Following period of relative inactivity, govt security forces mounted pressure on Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) with 16 Oct arrest of 21 district-level leaders in Dang district following biggest Nepal Police raid on CPN to date. Security officials claimed CPN – led by hardline Maoist leader Netra Bikram Chand – planning to conduct attacks in leadup to 30 Nov local-level by-elections. National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) investigation concluded June death of CPN’s Sarlahi district-in-charge Kumar Paudel – described by security officials as being killed in police action – was extrajudicial in nature as it occurred after Paudel was taken into custody; NHRC recommended suspensions and filing of criminal charges against three police officials and urged investigations into govt officials including local mayor. Chinese President Xi’s 12-13 Oct state visit to Kathmandu included meeting with PM KP Oli and signing of over twenty agreements mostly related to infrastructure, development and trade; senior U.S. official expressed concern about Chinese influence in Nepal at 22 Oct Congressional hearing. Fears of Nepal Communist Party-led govt’s suppression of civil liberties grew with two musicians taken into custody for supposedly violating social norms.
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.