Nepal’s Maoists have vowed to never to guerilla warfare and said they are willing to back an independent prime minister, after holding their party’s general convention.
Party leaders said at the general convention in Hetauda on Saturday that they would step down from government to seek a popular mandate to lead a “socialist revolution”, six years after a decade-long armed rebellion which toppled the world’s last Hindu monarchy.
“Let’s agree on an independent person who will lead the government. And we will endorse this concept of a government led by an independent person to hold the election through this convention,” said Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the party’s chairman.
Around 3,000 delegates and 100,000 supporters at the party’s first general convention in 21 years in the southern town of Hetauda were greeted by a rousing opening address from Dahal, still known by his nom-de-guerre Prachanda.
“We were forced to launch the insurgency after adopting Marxism as a guiding principle. But we don’t follow any ideology in its mechanical form. It’s a science and it can be adapted,” Prachanda said.
“We will institutionalise the gains we have made so far. We will not go back to the guerrilla warfare… In this age of globalisation, a country’s independence hinges on its economic strength. Times have changed and old ways have become redundant.”
He called for a “socialist revolution” to promote economic growth and create jobs at home so that young Nepalis were no longer forced to seek work abroad.
Party leaders said that it was a priority to develop policies that would allow for the re-integration of former fighters into society.
“We need a sustainable solution, not some temporary package,” said Uttam Basnet, 49, regional leader in eastern Nepal.
The small town of Hetauda has seen its population of 80,000 triple during the convention. A giant marquee was constructed at the edge of a playground to house hundreds of thousands of supporters for the inaugural session on Saturday, with buildings across the city displaying the red hammer and sickle flag of the Maoists.
Hundreds of police officers were patrolling streets festooned with banners welcoming the party but also displaying slogans demanding “a new communist party” and “down with factionalism”.
An estimated 16,000 people died in the 1996-2006 conflict fought by the Maoists against the monarchy, which was deposed when the rebels turned to mainstream politics and took power in elections.