UN Nepal mission rejects criticism over Maoist verification


Kathmandu : The United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) defended itself late Tuesday against criticism from Nepalese political parties over its role in the verification process of Maoist combatants.

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The verification process is supposed to aid the integration of genuine Maoist rebels into the Nepalese army as part of a peace deal.

UNMIN was dragged into controversy following the release of a video tape earlier this month in which the Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” told his commanders how the number of Maoist combatants had been inflated from between 7,000 and 8,000 before the truce to over 35,000 at the time the verification process began.

The verification was to have separated real Maoist fighters from those recruited after a ceasefire in May 2006 and minors in the fighting force.

On Tuesday, the Nepali Congress party summoned UNMIN chief Karin Landgren and expressed its dissatisfaction over the registration and verification process.

“The UNMIN has failed in its verification as it has not been able to weed out the real combatants from those recruited after the truce,” Ram Sharan Mahat of Nepali Congress said. “Under the circumstances a recount of Maoist combatants is necessary.”

However, UNMIN in a press statement issued late Tuesday night said the verification was carried out according to the agreement between the Nepal government and the Maoists.

The Agreement on Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies (AMMAA) signed by the Nepalese government of Nepal and the Maoists sets out criteria for the definition of “Maoist army combatants”, the UNMIN statement said.

There are only two conditions of eligibility – joining up before May 25, 2006 and having been born before May 25, 1988.

“The government and CPN-Maoist decided that possession of a weapon was not a criterion for eligibility. Presentation of a Maoist army identity card was required to demonstrate service,” the statement said.

“UN teams verified the eligibility of the registrants through detailed individual interviews conducted in confidence. The teams referred cases raising any doubts for higher-level review,” the statement said.

According to the UN mission, 2,973 combatants were minors born after May 25, 1988 and another 1,035 were disqualified. Another 8,640 registered individuals did not present themselves for the verification process and were thus disqualified.

After two rounds of verification, 19,602 Maoists passed which made them eligible for integration into the country’s armed forces.

However, with the release of the tape, the integration of former Maoist combatants has been affected.

Earlier this month, Prachanda, the Maoist chief, resigned as prime minister, bringing down his eight-month-old government over a power struggle with the president.

The resignation came after President Ram Baran Yadav rejected the government’s decision to sack the army chief Rukmangad Katuwal and reinstated him.

The government charged Katuwal with insubordination, accusing him of not following orders.

However, political analysts say the real reason could be Katuwal’s opposition to the integration of Maoist fighters into the army, saying politically indoctrinated Maoist cadres would be bad for the professional army.