May 4th, 2007 10:36 EST
Peace process in Nepal holding firm
Despite the postponement of elections planned for mid-June in Nepal, the peace process in the mountainous country, which recently emerged from a 10-year civil war, is firmly on track, a United Nations envoy said after briefing the Security Council today.
“Fundamentally I’m optimistic, because it was the people of Nepal who took their future in their hands in a very dramatic way in the people’s movement of a year ago,” Ian Martin, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative and head of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) told reporters at UN Headquarters.
“Their determination and demand that Nepal must not slip into armed conflict is very strong,” he said of the people of Nepal, where fighting between the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) killed over 13,000 and paralyzed the countryside.
He said that no one could have imagined a year ago that the King of Nepal would have relinquished executive authority and that the resulting cease-fire could have blossomed into a full, comprehensive peace agreement that has already made strides under UN monitoring.
At the same time, he pointed out that the timetable for the election of the Constituent Assembly, which will adopt a constitution for the country, has been delayed because regulations governing the process are not yet ready.
A new date for those elections has not yet been agreed on, but they will have to await the end of the monsoon season and major national holidays, which means November at the earliest.
Meanwhile, Mr. Martin said, he hoped the Nepalese, with the assistance of UNMIN, will be able to improve security conditions for the elections and work for the full inclusion of marginalized ethic groups.
A report on Nepal by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, released late last month, praised all parties in the country for their willingness to strive towards consensus on some of the most divisive issues, but also noted that some of the underlying causes of the conflict are yet to be tackled. He warned that challenges remained in monitoring stored arms and improving the cantonment conditions of armed personnel.
At today’s briefing Mr. Martin reported that, with reports of snakes and tents blowing away, cantonment conditions are, indeed, “extremely unsatisfactory.” There are now plans for the construction of more permanent living structures, he said.