Mission imcomplete

Keshab Poudel
Spotlight Newsmagazine, Vol. 27, No. 34
May 9, 2008

Although the peace process is yet to complete, some political leaders have already started talking about ending the presence of UNMIN

The tenure of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) will not be further extended," said Maoist leader and chief of international department CP Gajurel addressing a press conference on April 18. "We thank the UNMIN for its support to Nepal's peace process, which has already taken solid shape. We will integrate the Nepal Army and the People's Liberation Army to form a national army after making a new constitution. We don't see any role of the UNMIN in our future process," he said addressing an interaction program at the Reporters' Club."

Two weeks after C.P. Gajurel's statement, Indian communist leader Sitaram Yechury, who was one of the supporters of international mediation in Nepal's conflict, backed Gajurel's point of view. "The presence of UN body will not be required beyond July 23 as the new government will be able to settle the issue of management of arms and armies," said Yechury.

The tenure of UNMIN is going to end on July 23, 2008. Maoist leaders under whose insistence seven parties had agreed to invite the UN mission in Nepal are now leading the debate to end UNMIN presence. The role for UN in the peace process was envisaged in 12 points agreement- which was reportedly mediated by Indian officials - signed in New Delhi in November, 2005.

Gajurel and Yechury were first to press for international observers but now they have joined hands to campaign against UNMIN. At a time when other major political parties are yet to speak about the issue, nobody knows what prompted Gajurel to raise such vital issue. After two weeks, Nepal's revolutionary communist leaders have found an Indian communist leader as a buyer of their idea.

"The decision will be taken only after the consultations with all the constituents of seven parties," said CPN-UML leader minister of foreign affairs Sahana Pradhan.

The question now is, which will prevail or the meeting of seven party leaders or the interim constitution or the likes of Gajurel and Yechury? The article 166(3) of Interim Constitution, the Comprehensive Peace Accord concluded between the Government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) on Mangsir 5,2063 ( November 21, 2006), and an agreement relating to "Agreement on the Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies" reached on Mangsir 22, 2063 (December 8,2006) are part of schedule 4 of the constitution.

As per the constitutional provisions, the UN monitoring role relates to five areas: the management of arms and armed personnel, the ceasefire arrangements, the elections, human rights and compliance with the Basic Operating Guidelines for the delivery of development and humanitarian assistance.

The question is not whether the UNMIN should go or not go but whether the peace process has been completed or not, for which UNMIN was invited in Nepal under a seven party consensus.

To give legitimate status to the UNMIN, seven political parties have even inserted its position in the interim constitution with a long lasting role.

"The Mission is a special political mission established by the United Nations Security Council, Resolution 1740, to support the peace process in Nepal. The process is still on. It has its importance and usefulness. It is not advisable to shut it down before the process is completed." said Dr Bipin Adhikari, a lawyer and constitution analyst, who also worked with several United Nations agencies in the past.

According to Adhikari, when the Mission kicked off on 23 January 2007, its mandate included monitoring of the management of arms and armed personnel of the Nepal Army and the Maoist army and assisting the parties through a Joint Monitoring Coordinating Committee in implementing the agreement on the management of arms and armed personnel of both the Nepal Army and the Maoist army. It was also mandated to provide technical assistance to the Election Commission in the planning, preparation and conduct of the election of the Constituent Assembly in a free and fair atmosphere. While the third mandate has been accomplished, the first two need revised framework to work on. The works in these areas are still lagging behind. The Mission could still be useful to deal with the question of settlement of all Maoist combatants.

Leaders of seven political parties and Maoists reached into an understanding and formally invited UNMIN to play a role in Nepal's peace keeping task, which is yet to be completed.

"Before demilitarizing all Maoist combatants living in cantonments, why there have been so much hectic reactions not only from the one of the constituents of seven party alliance but from an external watchman Yechury, an unofficial facilitator for Nepal's peace keeping? It shows India, too, is partly against the stay of UNMIN in Nepal," said an analyst. "The same persons who insisted Nepal to involve UN in its peace keeping task- are now asking UNMIN to pack its bag and leave without completing the tasks. One has to get a convincing answer for such vacillating stand even from a player like Yechury from the neighborhood."
When UNMIN came to Nepal, there were so many backers. Now when it is under an attack, nobody is defending it.

"People - who are in the frontline of politics of this country- welcome the hegemonic player but don't have guts to speak for a peace keeping mission like UN," said the analyst. "Where are those loud speaking persons from so called civil society who demanded involvement of United Nations when United Nations was not much needed? Now when United Nations has started its work and its role is much important, a section of motivated persons are asking it to go back leaving the task unfulfilled and those loud-speaking persons have gone silent."

For politicians and so called members of civil society, Yechury is more acceptable than anything else. "Nobody in Nepal questions the role of Yechury whose purpose and timing of visit to Nepal is an open secret to all. The country had got rid of the "active leadership" of monarch of Panchayat system. But, now the other "active leadership" has been imposed upon Nepal which no Nepali politician dares to question," said the political analyst.

As annexure is also inseparable part of constitution, the government needs to amend the constitution in case it wants to contain the role of UN. "It is not difficult to understand why at once there are so many voices against the UNMIN and why some newspapers are suggesting that it should pack up and go. As far as I know I have not seen ordinary people of Nepal asking the Mission to dismantle. Obviously, there are outsiders who think they can pass on without hiccup if the UNMIN vacates its premises from here. The challenge before the Mission is to maintain its independence and avoid being a tool in the hand of any country overtly interested in Nepal. The UN must meet this challenge, or it will find its potential and actual influence ebbing away in other countries. Certainly, this is not in the interest of Nepal," said Adhikari.

According to Adhikari, the complexity of international life, combined with the reluctance of leading states to act where their national interests are not at risk, will create many occasions when the UN provides the only arena within which an acceptable pattern of response can be fashioned.

"I always advocate advisory roles for the Security Council. In fact, my idea from the very beginning was to have some political advisors from the Security Council to advise the Government on all these issues, rather than deploying a full-fledged political mission doing so many works that Nepalese people otherwise had enough experience of working on. Nepal needed these advisors at Singh Durbar to help it with independent decision making at that time. Such advisors would have given the government, or any peace authority it would have created, necessary Security Council back up to deal with the Maoists. But people who had little ideas on how political missions work prevailed in the decision making, then."

"But now since the Mission is already here, and it has already done part of its assigned works, it should be allowed to achieve what it has been mandated with. It is the time to reassess what still needs to be revamped. The peace process is also the arrangement of the interim constitution. The process will come to an end only after the new constitution is adopted by the Constituent Assembly and promulgated in the name of the people," said Adhikari.

The UN Mission came to Nepal on the request of the government. Can UNMIN leave its main task unfinished that may lead to resumption of armed conflict?

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