Peace talks between Nepal’s Maoist rebels and the interim government of seven national parties concluded on Wednesday morning after nearly five months of negotiations aimed at ending the decade-long armed conflict, which has killed over 14,000 people.
“This is a historic moment for all of us but there are still huge challenges ahead of us,” Maoist leader Prachanda said, speaking at a press conference in the capital after the talks.
“The (peace) agreement has proved that all problems can be solved in a peaceful way,” Nepali Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala said.
An agreement has reportedly now been reached even on contentious issues like management of arms and the fate of the monarchy, both of which had been responsible for delaying the talks for months.
According to the mutual agreement, all rebel combatants will be quartered in five cantonments in the districts of Kavre, Kailala, Rolpa, Surkhet, Palpa and Sindhuli in west Nepal, 400 km west of the capital. In addition, their arms and ammunitions are to be securely stored in the camps under lock and key.
A special committee will be formed under the new interim cabinet to monitor, reintegrate and rehabilitate rebel combatants.
Simultaneously, the army will be confined to barracks and guarantee that they will not use arms. Their weapons will also be stored under lock and key, according to the agreement. The armed forces, formerly loyal to the king, will be controlled, managed and mobilised by the new interim cabinet, which will also have the power to downsize the army.
With regard to political institutions, there has been agreement to complete the interim constitution by 21 November, establish an interim legislature to replace the current Nepalese parliament by 21 November and form an interim cabinet by 1 December.
The Maoists had been waging an armed rebellion against the Nepalese state since 1996, despite two rounds of peace talks in 2001 and 2003 designed to end the conflict.
But in April, following the end of absolute rule by the monarch, King Gyanendra, due in part to widespread uprisings led by an alliance of seven main parties and the Maoists, a new interim government was formed and a new peace process began.
The two negotiating teams said agreement had been reached on how to halt disappearances – a regular fear for civilians caught in the conflict – and on the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Elections for the constituent assembly will be held by mid-June 2007. According to the agreement, the assembly elections will be based on a mixed electoral system for a total of 425 members. The United Nations has been requested by both sides to monitor the elections.
Finally, Nepalese people hope both sides have finally put down the gun, an ideal the rebels appear to subscribe to, but with a rider: “Violence is never the solution and this is the reason why we have reached an historical truce, but we will not let the country fail as it did during past governments,” said Prachanda.
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