These prologues are for the development of background in preparation for reporting from Kathmandu on the current revolutionary surge occurring in Nepal. Today I am discussing the International Crisis Group reports I have been following closely since shortly after its inception in the mid-90s. Among my Nepal Maoism bookmarks you will find all the reports on the conflict in Nepal.
The ICG reports are excellent factual accounts of history. The recommendations they provide are reflective of course of the viewpoints of the many national governments, foundations and individuals comprising its donor base – but we understand they are being as "objective" as possible. The content is quite clear of language entailing ideological or political stances. Understanding the critical developments at this time, they have very recently issued a major report on the current situation in Nepal – which will be discussed. The ICG report dated 19 February 2009 is entitled "Nepal’s Faltering Peace Process". I will provide a truncated version in notes from its executive summary. I also select some of the points of in the recommendations of the report I think are most significant. Of course this should be no alternative to the reader reading the complete executive summary or the full 45+ pages of the report. Like everybody else, I have my own agenda.
My Notes on the Executive Summary:
Major issues remain unresolved: no agreement on the future of the two armies, little of the land seized during the conflict has been returned, and little progress made writing a new constitution. The April 2008 CA elections was a victory for the Maoists but short of a majority. The NC refused to join the government. There is little unity of intent between the Maoists and the largest governing coalition partner, the UML. With continued instability has come armed protest and burgeoning identity-based movements. The immediate threat is not Maoist totalitarianism but a dangerous weakening of the state’s capacity to govern. Debate within the party – renamed the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), UCPN(M), following its merger with a smaller group – shows the goal of a communist "people’s republic" is still in place. Maoist leaders continue to threaten renewed revolutionary struggle and the "capture of state power" – underlined by cadres’ continued violent behaviour and by consolidating alternative power bases through affiliated organisations like trade unions. With the November 2005 agreement between the CPN(M) and the mainstream seven-party alliance, old politics was discredited; but the established parties still need to earn legitimacy. The Maoists may have made a greater effort to change than other parties, but they should take the lead to rebuild confidence by unambiguously renouncing violence and reaffirming their commitment to political pluralism; even though the NC, the UML and the other parties suffer from exclusiveness and weakened support. The state of public security is worrying. Districts across the Tarai, the heartland of the Madhesi movement, face a near collapse of governance and policing. While the police are demoralised, the Nepalese Army (NA) remains a law unto itself, resisting both democratic control and investigation of alleged war crimes during the conflict. International influences, India, the UN and donors, need to maintain consistent pressure on all parties to live up to their commitments.
Comments on the ICG Executive Summary:
(a) "Maoist totalitarianism" is an assumption that a communist peoples republic in Nepal would be a return to a failed communist model.
(b) There is an underlying assumption that there is an imperative for a multi-party state to maintain its "capacity to govern"; that such a model of governance is the only thing that would work.
(c) There is a bias against self-organizing, such as unionizing efforts, as being undesirable "alternative power bases".
(d) There is asserted the need of "political pluralism", but it is an assertion that assumes the Maoist "capture of state power" would necessarily exclude any pluralism or internal debate.
(e) The glorification of the role of the ICG donor base (International influences, India, the UN and donor community) is rather blatant – Nepal needs, they believe, an external element to "maintain consistent pressure on all parties".
Yes, the problems clearly identified and the factual history of events is most useful. However, one needs to note how the Madhesi movement (and others unmentioned such as the Tharu people) are characterized as problematic, almost dismissed by the superior vision of the international meta-structure. We can say that even the royalist elements within the National Army, or factions such as the Madhesi and others, whether we support them as political forces or not, are nonetheless legitimate and significant elements of the set of Nepal peoples.
From the general ICG Recommendations – again I select certain key ideas (that are nevertheless there) and say again to the reader do not forgo a thorough reading of the many pages of detailed expansion of these ideas in the report itself:
1. Re-establishing consensus on continuing the peace process by: a high-level commission and an independent monitoring body for the purposes of, instituting international technical and/or secretarial support, and ensuring the Army Integration Special Committee (AISC) promptly starts integration and rehabilitation of Maoist army combatants.
2. Independent monitoring mechanisms established for commissions and committees specified in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
3. Seek donor support by requests for bilateral and multilateral technical assistance.
4. Deliver tangible improvements in the weak law and order situation, by: requesting international support for the home ministry’s public security task force (for example in controlling party youth wings).
5. Requesting international technical assistance for investigations: ending a culture of impunity of serious alleged crimes; taking action against individuals and institutions seeking to pervert the course of justice; responding substantively to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
6. Improve the management of state security forces, by: Providing the National Defense Council secretariat support, that is, international support, on the joint administrative training of military and civilian officers.
Comment on the ICG Recommendations
Given the on-going events, especially since the start of March, subsequent to this issue of this report, that the Maoist led peace process is in dire need of solutions to the key problems well identified by the ICG report. The ICG is genuinely and rightfully concerned that Nepal will become a failed state – some begin to argue it already is. If you look at the ideas in the pages of careful analysis of Nepal’s situation by the ICG, as well as at the comprehensive detailed solutions it offers, there is a lot to be learned about the methods of conflict resolution that would work. The question is, I think, who is it that should have power and control of this peace process for the greatest benefit of the people of Nepal?
I read above that there would be a tremendous amount of international intervention. I also read that the bias of the ICG is that this is a necessity because the political forces and civil society in Nepal are not capable of self-management of a peaceful resolution. Supporting this bias is the apparent failure of the multi-party government to date; resulting in what may indeed be a failing state. The result in the day to day life of the people is appalling: the power infrastructure is literally failing – 16 hours a day with no electricity; uncontrolled violence, criminal activity exploding and rampant corruption at every turn. This is the daily fare of the people.
The conflict resolution methodologies that have been suggested by the ICG are in themselves valid. They should in essence be employed. By who seems to be a matter of who has the guns. The international influences are working diplomatically, economically and militarily to position a great deal of external influence and control over Nepal – I don’t think anyone is so naive to think it is about their love of peace and the Nepali people. Geopolitical and ideological apparatus concerns and economic concerns (e.g. hydro-power for India) may have something to do with it.
The Maoists too have an agenda, one based on the communist hypothesis if we can believe in the complete purity of their character. Many, myself included, would want a new phase, a novel phase of manifestation of communism in Nepal that would both refute the failure of its earlier manifestations and avoid the on-going world tragedy of the current coordinates of power, capitalo-parliamentarianism (the neologism of Alain Badiou introduced many times to any reader of this blog). It is a fact in the present situation that the Maoists were given the mandate by the people to create a new Nepal. Can they keep that mandate is in question, as is also; will they create a communist state that can fulfill the promises to the people? There is no doubt such a move to create that communist state is the intention. Somehow they have to prove their purity of character and no doubt not all the Maoists possess such purity (that would be too much to ask as one moves lower down the power structure). It is a task of leadership for Prachanda and Bhattarai, CP Gajurel, Mohan Baidya, Dina Nath Sharma and others whose ideas have been covered in on -going entries here.
If we will ever know if the Maoists could be what they say they are now depends on the guns again I am afraid. Civil Society doesn’t seem to have much clout in the impasse between the NA and the PLA, or for the rising specter of Indian intervention that seems to be raising its head in the opposition of the Tharus and the Madhesi. Will the Maoists be able to forcibly avoid a totally failed state and stave off international intervention, would that be a good thing? Most importantly, will the people avoid both giving up in despair about or simply having faith in a party leadership and mobilize itself somehow by an act of extraordinary group will – the essence of true revolution.