05/04/2009, 00.00
NEPAL

Maoist Premier fires general. The President defends him

by Kalpit Parajuli
The government coalition is divided. Demonstrations in Kathmandu. The episode is linked to Maoist rebel integration in the regular army. The Nepalese Army chief is against the move.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – A direct conflict has arisen between the President of Nepal, Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal. The head of state has annulled the Premier’s decision to impose the resignation of the Nepalese Army Chief General Rukmangat Katwal (see photo).

 

The prime minister dismissed the general because of his opposition to the integration of former Maoist rebels among the ranks of the regular army.  In answer to the unilateral decision by Prachanda, president Yadav ordered the general to remain in his post: “As head of state and supreme commander of the Nepal Army, I order you to continue your duty” said the head of state.

 

In support of the Maoist government groups took to the streets of the capital to defend the choice of firing the general.  Political groups in the nation came out in harsh response to the move:  even the Nepal Communist Party - United Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML) and Madhesi Rights Forum (MRF), the main governing coalition partners are opposed to premier Prachanda’s decision. The secretary of CNP-UML announced that his party “has decided to abandon the coalition and remove all support for the Maoists”.

 

The current institutional crisis is the latest in a series of polemics between the former Maoist rebels and the rest of the nation.  The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) led a ten year war (1996 - 2006) against the regular army: the civil war ended with the collapse of the monarchy and the first democratic elections in Nepal.  Today however the rebels are an awkward problem for society and the Maoist led government seems incapable of finding a solution.

 

UN estimates say 19 thousand former rebels are still active within the PLA.  Their re-insertion into society is slow; the project of their integration into the ranks of the regular army is marred by the opposition and members of the coalition government who are against the move.  Making the situation even more difficult is a new recruitment campaign begun in March by the PLA to bring their numbers to 25 thousand. The rebels have justified their move saying it is provoked by the announced (then withdrawn) recruitment drive for 2800 new soldiers by the army in Kathmandu.

 

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