US support to Nepal : Attaining and sustaining democracy

Having witnessed the inspiring events of the Jana Andolan, the United States salutes the Nepali people’s success in forcing a return to democracy, which has created a broad spirit of optimism for the future. The US is looking at ways in which it can help Nepal strengthen democracy and the momentum for peace.

The US is pleased to support the Nepal Government’s efforts to fulfil its mandate to the people. We have increased our assistance by $12 million in recent months, to nearly $45 million this year, for programmes that assist the Peace Secretariat, the Commission for the Investigation of the Abuse of Authority, the National Human Rights Commission, the Election Commission, and the judiciary. We support national and local peace-building initiatives and efforts to improve public understanding of the peace negotiations, the code of conduct, and a constituent assembly process.

We are delighted there is broad agreement within Nepal on a road map to return full democracy and peace by means of a constituent assembly (CA). If that agreement is fully and fairly implemented, Nepalis will be able to decide their own future and we firmly believe that they will endorse the path of peace, prosperity, and democracy.

Democracy means rule of the people, by the people, and for the people. It means transparency in government institutions, representative leadership that listens to its constituents, openness in lawmaking, and consultation and consensus building. Democracy means openness about policies and allowing the people to contact and lobby leaders. It means a military firmly under civilian control.

Above all, democracy demands the active participation in public life of all citizens. April was only the beginning. That public enthusiasm and involvement must be sustained if democracy is to succeed in Nepal. People need to trust that the government is listening, is responding to their desires, is not only moving the country on the path to peace but bringing them along as well.

The new Nepal Government has shown good faith by being responsible to the people’s will and has invested heavily in peace efforts by entering into agreements and negotiations with the Maoists. I am, however, disappointed that the Maoists are not showing the same good faith. Like much of the media, many party leaders, and indeed the average Nepali, I am concerned by the continued gap between Maoist commitments and Maoist actions. Kidnapping, extortion, intimidation, and murder are not political tools. Yet hardly a day goes by without the press reporting Maoist violence. Look at Jwala Rajbansi’s case, beaten up by the Maoists on May 16 for merely doing his job as secretary of the VDC in Teplejung. Or the five businessmen locked up days later by Maoists for seven hours to extort money in Ramechhap. Or finally, 19-year old Bishal Tamang, a tenth grader at the local high school, whom the Maoists kidnapped and murdered two weeks ago. This obviously goes against the spirit of the Jana Andolan.

Some of what is happening in Nepal right now brings to mind the excitement in Russia in 1917. The Russians hoped their February revolution would bring democracy. Indeed, a constituent assembly to write a new constitution was planned for the next year. Amidst this elation mixed with uncertainty, the Bolshevik Party and its leader Lenin violently and aggressively asserted their dominance over the other parties, sidelined the constituent assembly entirely, and created their own republic. This “second” Russian Revolution created a totalitarian state.

I am not the only one who remembers history. On June 18, Prachanda said: “If the talks fail, there will be an October Revolution of its own kind in Nepal. We are ready to lead that revolution.” The parties have worked hard, without resorting to intimidation, to bring about a new political order that will benefit all Nepalis. The Maoists need to show the same spirit of cooperation.

We all want to believe that the Maoists have changed, that they will permanently renounce violence, that they will give up their arms before CA polls and submit themselves to the will of the Nepali people, and that they mean what they say when they speak of supporting multiparty democracy. I hope that Nepal may soon have its lasting peace. However, until the Maoists bring their conduct in line with standards of mainstream multiparty democracy, it would be premature to declare that peace is already at hand.

Nepalis have risen up and demanded peace and democracy and transparency and accountability from all sides. The process of building a democratic government and a democratic culture is a long one, yet absolutely essential. We join you in celebrating the success of the Jana Andolan, but at the same time we all must understand that the fight for democracy is not yet over. I urge all of you to continue to have the strength of will to attain and then sustain democracy. The US will be with you.

Moriarty is the US ambassador to Nepal