Civil disobedience and concerns about the narrowing of political space dominated discussions between ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and opposition groups. Two simultaneous hunger strikes – by Dr Govinda KC, prominent doctor demanding medical sector reforms, and Ganga Maya Adhikari, demanding accountability for her son’s conflict-era killing in 2004 – created public pressure on govt. Opposition Nepali Congress (NC) and prominent civil society leaders subsequently criticised govt’s policy of restricting public protests to designated areas around country – first announced in April – as curtailing right to protest and contravening constitution. Supreme Court 6 July issued interim order to govt not to implement protest ban. NC 17 July announced nationwide protests to increase pressure against govt’s “totalitarian” decisions. UN Human Right Council experts 11 July claimed govt’s National Integrity Policy – aimed at monitoring and restricting NGO activity – could severely impinge on rights to free speech and association. Domestic activists and international organisations including Amnesty International and International Commission of Jurists criticised draft legislation to amend 2014 transitional justice act for critical flaws; urged govt to reconstitute transitional justice mechanisms, ensure punishment proportionate to gravity of crimes, and undertake transparent consultative process with victims’ groups.
Since it was passed amid deadly protests in September 2015, Nepal’s new constitution has deepened ethnic, social and political fractures. The country’s national parties and protesting groups need to find ways to address constitutional disagreements and underlying disputes. There is a clear risk of escalating violence unless all sides understand that without compromise and good faith Nepal faces an existential threat.
Nepal’s major political parties must urgently agree on a roadmap to negotiate on federalism and write the new constitution, whether by holding elections to a new Constituent Assembly or reviving the previous body.
With the future of the Maoist combatants finally settled, Nepal’s peace process has gained momentum after a long stalemate, but challenges remain, particularly the design of a new federal state and evolving coalition and factional dynamics of the parties.
Nepal’s Maoist combatants urgently need to be integrated into the national security forces and rehabilitated or retired to consolidate the peace process.
The parties to Nepal’s fitful peace process have less than eight weeks to agree on integration of Maoist combatants and federalism before the term of the Constituent Assembly elected to draft a new constitution expires.
International Crisis Group worked regularly on Nepal from 2003-2012, publishing 33 reports in the period leading up to and following the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the country’s decade-long civil war. Since 2012, Crisis Group has maintained a watching brief on the country.