Number row hits fighters' integration task

KATHMANDU: The integration and rehabilitation process of UNMIN-verified UCPN-Maoist combatants has been stalled as the Special Committee (SC) has failed to reach an agreement on the number and modality of integration.

SC, nearly a month ago, had agreed to ask the High Level Political Mechanism to decide the number of combatants to be integrated into the security agencies. However, the HLPM has not done anything significant to make an agreement. The meeting of the SC has not taken place for some weeks despite the approaching deadline to complete the integration process.

As far as the number of combatants to be integrated is concerned, parties have different views, claims and reasons. Nepali Congress President Girija Prasad Koirala is saying that he and Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal had agreed to integrate 3000 to 5000 combatants into security agencies immediately after the Janaandolan-II.

President Koirala is urging Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal to follow that agreement. However, it does not have any institutional memory and Maoist chairperson Prachanda has not spoken publicly about this. PM Nepal is consulting with the leaders of various parties about it.

Maoist leader Dev Gurung said there has not been any such agreement in the past. He said, "It is not true, there has not been any agreement regarding the number of combatants to be integrated into securities agencies." Gurung reasoned that integration should be done according to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, interim constitution and other past agreements.

There is second school of thought regarding the number. Some ministers are saying one-soldier-one-weapon (OSOW) formula should be adopted while fixing the number. Minister for Peace and Reconstruction Rakam Chemjong said, "This issue should be settled at the political level. However, OSOW formula is universally accepted."

The Maoists have stored 3,475 weapons but the number of combatants is over 19,000. The government is saying that 3,475 combatants could be integrated into different security organisations. Maoist leader Gurung said they would not accept the OSOW formula since it did not reflect international practice. He said, "As the CPA has recognised all combatants, the OSOW formula is irrelevant."

However, Nepali Congress spokesperson Arjun Narsingh KC said the HLPM or political leaders could not fix the number of combatants to be integrated into security organisations. He said," The HLPM or parties cannot fix this and it should be done as per previous agreements."

According to spokesperson KC, integration and rehabilitation process should be done as per Agreement on Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies, which was signed 28 November 2006. The agreement says, "Only those combatants, who have been properly registered at cantonment sites, will be eligible for possible integration into the security forces by fulfilling the standard norms."

KC said the number was not the matter but integration should be done on individual basis that could fulfil the standard norms of security agencies. The government is saying that combatants should be out of camps before May 28, the deadline to promulgate the constitution.

However, there are only 90 days to go and security experts opined that it would be impossible to complete the integration process. Peace minister Chemjong claimed that the integration process will be completed within a month if the Maoist party presents itself responsibly.