UN mired in exit row in Nepal

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS
Saturday, January 8, 2011

KATHMANDU - With just a week left for its exit from Nepal’s flailing peace process, the UN has become mired in an ugly row with the government, army as well as the opposition Maoist party which has accused it of raising the spectre of President’s Rule, an army-backed coup and a Maoist war on the basis of unfounded “market gossip”.

At the heart of the controversy is Karin Landgren, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moons representative to Nepal whose term, along with her organisation the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), ends Jan 15. UNMIN was deployed in Nepal from 2007 and received seven extensions.

The row erupted after Landgren, during her last briefing to the UN Security Council in New York Wednesday, struck an ominous note, saying the risks were growing in Nepal.

“There have at times been fears among many Nepalis over the prospect of a ‘people’s revolt’ which remains an explicit Maoist threat,” the UNMIN chief said in her controversial briefing.

“Of the president stepping in, or of an army-backed coup. Any such measures would sorely threaten peace and Nepal’s fragile democracy.”

Though the press statement circulated by UNMIN in Nepal carefully omitted the controversial part, it still triggered immense furore.

Nepal’s President Ram Baran Yadav held meetings with the chairman of parliament, Subash Nembang, and Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda to assure them that there was no substance in the hearsay that he would take over power and impose a state of emergency.

The Maoists, the only party calling for UNMIN’s tenure to be extended yet again till May when the new constitution is scheduled to be promulgated, also distanced themselves from Landgrens report, playing down their frequent threats to start a new “peoples revolt”.

After the meeting with the president, Prachanda said he was convinced of the sincerity of the presidents denial.

The former revolutionary also said his party had warned of a revolt only if the peace process broke down.

Nepal’s New York-based Permanent Mission to the UN issued a stiff denial, calling the UN officials report based on “malicious rumours and pure conjecture”, Nepals official media said Saturday.

“The indication of a possible failure of the peace process, Presidents rule and (an) army-backed coup were not only unthinkable but wild comments representing not an iota of possibility,” the statement said. “All these institutions are committed to the interim constitution of Nepal.”

In an unusually tough measure, Nepal’s ambassador and permanent representative to the UN, Gyan Chandra Acharya, made a statement before the Security Council soon after Landgrens briefing, rejecting her analysis of the situation in Nepal.

The envoy also sent a strong note to the members of the Security Council, rubbishing Landgrens contentions.

In Nepal, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal scoffed at Landgrens fear of a legal void after UNMIN exited, saying its monitoring of the Maoist guerrilla army and theirs arms would be taken over by a special committee that has already been formed for that purpose.

The exit row, that puts paid to Landgren’s assertion that UNMINs work should be a “source of pride to the UN”, comes even as Nepal’s caretaker government remains locked in a duel with UNMIN over the arms laid down by the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 2006 after the rebels ended a decade’s armed insurrection.

UNMIN has been monitoring the arms, kept in storage containers in the PLAs camps, and the government last week wrote to Landgren, asking her to hand them over.

The demand predictably sent the Maoists bristling, who claimed it was a ploy to disarm them and break the peace process.

Landgren has turned down the government’s request, saying UN norms dictate that the handover can be made only after both the ruling parties and the Maoists agree to it.

Filed under: Politics

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