After having waged a decade-long war to topple the royal family, the former Maoist rebels won last year's elections. But even though hopes were high among the population to get the country back onto track and to write a draft constitution for the Himalayan republic, almost a year later several issues are still threatening to derail the peace process or even plunge the country back into civil war.
Nepal’s PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal faces intense pressure to save peace process
One stumbling block is the fact that Nepal has not yet managed to merge its two armies. All efforts to combine the former Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army with the Nepalese army, which opposes any large-scale addition of Maoists to its ranks, have failed so far. However, Kunda Dixit, the editor of the popular weekly newspaper The Nepali Times, is pretty confident that there will be a solution soon.
“I think secretly the two sides have agreed to a compromise where a few thousand will be assimilated into the national army and the security forces,” says Dixit. “The thing is that the Maoists have been so successful in indoctrinating their cadre about the final reward of the revolution being that you are in the national army that they are having problems de-indoctrinating them and saying look, sorry, we cannot take all of you. I don’t think the PM’s real adversaries in this is the commander in chief of the national army, his real adversaries in this are his own commanders and cadres.”
Discontent among ethnic groups
The other stumbling block to the peace process is the current procedure of turning the Himalayan country into a federal republic. Recently, the Terai region in southern Nepal has seen increasing violence, as some of the ethnic groups there feel treated unjustly.
Jal Krishna Shrestha, a government spokesman, thinks that the current problem lies in the fact that the different ethnic groups no longer have a sense of national unity, which has to be reinstated.
“Every ethnic group is trying to get more power within this new constitution,” says Shrestha. “All ethnic leaders are worried about their identity within the country. We should have a national conscience within the parties and the ethnic groups. There is no alternative.”
Debate over federalism
There are 101 different ethnic groups in the country, and the fact that Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and his crew have not been able to keep them, and the violent, Maoist-related Young Communist League under control does, according to Dixit, not bode well for the short-term future of Nepal.
“There is a possibility of warlordism and various factions of the Maoists carrying on their own separate little wars and this is part of the whole constitution making process,” explains Dixit.
“And one of the elements of the new constitution is restructuring the state along federal lines and if these federal units are going to be defined by ethnicity then it will open a can of worms. We have to make sure that the debate over federalism is confined to the chambers of the committee and not on the streets like it is happening right now.”
To make things worse, restructuring the country and writing the constitution are not the only challenges the new government is faced with. Most of Nepal has been crippled by power cuts that leave the country in the dark up to 16 hours per day - mainly because of severe water shortage and faulty hydro power stations that cannot be repaired.