Tuesday, May 27, 2008

No mandate to supervise armed personnel: UNMIN

Kantipur Report KATHMANDU, May 24

Special Representative of the Secretary General Ian Martin has tried to disown weakness on the part of his office in Nepal in monitoring Maoists combatants in Shaktikhor cantonment in regard to the death of businessman Ram Hari Shrestha.

"There have been some suggestions that in some way it points to a weakness in UNMIN's monitoring role at the cantonments, but that really is without foundation," said Martin, who is head of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), at a press meet in New York on Thursday.

Replying to journalists, Martin further said on the killing of Shrestha by the combatants monitored by UNMIN, "We have a 24-hour surveillance of the weapons storage areas in the cantonments, but we are neither mandated nor resourced to supervise the personnel of the cantonments - around 20,000 of them in 28 sites - in addition to the Nepal Army installations." Martin's remarks have come at a time when questions are being raised over the role of UNMIN in monitoring the combatants in Shaktikhor cantonment where Shrestha was beaten up severely resulting into his death in a hospital in Chitwan.

Despite Martin's remarks, the UNMIN mandate clearly states that UNMIN is responsible for management of arms and armed personnel in cantonments.

Posted on: 2008-05-23 18:46:46 (Server Time)

Friday, May 9, 2008

UNMIN - Mission Incomplete


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. (See box)
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?

Monday, December 17, 2007

UN's welcome mat in Nepal frays

By Dhruba Adhikary

Eyebrows are being raised in Nepal's immediate neighborhood about the implications of a protracted United Nations presence in the country.

Concerns from both New Delhi and Beijing have became pronounced in recent weeks as Kathmandu prepares to submit a formal request to the UN Security Council for a six-month extension of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN). Its initial 12-month stint expires on January 22, 2008.

"They want to treat Nepal as a UN protectorate, they are going to mess it up," the Nepali Times newspaper quoted an unnamed senior Indian official in New Delhi as saying. The jitters are ostensibly based on intelligence reports that the UNMIN's contacts with Nepal's political class have gone down to the grassroots level, including in districts bordering India.

China, too, is uncomfortable seeing hordes of foreigners, even if under the UN umbrella, becoming longtime residents in Nepal, a country sharing a border with Tibet. But unlike New Delhi, Beijing's expression of anxiety comes in a more discreet manner. A senior official of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), for instance, told his Nepali hosts last week his country would not interfere in Nepal's affairs, and that Nepal could resolve its problems through its own efforts.

However, last week the visitor, Wang Jiarui, head of the CCP's international department, also conveyed his country's readiness to offer needed assistance to interim Prime Minister Girija Prasad. Such expressions, whenever they are made, are perceived as a message that China is alert about whatever India - and the United States - are trying to do regarding Nepal. In the early 1970s, Khampa exiles from Tibet were found carrying out attacks on their own homeland from bases inside Nepal with guns they received from the US Central Intelligence Agency.

Both New Delhi and Beijing know that the UNMIN was set up in the wake of a peace pact concluded between former Maoist rebels and a coalition of seven political parties who earlier had put up a joint political movement, ending King Gyanendra's rule, in April 2006. Request for the UN mission was jointly made to acquire assistance in handling the unfolding events and challenges.

The Security Council resolution (Number 1740) authorizing the establishment of the mission took note of the request for UN assistance in implementing key aspects of the peace agreement "in particular monitoring of arrangements relating to the management of arms and armed personnel of both sides and election monitoring". The election for a constituent assembly, scheduled for November 22, has been postponed indefinitely and initiatives to resolve the issue of arms and armies have yet to produce any amicable solution. This has required the UNMIN to prolong its presence.

According to Ian Martin, special representative of the UN secretary general, India and China were "very supportive" of the original arrangement for the UNMIN. Martin told the media last month that he has held periodic discussions with the Indian and Chinese ambassadors with "no major complaints" being reported. While China is a permanent Security Council member, India is a country to which members of the Security Council pay attention.

That means China can directly express its views when Nepal's case comes up at the Security Council for a possible extension of tenure, while India's concerns are likely to be communicated through the United States, with which India has a strategic partnership. Also to be considered is the United Kingdom, which was given the lead role to draft the original mandate for the UNMIN. The European Union indicated, through a statement this month, that the EU would support the Nepali request for an extension of the UNMIN's mandate.

But observers doubt that a six-month extension will be enough time for the UNMIN to complete its mission and the criticisms it faces are varied and stinging and have come from from all conceivable quarters - the political parties, security forces, the intelligentsia, the bureaucracy and the public. While the consensus developed by the leaders of the main political parties for UNMIN's extension is generally positive, their critical remarks reflect a more general public opinion that progress has been neither swift nor satisfactory.

The public frustration becomes more pronounced at the sight of a large fleet of UN-marked vehicles, including some aircraft, with no noticeable improvement in the situation. Peace and order are as elusive as ever. The economy, which is mainly kept afloat by remittances from Nepali laborers send from the Gulf countries, has ceased to be based either on agriculture or on manufacturing industries.

UNMIN officials have often been censured for not doing the jobs they are expected to do and for entering areas where they are not supposed to intervene. Maoist combatants living in cantonments, for example, cannot leave their areas, as is stipulated in the peace agreements. But UNMIN monitors have not bothered to prevent their unauthorized exits. Another particular case surfaced last month when UNMIN's senior military adviser, Jan Erik Wilhelmsen, was seen attending a parade the Maoists had organized to mark the seventh anniversary of the Maoist's army.

The event, boycotted by government leaders and officials, attracted a good amount of controversy. UNMIN officials defended the Norwegian general's presence because the interim constitution and related peace agreements recognize that the Maoists, too, have an army. And the UN needs to maintain a working relationship with them as long as they are in existence. The counter argument is equally strong and is reflected in an editorial written by Yubaraj Ghimire, editor of News Front, in which he said: "UNMIN's role ... is not to highlight militarization, but to work towards demilitarization."

UNMIN officials maintain they are not afraid of comments and reactions as long as they are based on facts. But, as UN special representative Martin himself put it at a recent press conference, a number of things reported have been "simply incorrect".

But balanced analysts do not find reasons to blame the UNMIN for things which Nepali politicians have not been able to resolve. The plan to hold elections has been postponed twice, due to the inability of the political players to agree on a voting system. Accordingly, the UNMIN arrangements to assist the polls have had to be canceled and officials withdrawn.

Similarly, the issue of the Nepal army and the Maoist army is also something to be decided by the Nepalis themselves. The Maoists cannot be confined to cantonments forever; and members of Nepal army also cannot be asked to stay in their barracks indefinitely. And what happens when army units have to be deployed across the country to help police maintain law and order? UNMIN officials say the lack of a mechanism to manage, monitor and implement the peace process is the root cause of the confusion and delays and say they can't be held responsible for things they can't control.

The UNMIN is in a delicate situation. Coalition partners often tend to read some of the UNMIN's observations as being pro-Maoist. Leaders in the Maoist camp, on the other hand, perceive that some of the UNMIN activities are biased against them. "They [UNMIN] are behaving like activists and journalists, which is against their mandate," Ram Bahadur Thapa "Badal", a senior Maoist leader, told The Rising Nepal newspaper.

In a report submitted to the Security Council in October, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the UN could expand its role in Nepal if concerned parties wanted it. But there appears to be no consensus on the subject, primarily because of apprehensions that UNMIN is already overstepping its original mandate, unwittingly or otherwise.

The original mandate, for example, refers to special attention needed for women, children and "traditionally marginalized groups". But how precisely can such groups be defined and to what extent can UNMIN go to be able to address their grievances in a short period of time?

These are some of the issues, contend government leaders and officials, which require long-term vision to resolve. By suddenly raising the expectations of certain ethnic - or regional - groups in a country known for its ethnic diversity, the UNMIN may unwittingly be laying the grounds for avoidable conflicts and tensions.

The UNMIN thus has to avoid issues that need to be sorted out by politicians and voters. Since Nepal is a member of the UN and has served as a non-permanent member of the Security Council twice, it can register reservations and objections, if any, on its own. And since the UNMIN was established at Nepal's request to facilitate the peace process, its mandated activities cannot be construed as external intervention.

Has UNMIN been a white elephant in the first year of its existence? Anyone engaged in a dispassionate analysis would agree that its presence has not been entirely in vain. For instance, no major conflict or clashes have taken place between belligerent forces in this period, effectively preventing deaths and injuries that could have affected thousands of families.

Soldiers from the Nepal Army and combatants from Maoist cantonments have not violated the ceasefire agreement in any serious way. And despite differences, the political parties are making efforts to take the country to the polls as soon as possible. They realize that without elections, they will have no legitimacy to be in Parliament and the next government. Thus, their latest public pledge to organize the polls by next April needs to be taken in this context.

"The UN has many weaknesses, but it has some strengths ..." said Staffan de Mistura in a recent interview. A recognized troubleshooter in 19 conflicts worldwide, he now heads the UN's revived mission in Iraq. He elaborated his view on the UN, "We are perceived as a neutral and impartial and technical, not political [organization]." The number of incidents per day has come down to 90 from 300 in that war-torn country. But 90 is still a lot, he said. Anyhow, if the situation can improve in Iraq, why can't a similar UN mission make a difference in Nepal? (De Mistura was one of the senior UN officials to visit Nepal this year.)

The challenges Nepal faces are formidable, and they may not be solved even if the UNMIN receives a renewed mandate. What is emerging, though, is that a visible UN presence can work as an effective bulwark against potential adventures from India in the south.

"If the options indeed run out and Nepal is destined to survive only as a protectorate, it will be far better to be a UN protectorate than an Indian one," said Madhab P Khanal, a diplomatic analyst who is a retired senior officer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Adhikary is a senior journalist and political commentator based in Kathmandu. This article has been reproduced here courtesy www.atimes.com -- Ed.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Nepal elections in June not feasible:UN

Posted April 9th, 2007 by TariqueInternationalKathmandu, April 9 (NNN-PTI)

The top UN official for Nepal has said that it was not "technically and politically feasible" to hold the June 20 polls for the Constituent Assembly that would frame a new constitution for the Himalayan nation.

The chief of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), Ian Martin, told Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koiralas advisor on Foreign Affairs Suresh Chalise that it is not "technically and politically feasible" to hold the Constituent Assembly polls on June 20.

"It will take little time to address the Terai and ethnic issues, and we don't have much time (if the polls are to be held on June 20)," Martin said citing the political turmoil in the Terai plains bordering India over greater political and economic rights for the community of the region.

"Martin told me that it was not feasible to hold elections on the said date if the issues of Terai and ethnic minorities remain unresolved," Chalise was quoted as saying in the media Monday.

Martin-headed UNMIN was mandated to assist Nepal in holding the free and fair constituent assembly elections.

Martin is also learnt to have raised the difficulty in holding the polls on its schedule in his meeting last week with Maoist chief Prachanda, whose party is a major constituent in the interim government.

Martin told Prachanda that the date of any election should be announced 90 days ahead of schedule and the date for the polls proposed by the eight political parties was not feasible.

Martin advised Prachanda to resolve the issues raised by the ethnic communities including, Madhesis and Janajatis, so that a peaceful, free and fair elections could be held.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

UN arms monitors to start locking up Nepal Army's weapons


United Nations (UN) arms monitors will start locking up Nepal Army's (NA) weapons at the Chhauni barrack, Kathmandu, from Tuesday, local media reported on Saturday.

A team comprising the UN arms monitors, NA representative and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) will start storing NA weapons in numbers equivalent to the registered weapons of the Maoist's "People's Liberation Army (PLA)", leading website nepalnews reported.

The NA's weapons will be locked in 14 storage containers in the country, according to the report.

The NA's weapons are being locked as per a tripartite agreement (UN, government and Maoists) which was reached earlier.

Second phase verification of Maoist arms and combatants will begin as soon as the storage process completes at the Chhauni barrack.

UN Mission in Nepal had completed registration of Maoist combatants and their weapons a few weeks earlier. Slightly more than 31,000 combatants and 3,500 were registered in seven PLA cantonment sites around the country.

Source: Xinhua

Nepal: Don't Exceed Diplomatic Limits


The UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal out of political frustrations that he has been receiving in series in the country’s politics has begun talking any thing under the sun.

It appears that his frustrations have grown to an undesirable extent in the mean time and thus he has initiated lambasting at the Kathmandu based diplomats.

In Biratnagar today Mr. Nepal took to task the diplomats from the UNMIN, the US and India.

He bluntly said in an oblique manner that the diplomats posted in Kathmandu were not in any way going to conduct the CA polls and thus suggested them not to speculate the absurd.

He wanted to tell the diplomats that the CA polls would be held at any cost even if some diplomats from the UNMIN, the US and India held the view that the possibility for conducting such a poll appeared remote given the adverse security situation in the country as it stood today.

The fact is that Madhav Nepal has just begun toeing the Prachanda’s line of thinking as regards the polls.

Comrade Prachanda got a jolt Friday afternoon when he was told point blank by UNMIN Captain in Nepal, Ian Martin, that he doubted the conduct of the CA polls when things were adverse at the moment in the country.

Toeing the Prachanda line, Madhav Nepal today blasted at the diplomats and suggested them not to exceed their “diplomatic” limits.

The political overtone with which Madhav Nepal thundered at the Diplomats coming as it does close on the heels of Prachanda’s ire against the UNMIN Chief Ian Martin does speak so many things.

Analysts predict that Madhav Nepal must not have said so without consulting Prachanda. The aggressive tones that both the communist leaders have used against the diplomats does remind us all of the famous adage, “birds of same feather flock together” is coming to true.

This also tells that Mr. Nepal sees no future for his party if not supported by the Maoists.

How the Kathmandu based international community takes these aggressive political undiplomatic comments made by two communist veterans will have to be watched.

Analysts say that the conduct of the polls on time as expected by Madhav Nepal, should the said diplomats so desire, might not take place at all.

But then the CA polls must take place. When it takes place is an altogether a different matter.

Cool down Madhav Nepal yourself!

The diplomats mean much to Nepal. Their role you can’t minimize for obvious political reasons, which you perhaps understand better. Take it for granted.
(April 8, 2007)


New York, Apr 1 2007 3:00PM

The senior United Nations envoy to Nepal today hailed the establishment of the country's interim Government, while emphasizing that many challenges lie ahead as preparations continue for elections aimed at cementing the democratic transition in the Himalayan country.

"I welcome the establishment of the new interim government as a key moment for the consolidation of Nepal's peace process, and I congratulate the leaders of the eight political parties on their willingness to share responsibilities in this transitional period," Ian Martin, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative said in a statement.

He pointed out that a unified Government should be in a stronger position to face the challenges ahead, including "creating conditions for a credible Constituent Assembly election, addressing the legitimate demands of groups in Nepalese society calling for more inclusive democracy, establishing effective law enforcement across the country, and providing for the future of former combatants and a wider reform of the security sector."

Mr. Martin pledged the UN's help in ensuring full compliance with the commitments made by the parties to the Agreement on the Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies, as well as to support and monitor the electoral process.

"The challenges ahead cannot be overemphasized," Mr. Martin said, welcoming "the renewed commitments intended to create a conducive environment for polls and to provide for more effective monitoring of agreements, which will be crucial in transforming conditions throughout the districts and which the United Nations is committed to assist."

He added that success will require effective law enforcement that respects international standards, accountability for violations of citizens' rights, and ending breaches of the commitments under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

The Security Council established UNMIN in January to assist with the follow-up to the Nepa
planned elections in the impoverished Himalayan country where 10 years of civil war killed around 15,000 people and displaced over 100,000 others.

2007-04-01 00:00:00.000