Ajaya Bhadra Khanal
Almost three years after the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA), Nepal is still in a period of transition. The peace structures have not been allowed to evolve, and as a result the peace process is not firmly grounded. Amidst this uncertainty, we are now seeing a more dangerous trend—that of disowning the peace process and the past agreements.If politics, being the source of conflict, helped the transition to peace, it is political competition that is posing a threat to the peace process.
Throughout the last few years, Nepal’’s peace process has depended more on the element of trust than on mechanisms and structures. Now, as political trust between the major partners of the peace process hits the rock bottom, it is time for people to suffer.
In the early phases, the real negotiations were very confidential, and were not shared even with other senior party leaders. Once the key negotiators (politicians) started agreeing with each other, they shared the draft agreement with others.
The negotiators had a strong distrust of foreigners and bureaucrats, and the
result was that the process never became transparent.
The key highlight of Nepal’’s peace process has been a lack of political ommitment to peace structures. This meant that the peace process could not be firmly institutionalized after the success of the Jana Andolan although it was a significant means of ending both direct and structural violence.
However, if the state and peace structures are not quickly strengthened and democratized, the state will lose its capacity to mediate social and structural conflicts. Once competitive politics sets in, “trust” erodes, and only rational structures can uphold the peace process. Without national ownership of the process, there is a possibility of bigger problems like ethnic conflict and struggles.
There is now a widespread consensus that it is necessary to implement and bring to life previous agreements and understandings. Yet, competitive politics have put these issues on the backburner, and there are signs that the major political stakeholders are beginning to disown the previous agreements.
One of the most significant agreements, from the perspective of peace process, was the six-point agreement reached between the Seven Party Alliance and CPN-Maoist on November 8, 2006. The agreement, for the first time, envisioned a role for peace mechanisms and structures to implement previous agreements, manage arms and armies, implement provisions in the interim constitution, manage victims of conflict, and monitor the understandings. A schedule to complete the tasks was also outlined. The agreement confined the Nepali Army to barracks, and the Maoist army in seven camps with 21 satellite cantonments.The peace process reached another milestone a year later on December 21, 2007, when the Maoists and the SPA signed the 23-point agreement. It opened the door for the Maoists to join the interim government, outlined several commissions to
drive the peace process forward and specified a date for the Constituent Assembly elections. Most of these envisaged institutions remain absent, even today.
One of the most important institutions envisaged in the many peace agreements, and one that has been consistently ignored due to partisan political interests, is the High Level Peace Commission (HLPC).
The HLPC, which is expected to be an inclusive and neutral mechanism to resolve conflict, has been designed to oversee, facilitate, advise and monitor the peace process in close coordination with the Ministry of Peace and econstruction.Another key transitional mechanism is the State Restructuring Recommendation Commission.
The much-awaited Commission was formed in April 16, 2009 with a sociologist and geographer Dr. Ganesh Man Gurung heading the body. The government promised the commission would include representatives from all five ruling
parties with one-woman member Sita Thebe. However, other parties opposed the move, and with the fall of the Maoist-led government the future of the commission is uncertain.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is another planned peace structure that has been delayed. Truth and Reconciliation Process is expected to bring about transitional justice to thousands of victims of conflict. More than 13,000 people died during the course of conflict and many more have debilitating injuries.
At least 900 people disappeared after arrests by security forces, and another 200 in Maoist detention are unaccounted for (OHCHR-Nepal, 2007). The loss of and damage to properties and forceful displacement, violation of human rights and humanitarian law and other atrocities was common.
Along with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), High-Level Inquiry Commission on Disappeared Citizens (Disappearances Commission), and High-Level State Restructuring Recommendation Commission (SRRC), NPRC is one of the four key peace structures outlined in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement dealing with the issue of transitional justice.
Trust versus structures Challenges to Nepalâ€™s peace process
Ajaya Bhadra Khanal