Nepal: back from brink?

The final capitulation of King Gyanendra to a militant pro-democracy movement that has made common cause with the Maoist guerillas is closely followed by The Rising Nepal website. The king, who had seized dictatorial absolute power last February, reached an agreement with the opposition Seven-Party Alliance (SPA) and on April 27 appointed Nepali Congress Party president Girija Prasad Koirala as prime minister. The following day, Parliament met for the first time since it was suspended in last year’s royal coup. SPA leaders called on the citizenry to continue to act as the vanguard of the hard-earned democratic restoration at a mammoth mass meeting at Kathmandu’s amphitheatre, and urged participation in an upcoming constituent assembly. The guerillas of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) have announced a three-month unilateral cease-fire. CPN(M) Chairman Prachanda said his army will halt all offensive military operations and work towards serving the people in its zones of control.

In a Kathmandu ceremony April 28, children lighted 17 candles of different colors to pay tribute to 17 martyrs killed by the security forces in pro-democracy protests in recent weeks.

But the country clearly remains starkly divided. The Royal Nepalese Army has initiated an investigation into a massacre April 26 at Belbari in east Nepal that left at least six civilians dead when troops fired on villagers protesting the alleged rape and killing of a local woman by a group of soldiers a day earlier.

So will the ceasefire last? Will the SPA break its alliance with the guerillas, close ranks with the king and army against them, or split? Have the guerillas softened their heretofore hardcore Maoism through their year-long alliance with the electoral parties? Will the king accept abolition of the monarchy, as intransigent elements will doubtless demand at the constituent assembly? Stay tuned.

See our last post on Nepal.