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A New Start For Nepal

On January 15th, eighty-three Nepali Maoists M-Ps took the oath of office in Nepal's three-hundred-thirty member legislature. This is the first meeting of the legislature with the participation of former Maoist insurgents, pursuant to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which was signed by the Maoists and the government of Nepal in November 2006.

Earlier in the day, the interim legislature unanimously endorsed an interim constitution, replacing the one adopted in 1990. This paves the way for Maoist participation in the government.

Nepal's Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala said a political consensus has been reached which "has opened the door for unity and reconciliation in the country. In a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Nepal, the U.S. congratulated the people of Nepal on their interim constitution, and expressed the hope that it would lay the groundwork for free and fair elections to a constituent assembly.

The interim legislature and constitution are part of the peace agreement signed by the Maoists and Nepal’s government, which commits the Maoists and the government to confine arms and armed personnel under United Nations supervision. The Maoists are likely to participate in a new, interim government expected to be formed after the arms management process is complete. The new government's main task will be to organize elections for a special assembly to draft a permanent constitution

For millions of Nepali citizens, the key question is: will the Maoists truly renounce violence? More than thirteen-thousand people have been killed since the Maoist insurgency began in 1996. The cost of the insurgency’s damage to the country’s infrastructure alone is estimated to be more than two-hundred-forty million dollars.

Human rights activists and non-governmental organizations say that despite the claims of Maoist leaders, Maoist cadres continue to commit serious human rights abuses, including extortion, intimidation of political opponents, and forcing children to serve as combatants. Kunda Dixit, editor of the Nepali Times newspaper, says, “it will be a difficult change” for the Maoists “to get used to the politics of compromise.” Their participation in the legislature, he says, “is very hopeful for the country.”

The United States supports completion of a credible and transparent process of arms management, supervised by United Nations monitors, before an interim government of Nepal is formed. The U.S. urges the Maoists “to use the opportunity of joining the interim legislature to finally abandon the tactics of violence, intimidation, and extortion inflicted on the Nepali people for eleven years.”

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.