Home International Alarmed UN sends envoy to free Nepal’s child soldiers

Alarmed UN sends envoy to free Nepal’s child soldiers


Kathmandu: With Nepal’s new coalition government failing to meet its November deadline to free almost 3,000 child soldiers languishing in Maoist barracks since the signing of a peace agreement three years ago, an alarmed UN Saturday said it was sending a special envoy to give a push to the stalled process.

Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s special representative for children and armed conflict, will arrive in Kathmandu Monday on a four-day visit to try ensure progress in the discharge of nearly 3,000 combatants of the Maoist People’s Liberation Army (PLA) who were found to have been recruited as minors during a verification of the guerrilla army by a UN agency in 2007.

Though Nepal’s then multi-party government as well as the Maoists agreed that the children would be released from PLA cantonments immediately after the verification, two years later, the child soldiers are yet to be allowed to leave, despite repeated calls for their release by the UN Security Council.

Exactly a year ago, Cooamaraswamy had visited Nepal in a bid to push the process. But her visit generated little result despite both the ruling parties and the former guerrillas assuring her that the discharge would start soon.

The UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), which is mandated to supervise the Maoist barracks, said in a press statement Saturday that during her visit, Coomaraswamy hopes to witness the signing of a time-bound action plan for the release of child soldiers in accordance with minimum international standards.

In a veiled warning to the Maoists, who are being accused of deliberately violating the peace accord that ended the 10-year civil war in Nepal, the UN statement said the former guerrillas have been listed as a party to conflict, recruiting and using children in several UN reports.

“The signing of the action plan will constitute the first step towards the Maoists being de-listed from the report,” the statement said.

The warning comes even as Nepal’s Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal Saturday accused the Maoists of betraying the peace pact and insulting the new constitution that is to be promulgated in May 2010.

Though the new constitution – that was the main demand of the Maoists during the insurgency that killed over 13,000 people – would restructure Nepal into a federal republic with autonomous states, the former rebels have begun jumping the gun.

Since Friday, as part of their new protests against the government, they have started announcing autonomous states according to their criteria.

On Saturday, they declared the formation of a Seti-Mahakali and Tharuwan states in the west, triggering opposition by the local communities and the ruling parties.

Nepal said the Maoist decision to restructure the country unilaterally dismissed the raison d’etre of the upcoming constitution.

The government has decided to start an international campaign against the Maoists to apprise world bodies like the UN and foreign governments that the Maoists have broken away from the peace pact.

The former rebels, on the other hand, accuse the government of trying to dissolve the constituent assembly that was elected to draft the new constitution, and impose a constitution of its own making.