Central & South Asia
Nepal rebels go mainstream
Maoists say they are going to treat themselves to a political makeover.
Last Modified: 14 Nov 2006 18:24 GMT
Maoist leader Prachanda and his group have signed a historic deal with the government
Nepal's Maoist rebels have announced that they are to undergo a comprehensive political makeover as part of their promise to abandon their 10 years of armed struggle.

About 12,500 people have died in the conflict in Nepal, but last week the Maoists and the government reached a deal aiming to bring the rebels into the political mainstream.

"Our whole party organisation will focus on peaceful political process rather than war," a rebel negotiator, Dina Nath Sharma, said on Tuesday.

Both sides have observed a ceasefire for six months, and have agreed to hold elections to a body that will rewrite Nepal's constitution before next June.

"Our party felt the necessity to change the party's war-time organisational structure," Sharma said, adding that the four-member rebel committee will submit a report on the necessary changes "within a couple of days."

During their "people's war", the rebels gained control of large swaths of Nepal's countryside and have been operating parallel  government structures, including "people's courts" as well as health and education programmes.

Formal agreement

"Our party has already decided to dissolve the people's governments, local-level administration and our separate autonomous regions, among others, and restructure the party organisation as per the interest of the people," Sharma said.

"Our whole party organisation will focus on peaceful political process rather than war"

Dina Nath Sharma, Nepal Maoists
The rebels and government are set formally to sign the peace deal later this week.

"Both the government and the Maoists are positive on signing the agreement on Thursday," Pradeep Gyawali, a government negotiator and the minister for tourism and culture, told AFP.

The rebels also said that they would be ready to sign the accord.

"We [the government and the Maoists] are very much committed towards completing the draft of the peace accord on time and sign it by Thursday," Sharma said.

Under-age accusations

"There has been no disagreement on any point to be included in the peace accord," he said.

The Maoist announcement came as the United Nations Children's Fund, Unicef, called on the rebels to return under-age fighters and participants in their insurgency to their homes.

"We are extremely concerned that children below 18, who have been associated with armed forces and armed groups in Nepal, have not yet been returned or reintegrated with their families and  communities," Suomi Sakai, Unicef's Nepal representative, said in a statement.

Local and international rights groups have accused the Maoists of kidnapping and conscripting children to their cause, a claim that the rebels reject.

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