Copyrighted material


by Marty Logan

on Nepal's revolt against monarchy

(IPS) KATHMANDU -- "There it is -- that's our human tsunami," Communist party leader Madhav Kumar Nepal said Friday, watching more than 100,000 people flow past his house in the capital's outskirts.

"People were teasing us, they were making fun of us, they were skeptical but there it is. And it's because the people of Nepal wanted the change," Nepal told United Nations Resident Representative Matthew Kahane, who visited him and other leaders of the moderate United Marxist-Leninist (UML) wing of the party.

Hours later, the gigantic wave that had been gathering strength over the past 16 days of a general strike, swept King Gyanendra from the seat of direct power back into the role of a constitutional monarch -- but late Friday the tsunami looked like it might roll on till it had swallowed Nepal's inherited monarchy.

Local television showed some protesters marching jubilantly clapping their hands above their heads as if to celebrate a victory after the king announced that he was returning executive power to the people. But others said the monarch's offer to the seven-party alliance (SPA) of parties to name a prime minister was not enough, suggesting they want their constitutional monarchy replaced by the Republic of Nepal.

SPA leaders agreed months ago that their ultimate goal in regaining power was to hold elections to a constituent assembly that would rewrite the constitution, thus decide the future of the monarchy. That was also a demand of the powerful Maoist rebels with who the SPA signed an understanding in November.

But not all leaders agree on the fate of the monarchy. For example, Nepali Congress President Girija Koirala said Sunday, "The Nepali Congress is for ceremonial monarchy. We will see that the rebels too agree to it," reported 'The Himalayan Times' daily newspaper.

However, on Thursday, a day after being released from three months of detention, Communist leader Nepal said that if the general public wished, "The palace and the army will have to be defeated," reported 'Kantipur Online.'

Analysts are already suggesting that the king's handover is a ploy to put the pressure back onto an wobbly opposition.

King Gyanendra seized power from his own handpicked prime minister Feb. 1, 2005, branding him and his predecessors corrupt and inept for failing to end the Maoist insurgency that has now killed as many as 14,000 people, mostly innocent villagers, in a decade.

The rebels launched their war to end monarchy and injustice against the "disadvantaged" -- women, indigenous people and Dalits (so-called "untouchables") in this small South Asian country wedged between China and India.

But almost half-way into his three-year road map to peace, the monarch showed no signs of solving the civil war. The campaign against his rule accelerated prior to local elections in February, which the SPA boycotted, and took off when professional organizations, housewives and finally civil servants strode onto the capital's streets to chant their disapproval.

Three people died when police opened fire on demonstrators Thursday afternoon, bringing to 14 the number killed by security forces during the SPA's strike. No injuries were reported Friday but the crowd destroyed a police post and ransacked a land revenue office after learning that a protester killed the day before had been cremated without his family's consent.

Kahane told IPS that the masses he saw while travelling around Kathmandu Friday afternoon "was relaxed, cheerful, self-confident, singing and dancing and joking with bystanders. The armed police clearly had instructions not to harass the crowd.they were sitting on the ground with their shields over their knees," he added.

His meeting agenda with the UML leader included possible assistance from the international community to a new Nepali government. That could include supervising a ceasefire, helping to restructure the state to strengthen checks and balances between the executive, army and judiciary and organizing an election, Kahane said in a telephone interview.

"If the UN is to help with an election it must be asked at least six months prior to the election because there is so much work to do," he added.

The international community should already be planning how to help a new administration make the right first steps, stresses a report released Wednesday by the International Crisis Group (ICG).

It recommends the immediate creation of a Contact Group of India, the United States and UK, working with the UN that could provide stability in a turbulent transition period.

"An urgent need to defuse the current political confrontation could lead to a hasty and unsustainable deal. Political leaders lack the necessary public confidence to conclude a backroom agreement with the king, while a simple return to a pre-royal coup arrangement of a palace-appointed prime minister would be inherently unstable," the report predicts.

It adds, "An abrupt and unplanned transition could well lead to considerable violence in the Kathmandu Valley and set off a free-for-all as all sides vied for power. The Contact Group should initiate discussions with the RNA and the Maoists, urging them to refrain from offensive actions should there be such a development."

The ICG also recommends that a military observer mission be set up to monitor and observe a ceasefire and that the Contact Group open a direct channel of communication with the Maoists.

"Even if the current movement succeeds in restoring democracy, that will only be the start of a long and tough road to peace," it warns. (

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Albion Monitor   April 20, 2006   (

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