BY DILLI BINADI** | 07.09.2011
From 1996-2006, Nepal experienced a decade of armed conflict between the government and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (hereafter the Maoists). During the conflict, children were deployed in various military activities, including as combatants, by the conflicting parties. Along with others, children were deeply affected by the conflict and their rights were comprehensively violated. Even after the peace deal, the effective release, return and reintegration of former child soldiers, often referred to as ‘children associated with armed forces and armed groups’ or CAAFAG, did not happen according to the provision outlined in the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreementi and the Agreement on Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armiesii.
Since 2000, many child rights’ organizations, including the United Nations, international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), have been working on the issue of child soldiers in Nepal. This chapter examines the reintegration of children associated with armed forces and armed groups in Nepal, in particular from 2005 to 2009. It explores how children were used during Nepal’s ten-year insurgency, and then analyses the strengths and weaknesses of Nepal’s child soldier reintegration programme, arguing that reintegration in Nepal must tackle the root causes of enrolment and offer viable livelihood alternatives. The chapter argues that a community-based approach to reintegration must be adopted in order to reduce the stigmatisation children face when returning home.
- The Ten-Year Insurgency
From Constitutional Power to a People’s Revolution
The history of modern Nepal began in the mid-eighteenth century when the King of Gorkha, Prithivi Narayan Shah, unified tiny states to form the country of Nepal. In 1846, autocratic family rule imposed on the country by Jung Bahadur Rana shifted power from the King to the Prime Minister and made the position hereditary. The people’s revolution in 1950 brought an end to Rana family rule, and Nepal experienced a multi-party democracy. Despite a period of autocratic government imposed by King Mahendra in 1962, multi-party democracy was re-introduced in 1990 and lasted until 1996. During this period of transition, Nepal experienced unrest within the population and an increasing level of corruption by politicians (Karki and Seddon 2003:14).
The Demands of the Maoists
The Maoists, a hard-line communist party whose aim was to establish a classless society and to replace Nepal’s constitutional monarchy with a republic, put forward a forty-point demand to the government on 4 February 1996, giving the government an ultimatum of thirteen days to fulfil their demands (Riaz and Basu 2007:133). Their demands included reform in the social, economic and political spheres ‘with the proclaimed aim of establishing a new democratic socio-economic system and state’ (Karki and Seddon 2003:22). The most sensitive demands of the Maoists related to the abolition of royal privileges, the declaration of Nepal as a secular state and the drafting of a new constitution for the country through a constituent assembly. On 13 February 1996, after blaming the government for not adhering to its demands, the Maoists began armed conflict against the government, which lasted for ten years until the conflict formally ended on 21 November 2006, with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) by the government of Nepal and the Maoists (Riaz and Basu 2007:133).
Between 1996 and 2001, the Maoists carried out a series of attacks on government offices and infrastructure, including on financial institutions, in order to raise funds. They captured land from powerful landlords and distributed this to small peasants and landless people in the rural part of the country. They ran campaigns against gambling and against the production and consumption of alcohol to gain sympathy and increase support for the party. In 1998, early attempts to settle the conflict peacefully through peace talks had failed due to lack of consensus between the Maoists, other political parties and the King, over the agenda proposed by the Maoists. The failure of the talks further intensified the conflict, and insurgents instigated the worst violence and disruption that Nepal had experienced in its entire history (Muni 2003: 37). Within two to three years of the ‘People’s War’, the impact of the conflict was widespread throughout the country.
The End of the Monarchy?
On 1 February 2005, King Gyanendra assumed executive authority, citing the inability of the civilian government to resolve the conflict, and declared a state of emergency in Nepal. Many leaders of the major political parties were taken into custody and King Gyanendra imposed severe restrictions on civil liberties. Consequently, the conflict dynamics between the King, the political parties and the Maoists developed into a conflict of two parties: the political parties and the Maoists against the King. With support from the Maoists, an alliance of seven political parties led protests throughout Nepal against the monarchy and against the civil war. In April 2006, after nineteen days of intense protest, King Gyanendra was forced to relinquish direct rule. The alliance of the seven political parties assumed authority and voted unanimously to curtail the monarch’s political powers, effectively rendering him a ceremonial figure (Nepalnews 2006).
*Published in Journal of Conflict Transformation & Security (JCTS) Vol. 1 | No. 2
** Dilli Raj Binadi is a development worker with over ten years’ experience. He is currently a Program Manager with Enfants & Developpement (E&D), a French INGO based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Before joining E&D, he worked with Save the Children, the Nepal Red Cross Society and the District Development Committee of Kailali, Nepal. He holds an MA in Peace and Reconciliation Studies from Coventry University and a Masters Degree in Sociology from Tri-bhuvan University in Nepal. Dilli’s peacebuilding experience focuses particularly on the reintegration of Children Associated with Armed Forces and Armed Groups (CAAFAG) in Nepal. Dilli has considerable experience of conducting independent research including project evaluation.
© Copyright 2011 by CESRAN