09/02/2011, 00.00
NEPAL
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Nepal’s Maoist guerrillas to hand over weapons

More than 16,000 fighters must be reintegrated into society. Weapons are to be handed over to a multi-party committee for destruction. Election of Maoist Prime Minister Bhattarai was key to the decision.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews/ Agencies) – Nepal’s former Maoist guerrillas have accepted to disarm and hand over their caches of weapons to a multi-party committee tasked with overseeing the peace process. Announced today, the move was made possible by the election of Maoist Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai on Monday, thus marking a milestone in the process of stabilising the country.

"We had promised to hand over the keys after the formation of a coalition government headed by us. We have done that," senior Maoist leader Barsa Man Pun said. However, not all Maoist leaders like the idea; some hardliners are still against disarming.

Nepal’s 11-year-old civil war pitted the country’s armed forces against Maoist guerrillas who sought to overthrow the monarchy and set up a People’s Republic.

The war ended on 21 November 2006, when the military and the Maoists signed a comprehensive peace deal under the auspices of the United Nations and the international community.

About 12,800 people died during the conflict, whilst another 100,000 became refugees. For years, Maoists had refused to hand over their weapons, demanding instead that their fighters be incorporated into the armed forces.

In fact, more than 16,000 guerrilla fighters still live in training camps. Their arsenal includes 3,000 heavy and light weapons, plus ammunition. They are held in containers in seven separate camps across the country.

For conflict analyst Bishnu Raj Upreti, the move was a small positive step to regain the trust ordinary Nepalis had lost in recent years, fed up by diatribes between the former rebels and other political parties.

Yet, until weapons are not completely destroyed and guerrillas are not fully integrated into society, the peace process cannot be said to be complete, Upreti added.
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