Rising insecurity in Nepal ahead of Constituent Assembly (CA) elections slated for 10 April is causing concern among UN agencies and the national election body.
The UN is particularly concerned about escalating violence at the hands of armed groups in the Terai region of southern Nepal.
“Violence and threats from groups declaring their opposition to the election have continued, contributing to insecurity and fear,” said a joint report by the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) and the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published on 30 March.
Some of the armed groups in the Terai - including the Madhesi Mukti Tigers (MMT), United Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (U-JTMM), Terai Cobra, and Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha-Rajan Mukti (JTMM-RM) - have openly declared their opposition to the elections and have been spreading violence across the Terai, according to local human rights groups.
Most at risk are election candidates and voters in eastern Terai, according to rights groups. The high alert districts include Sunsari, Morang and Kapilvastu, where UNMIN recorded several bomb explosions near candidates’ houses.
A blast inside a mosque in Biratnagar, Morang District, nearly 500km southeast of Kathmandu on 29 March left two dead and several injured.
Ian Martin, special representative of the UN Secretary-General and head of UNMIN, told the media on 31 March in Biratnagar that violence had no place in the elections.
“I am glad efforts are continuing even in the midst of the election campaign to bring about a dialogue between the government and armed groups. I hope those efforts will continue, but I want to make clear that any group which in this election continues to pursue its grievances by violence will lose any sympathy from the international community,” Martin said.
Candidates most at risk
According to UNMIN, most at risk were candidates of top political parties like the Nepali Congress (NC), the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPNM), Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) and the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF).
“There continue to be warnings of plans to derail the election and undermine the peace process through violent acts such as the assassination of political leaders, which would outrage the nation and the international community,” said the UNMIN press statement.
Among the gravest incidents have been the killings of political workers from the Maoist party - seven of whom have been killed this month.
In the past month the Terai region has been peaceful thanks to successful peace talks with pro-Madhesi parties who had been organising protests across the region, nearly crippling the economy.
All the Madhesi political parties, except the four armed groups - MMT, UJTMM, Terai Cobra and JTMM-RM - are now participating in the elections, according to the Interior Ministry.
The four groups said they had decided to boycott the talks as the government had failed to release their members - arrested on charges of abduction, killing and attacks - from prison.
“The government will tighten security in the Terai to control the violence,” said Ram Kumar Chaudhary, minister of state for home affairs. He said the incidents would not derail the election.
There are also concerns, confirmed by UNMIN and OHCHR, about continued Maoist intimidation of other parties’ candidates and voters.
Photo: Rudra Khadka/IRIN
|Former Maoist rebels have been accused of using violence against other political parties' candidates|
“All political parties should respect the electoral code of conduct, and in particular the right of other parties to campaign freely in any district, any village,” UNMIN head Martin said.
The Election Commission (EC) has expressed concern that frequent political clashes between Maoists and other parties have spread fear among ordinary civilians.
“Representatives of major political parties were summoned and given directives to avoid any means of violence and promote tolerance during the election campaign,” said EC spokesperson Laxman Bhattarai.
EC officials said they were especially concerned about the activities of Maoists whose former rebel soldiers had left their UN-supervised cantonments to engage in political campaigning.
Martin said his office had met Maoist leaders and explained that such activity was in breach of the Agreement on Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies (AMMAA). The Maoist leader Prachanda said he had assured the EC and UN that no further incidents would occur.
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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions