Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The King of Nepal

Nepal has always been known as the Worlds only Hindu Kingdom and it was believed that the King was in a direct line from the Gods. Previously this was something the Nepalese were very proud of but today the attitude towards the royal family is different. Everything changed the night of the 1st June, the date of the royal massacre. A drunk and upset crown prince (his parents wouldn’t allow the marriage between him and the woman he loved) shot and killed 9 members of the royal family including King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya before shooting himself dying 2 days later.

Though this is the official version there are plenty of conspiracy theories involving both CIA and India. Most theories do point toward the current King Gyanendra (brother of the old King) since he gained the most from the tragic night. Most Nepalese believe that the direct line to the Gods have been broken and when the King in February 2005 through a military coup took power from the parliament to stop the Maoists and the 10 year long conflict, he lost most sympathy with the population.

In April 2006 the political parties alongside with the Maoist went to the streets and after several days of mass demonstrations in all of Nepal – and 16 dead – the King was forced to give up power and make space for the democratic process that Nepal currently is in.

Once of the first things done by the reinstated parliament was to strip the King of all power thereby reducing him to a ceremonial figure. In the upcoming election the population will then be asked to decide the fate of the monarchy and already now the Maoists and other political parties are asking to have him removed completely claiming that he and his supporters are behind the unrest in the country today in an attempt to stop the democratic process.

It will be interesting to see what will happen to the King but one thing is for sure; the King has lost his status in Nepal. These pictures shows; a roundabout in the West where the statue of an old King has been destroyed and replaced by posters of Prachanda – the Maoist leader. The other is from the centre of Nepalgunj where a statue of King Tribhuvan has been renamed Madhesis Chowk decorated with Madhesi flags.

Friday, February 09, 2007

News from Nepal - the political situation

News from Nepal – the political situation

As you probably know a peace agreement was signed by the Maoists and the government in November 2006. Since a lot of work has been put into writing an interim constitution and appoint an interim parliament including both Maoist, politicians and representatives from the civil society. This has happened and this parliament will function until second week of June where elections for a constituent assembly, who will be in charge of writing the final constitution, will take place. After this another and final election will take place.

It all sounds very simple but there are many things that has to fall into place before the elections in four months. First of all the peace process needs to be finalized. The Maoists have agreed to place their soldiers in 7 camps different places in the country and at the same time have their arms locked up (keeping the key themselves) under the supervision of the UN.

Besides from this government officials are also busy giving citizenship to the 6 mill Nepalese who have never been recognized as citizens of Nepal (yes, 6 mill of the 24 mill Nepalese). The rules have now been changed so you now can get citizenship based on your mothers documents and not as before only on your fathers documents.

But the process of creating peace and a democracy is never easy and there is a long way to go. The Eastern Terai has just been through 2 weeks of street fighting and curfew. The result is 27 killed, many injured and lots of burned down shops, cars and busses. The demand from the Madhesi-people was simple: more seats in the parliament. And thanks to the riots the Premier Minister G.P. Koirala late last night promised the people in the Terai 49 % of all seats in the parliament. And since 49 % of the population lives in the Terai is makes sense. This means that 10 days of general strike/banda have just been cancelled and the roads have been opened again. Unfortunately, it is quite sad that it has to go to these extremes to ensure a representative democracy.

Almost certainly there will be other groups trying to make demands for a place in the parliament – and most of the demands will be legit – but never as big a group a the Madhesi, so even though “Banda-season” probably has not ended the effect on the country will be less. Besides from that several groups have no interest in a democratic Nepal and most likely there will be further attempt to stop the process the closer we get to the election.

I will try to keep you posted.