Nepals peace process entering difficult phase UN envoy cautions

30 April 2010The top United Nations official in Nepal today voiced concern that planned Maoist demonstrations tomorrow could result in violence as she warned that the country’s peace process has reached a “difficult phase.” The Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) has announced that its May Day celebrations will be peaceful. “But after 1 May, the situation is unpredictable, and may seriously endanger the peace process,” warned Karin Landgren, the Secretary-General’s Representative in Nepal.The Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed in 2006 between the Government and the Maoists, ended a decade-long civil war which claimed some 13,000 lives in the South Asian nation. After conducting Constituent Assembly elections in May 2008, Nepal abolished its 240-year-old monarchy and declared itself a republic. But the peace process has stalled recently, threatened by tensions and mistrust between Maoists, the Government and the army.“There are grave concerns about the direction it may take in the coming days,” Ms. Landgren cautioned.The parties have expressed their willingness to reach an agreement, which she stressed must happen rapidly – hopefully today – to prevent an escalation of the situation.Although the UCPN-M has said that their demonstrations will be peaceful and authorities have said they will not use unnecessary force, the envoy expressed concern that clashes could ensue.Yesterday, the UN human rights office in Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal) called for restraint by all sides to prevent violence in tomorrow’s protests, while stressing the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.UCPN-M is urged to ensure that demonstrators do not engage in any form of provocation, confrontation or hostile behaviour, including wielding laathis and other weapons that could cause bodily harm.The group has a special responsibility to ensure that children are not put in harm’s way, OHCHR noted.“I appeal to all parties and groups to exercise maximum restraint, and underline that unity amongst the parties has been the driving force of the peace process and remains the best prospect for permanent peace in Nepal,” Ms. Landgren said today.The country’s leaders and people, Ms. Landgren told reporters, have invested so much in the peace process that “it would be a shame and disaster to let this fall by the wayside,” underscoring the need to restore trust and confidence.