Statement by Kul Chandra Gautam
at Seminar on Nepali Model of Integration and Rehabilitation
organized by Nepal Institute of Policy Studies (NIPS)
Kathmandu, 11 January 2010
The title of this seminar: “A Nepali Model of Integration and Rehabilitation” is a very hopeful – perhaps I should say, a wishful – one. So far we are in search of a model, we have not found one yet.
But it seems that after 3 years of dillydallying, we might be on the verge of coming out with a Nepali model. The proposal that the Prime Minister put before the Special Committee a week ago seems to contain some specific ideas for a workable model for integration and rehabilitation.
We are all hopeful that there will soon be a breakthrough on this most sensitive issue, as it will be so critical for ensuring that the new Constitution is finalized and promulgated on time with a sense of mutual trust and confidence among all parties involved.
The fact that the discharge of disqualified combatants actually started last week, and the fact that we now have a High Level Political Mechanism to help tackle the most sensitive political issues, are very hopeful signs indeed.
This paper deals with only one aspect – “integration” of Maoist combatants in Nepal’s security services. It is, of course, only one part of a broader subject encompassing “monitoring, integration and rehabilitation” of the Maoist combatants, as well as “democratization” and “determination of the right size of the Nepali Army” as called for in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the Interim Constitution of Nepal.
Two other separate papers I will present later deal with the inter-related issues of “rehabilitation of ex-combatants” and “democratization of the Nepal Army”.
An early resolution of the most sensitive issue of “integration” is absolutely vital for bringing to closure Nepal’s peace process, and for lasting peace and tranquility in the country.
Yes, the serious and complex issues of “democratization” and right-sizing of the Nepal Army and other security services must be tackled, perhaps over a number of years, as part of a broader, longer-term and comprehensive security sector reform. But the management, rehabilitation and integration of the Maoist combatants must be pursued as the most urgent priority, because we cannot have 2 armies in one country if we are going to have a stable and democratic polity.
The proposal recently presented by the Prime Minister as Chair of the Special Committee for the Management, Integration and Rehabilitation of the Maoist Combatants outlines some specific steps to complete the peace process before the deadline for the completion of the new Constitution.
Although it sounds very ambitious, we would all agree that completing the already much delayed peace process is indeed essential to create a conducive environment for finalizing the Constitution, and holding of general elections under the new Constitution.
This morning I would like to propose some specific actions to complement the Prime Minister’s proposals on the issue of “professionalization and integration” of Maoist combatants. Many of the ideas I am going to present today have already been shared informally with members of the Special Committee, the Technical Committee and other stakeholders.
I am happy to report that, informally, all stakeholders have so far reacted very positively to the suggestions I will reiterate this morning, which I have also presented publicly before, including at a seminar right here at the Himalaya Hotel on 27 August 2009.
Let us recall that during the decade of conflict, the size of the Nepal Army grew from 46,000 to 96,000. And Nepal’s defense budget increased from less than NRs. 3 billion to over NRs. 15 billion this year. Today, during peace time, most political parties, including the UCPN-Maoist, agree that there is a need to reduce rather than increase the overall size of the Nepal Army, and reallocate some savings in our military security budget to human security priorities of our people.
In that context, it seems logical that priority should be given to “rehabilitation and management” of the Maoist combatants rather than to their large-scale “integration” which will further inflate the size of the Nepal Army.
On the other hand, given our commitment as part of the peace process, creative ways must be found for some degree of “integration” of the combatants in Nepal’s security forces, including the Nepal Army.
Thus we are faced with two seemingly contradictory requirements – from the point of view of Nepal’s genuine security needs, we probably need to reduce the size of our security forces, especially the Nepal Army. But from the point of view of the peace process, we need to “integrate” some Maoist combatants thereby increasing the size of our security forces.
So a question arises, can we find a win-win formula whereby we can integrate some Maoist combatants in a manner that would actually help strengthen the Nepal Army and other security forces, qualitatively, because we do not need to strengthen them quantitatively.
My answer is yes, we can and should undertake a limited degree of integration in a manner that would actually enhance the inclusiveness, democratization, professionalization and modernization of our security forces, which would be in Nepal’s national interest.
This is a challenge for the high level Special Committee and its Technical Committee that are now trying to come up with precisely such a set of pragmatic proposals for the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants that would reinforce our genuine need for a numerically slightly smaller, but qualitatively and professionally much stronger security apparatus that is also more inclusive of such historically under-represented groups as women, Madheshis, Dalits, and other marginalized communities.
Here are some key proposed actions in this perspective:
Because time is of the essence, our people’s patience is running thin, and we cannot afford to go on endless discussion about all kinds of alternatives, the guiding principle for us all should be to strictly follow the letter and spirit of the already agreed parameters for “integration” of the Maoist ex-combatants.
The Interim Constitution of Nepal provides for “verified Maoist combatants who chooseintegration to be deemed eligible for possible integration with the security bodies, after fulfilling the standard requirements”.
It is important to note the careful wording: the integration option is not for all combatants but only for the verified ones; and only for those who choose integration. Combatants do not have a right or entitlement to be integrated, but only to be considered for possible integration. And integration is not necessarily with the Nepal Army but with any or all security bodies including the NA. And those wishing integration must meet the standard norms of the various security forces.
The CPA provides for a Special Committee that is to carry out “monitoring, integration and rehabilitation”. Here again, it is important to note that integration is only one component, rehabilitation, management and monitoring are other key concepts.
To implement the “integration” component with these caveats in mind, I would suggest the following sequence of action:
First, in order not to create undue expectation that large numbers of combatants are going to be integrated into the NA, there is a need to explain to the combatants that the actual number of combatants who are likely to be integrated will be rather small. It would be ideal if the High Level Political Mechanism could quickly agree on an order of magnitude of the numbers likely to be integrated as guidance for the Special Committee, so that we no longer hear contradictory messages from leaders of various parties, and the expectations of the combatants become realistic and manageable.
Second, through political negotiations among the parties, there is a need to agree on some priority groups for integration into Nepal’s security services with a view to make Nepal’s security services more inclusive of the diversity of Nepal’s population. Women, Dalits, Madheshis and other groups historically under-represented in Nepal’s security would fall in this priority group.
It is important to explain to the combatants that in the process of integration, some groups that have been historically marginalized and under-represented in the NA are likely to be given preference over others, in the larger national interest of Nepal. UCPN-Maoist leadership itself must explain clearly to its cadres this understanding.
Third, explain to the combatants, what other options are available to them given limited opportunity for integration. Among the option, one would be voluntary departure to undertake political activity with the UCPN-Maoist Party. This would apply especially for mid- and senior level officers who continue to be active in party politics while still serving as commanders in the Maoist army. It must be emphasized that it is inadmissible to have such dual military and political functions in a democracy.
Many other combatants might wish to voluntarily leave the cantonments to join civilian life. A modest financial package should be offered to them as a “retirement” benefit.
Of the remaining combatants, a relatively small number would be eligible for integration with national security services, while the rest would be offered an opportunity for the rehabilitation component – from jobs as teachers, health workers, pre-school monitors, foresters, to various vocational training for self-employment and foreign employment.
The Technical Committee should be asked and empowered to explain this all and provide initial counseling to all combatants. After such counseling, the combatants should be asked to volunteer in which group they would want to be placed – to go on to political party work, to return to civilian life, to be integrated or to seek some job-oriented rehabilitation.
Only then would the actual vetting process for integration proceed in the following sequence:
a) First, under the guidance of the Special Committee, the Technical Committee would determine the eligibility for possible integration of interested combatants into various branches of security services – including the Nepal Army, Armed Police Force, Nepal Police, National Investigation Department, and possibly other security services to be established, such as industrial security, border security, etc.
b) Second, ascertain from such pre-screened combatants who would choose to join which security service, if given a choice. This must be an independent individual choice, not a choice made for the combatants by their commanders or some party officials.
c) Third, the Technical Committee with the help of a sub-committee, including representatives of the various security services, would determine who among the interested, pre-screened combatants actually meet the required standard norms for recruitment into the various branches of Nepal’s security services. If necessary, and as part of an exceptional affirmative action, some “bridging training” might be recommended for ex-combatants from certain priority groups, as agreed by the Special Committee in advance, who meet certain minimum standards, but not quite the standard norms of various security services.
d) Fourth, in determining eligibility, care should be taken to exclude Maoist combatants and officers known to have committed serious human rights violations. (The same human rights standards should apply, of course, to Nepal Army soldiers and officers, when it comes to their recruitment, promotion, and deputation on special assignments).
e) Fifth, among the Maoist combatants who are eligible and opt for recruitment into the Nepal Army or Police or Armed Police Force, I would recommend that we provide special opportunity for integration for up to 2000 women combatants. A major justification for this would be to help make Nepal’s security services more inclusive, gender-balanced and gender-sensitive institutions, which be in Nepal’s larger national interest, and in keeping with Nepal’s new egalitarian, democratic dispensation. A second justification would be to enable Nepal to respond to UN Security Council resolution 1325, under which the UN is encouraging all Member States to provide more women officers in its peace-keeping missions. Nepal could make a valuable and mutually beneficial contribution to world peace by having a dedicated contingent of women soldiers or police officers.
f) Sixth, among the male combatants who meet the standard norms and required qualifications, I would recommend integration of up to 2000 combatants primarily from among communities that are currently under-represented in the Nepal Army, APF or police force (e.g. Madheshis, Dalits, etc.). The main justification for this, again, is to make our security forces more inclusive.
g) Seventh, for a small number of Maoist officers, who have not joined the political process or taken up other civilian jobs, and who have basic officer-level qualifications, I would recommend arranging for a specialized officers’ training, partly in Nepal and partly at well recognized institutions abroad. Part of such training should be joint with other NA or police officers to ensure a sense of camaraderie and bonding as officers of a non-political professional security force.
So, my carefully considered advice and recommendation would be that we should go for integration of approximately 4000 ex-combatants in Nepal’s security forces. I said, approximately 4000 – implying that it could be plus or minus a few hundred more or less, subject to negotiations by the parties concerned.
But why 4000? Why not 2000 or 6000?
I trust you understood my logic – that it would be in Nepal’s national interest not to unduly further enlarge Nepal’s security services, but that since we do need to integrate some combatants, let us do so by integrating women, dalits, Madheshis and other under-represented groups in Nepal’s security services – because that actually would be in Nepal’s national interest.
Incidentally, I understand that around the time when the CPA was being negotiated Chairman Prachanda and Girija Prasad Koirala, and perhaps one or two other leaders, had actually, informally, talked about a number around 4000 (plus/minus some), that might be integrated. Well, if that was a “gentlemen’s understanding” then, perhaps these same gentlemen could reconfirm it when they meet as part of the High Level Political Mechanism soon.
Ultimately, it will be a politically negotiated agreement on how many combatants will actually be integrated. As an independent, patriotic Nepali, I would hope that the final agreement would be based on what is really in Nepal’s long-term national interest.
Whatever the number, it should be understood that all ex-combatants recommended for integration with the Nepal’s security services would first need to undergo a rigorous professional training before they are actually assigned to various units of the security services.
It should be frankly acknowledged that many Nepalis, and especially the non-Maoist political parties, are deeply worried about the risk of unhealthy politicization when combatants loyal to one political party who are ideologically indoctrinated and politically partisan, join a professional national army and other security services.
This must be honestly factored in the manner in which integration is handled and the type of professional training that is provided.
It is understood that the combatants who join the national security services would do so as individual Nepali citizens, and that the UCPN-Maoist, as a political party, would not retain any special links with these new recruits.
While acknowledging such legitimate concern, we must also recognize that all ex-Maoist combatants are patriotic citizens of Nepal and that most of them joined the Maoist armed groups not necessarily out of ideological conviction but often out of economic necessity or to escape social discrimination and exploitation.
Besides the ideological baggage they might have acquired, they are also likely to have some positive attributes such as holding generally progressive views with regard to many issues concerning social justice and equality in Nepal.
After a period of professional training, having steady employment and income, working in the structured and disciplined environment of professional national security services, it can be expected that, like all other security personnel, the ex-Maoist combatants too will become responsible professional security personnel and a genuine asset to the nation.
Incidentally, we are all aware that in the past there has been certain unhealthy political patronage and influence by some of the non-Maoist political parties as well in some of Nepal’s existing security services. We must take this occasion of the integration of ex-Maoist combatants as an opportunity to rid all our security services of the undue influence and interference of all political parties, not just the Maoist.
While individual soldiers, policemen and officers can enjoy their political freedom and civil rights as all citizens of Nepal, following the integration there should not be any political party affiliated units within Nepal’s security forces.
As free citizens of a democratic nation, we might be divided in our political preference for various parties and ideologies. But as professional security personnel, the loyalty of all our jawans in the army, in the police, in the APF should be to the nation’s security and human security.
They should all strictly abide by the lawful orders of their superiors, who in turn, are under the democratic control of the elected representatives of the people.
(Mr. Gautam is a former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations)