deeper needs of citizens, majority of whom live under poverty line. We need patience, determination and hard work to usher the country into permanent peace, prosperity and civility. For that to happen, there is a long way to go.

This is a special editorial by Nepal Monitor (The National Online Journal)

Posted by Editor on November 22, 2006 10:13 AM