Four years after the peace agreement which ended the civil war, Nepal is moving towards the end of the political process to build the foundations for a stable peace in Nepal. But, reaching a concrete agreement for a new constitution before the 28 May deadline is proving difficult. The Maoists are particularly unhappy with the situation, and at this crucial time for the future of the country, tensions are high.
Around the beginning of April, the situation began to get worse. At meetings and gatherings of the UCPN-M – the main Maoist party – there was talk of a ‘final war’ against the government, the fourth stage in the ‘revolution’, and of overthrowing the government. There were reports of children being forced to attend weapons and explosives training, schools were being shut down, and people were being forced to donate to the UCPN-M. In one case, teachers were being asked to donate a whole months wage’s. Things got more tense as May Day approached, the UCPN-M had called for an indefinite general strike, beginning on 1 May, demanding the resignation of the government.
Peace Direct funds the Youth Alliance for Peace and Environment (YAPE), a grassroots organisation that is building peace on the ground in the districts around Kathmandu. In partnership with its allies, YAPE began work to avoid major escalation and potential violence. YAPE chairs the Human Rights Defender Network for Peace and Conflict Management (Network) – a network of organisations from across Nepal committed to the success of the peace process. Through Network, YAPE is able to translate its grassroots knowledge into national action.
As 1 May approached, YAPE and Network began putting pressure on the UCPN-M to return to the peace process. YAPE’s unique links to people at local, national and international levels provided it with tremendous opportunities for influence. YAPE’s representatives met with officials from both the UN mission in Nepal (UNMIN) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (ONHCR). They made appearances on radio stations calling for peace. And they resolved local conflicts whilst the strike was in effect, to ensure the situation stayed as calm and peaceful as possible. In one case the local Maoist party, in defiance of central party orders, had blockaded milk delivery trucks on their way to sell in town. The situation could easily have resulted in violence, but YAPE was able to step in, and, using their contacts on both sides, negotiate a peaceful resolution.
YAPE was central to the meetings between Network and other prominent members of Nepalese society (lawyers, doctors, etc) in the district of Kavre. The culmination of the efforts of YAPE, and other groups right across Nepal, was a huge peace rally in Kathmandu organised by the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI). Tens of thousands of people came from all over the country to demonstrate their commitment to the peace process.
With the combined pressure at local, national and international level, and the massive show of peace in Kathmandu, the UCPN-M ultimately called off their general strike, and agreed to return to the negotiations. YAPE’s unique position as both a credible, respected grassroots organisation, with links to people at national and international level, put it in a unique position to act on all levels in the building of a movement for peace. Whilst at a local level, YAPE’s interventions meant that nobody was injured in the Kavre district during the strike.
The coming weeks are critical for Nepal’s future. Ten years of civil war has left thousands dead, and many more forced to leave their homes. The work of YAPE and its allies is now more important than ever before; to ensure that the Nepalese people’s commitment to peace is not overshadowed as political parties vie for power.