Under UN auspices, Nepal has started freeing an estimated 3,000 child soldiers from camps holding former Maoist guerilla fighters. Demobilization of the child soldiers, and their transfer to rehabilitation programs, is a key part of Nepal’s peace process. The UN welcomed the move as a “significant milestone” for the Himalayan nation. Maoist guerillas ended a 10-year insurgency in November 2006, signing a peace deal that brought them into the government. They won the most votes in 2008 elections, but left the government earlier this year in a row over their leader’s attempt to fire the army chief. Some 24,000 former fighters have been confined to UN-monitored camps since the peace deal. Of these, the UN has identified about 3,000 as being under the age of 18. (BBC News, July 17)
Return to violence feared
When Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) stood for prime minister last August, his party declared it a “golden dawn” for Nepal after 10 years of war. The unpopular monarchy had just been abolished, and the revolutionary leader’s transformation from warlord to elected premier was hailed as a new beginning for the nation. But a coalition of rival parties took power following the fall of the Maoists in May over the issue of integrating their fighters into the army—a key tenet of the 2006 peace agreement. The UN warned this month of an “alarming” rise in kidnappings for ransom in Nepal, saying the volatile political situation and absence of authority across much of the country allow criminals to act with impunity. (AFP, July 20)
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