Nepal begins reintegration of Maoist fighters

Thousands of former fighters will be asked whether they want to join army or accept up to $11,500 to start new lives.

    Government monitors have reached seven camps spread across Nepal to begin asking 19,000 former fighters whether they will join the army or leave with cash to start new lives, five years after ending their armed operations to join a peace process.

    Balananda Sharma, the chief monitor, said on Friday that the long-stalled process will start on Saturday.

    Maoists wanted all their former fighters integrated into the army, which military leaders and other political parties resisted.

    Nepal's main political parties finally reached agreement on a deal this month.

    Since ending their bloody revolt in 2006, the former Maoist fighters have lived in huts in the camps surrounded by barbed wire.

    The UN supervised the fighters, whose weapons stayed locked in metal containers inside the camps.

    Some fighters married and have children living with them, though child soldiers left the camps last year.

    Decisions on who will enter the army and who will leave the camps are expected to be finished within 10 days.

    The agreement allows for 6,500 former fighters to be taken in the national army in non-combat roles. The rest will get a rehabilitation package with up to $11,500.

    After the UN peace mission left Nepal in January, the fighters were closely monitored by a special government committee.

    The agreement on the fighters' future now puts pressure on the coalition government to overcome political paralysis and finish a constitution that will determine how Nepal develops after years of civil war and upheaval.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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