Hopes for Peace in Nepal

Since the big changes occurred in Nepal this past summer, the longstanding conflict there between Maoist insurgents and the government has ceased, as a "Comprehensive Peace Agreement" (CPA) has been signed. The Maoists have agreed to lay down arms and stay in camps where they will be monitored by international observers. The system they've come up to ensure both parties abide by the agreement seems a little far-fetched, but perhaps workable:

Under a novel agreement with the government and the United Nations, they are to deposit their weapons in padlocked containers at each of the cantonments like this one. They will hold the keys, but their gun closets will be closely watched. Floodlights will shine each night. Surveillance cameras and burglar alarms will be installed.

For the sake of at least symbolic reciprocity, the Nepalese Army has promised to keep an equal number of its soldiers in their barracks.

An initial team of 35 United Nations monitors is expected to trickle in by the end of the year to oversee the Maoist and the army barracks alike, followed by an assessment team to determine the final size of the United Nations mission. (link)

This seems like an awfully fragile system. Though Nepal's 10 year old conflict is a little different from civil conflicts in other parts of the world -- as I understand it, it's not rooted in ethnic differences, so it may be easier to heal -- it seems hard to imagine this method working for very long. Will the symbolic deposition of the King and the advent of a permanent democratic government be enough of a change to bring the country back together after 10 years of civil war?

In the short run, ironically, the Maoists have lots of new recruits hanging around at the new camps. But it's unclear whether the new kids are there because they support the ideology, or because they hope the newly legitimized Maoists might have work for them:

Up the road in the village, among the old men sitting and soaking in the last of the day’s sun, the question of new recruits inspired churlish laughter. Of course these are new recruits, they said, and you can easily tell them from the old-timers. The new ones know nothing, one old man said. The new ones cannot tell the difference between where to defecate and where to bathe, another said. That inspired howls of laughter.

The troops who have gathered here for now rely on the hospitality of the local people. The old man, Ananda Gyawali, introduced one 19-year-old, Krishna Acharya, as a distant relative. The young man is illiterate and came a couple of weeks ago from a village far away to throw his lot in with the Maoists. He claimed to have joined the rebels a year ago.

The boy came only because he thought the Maoists would give him a job, he said, adding, “Poverty is to blame for this.” (link)

Meanwhile, many Royalists loyal to King Gyanendra have begun buying property in places like India and Singapore. A major garment factory in Kathmandu has shut down for reasons that seem linked to the changes. And there have even been some protests against the Maoists in the Kathmandu Valley, who seem more powerful than ever at this point.