Revisiting Ex- Combatants: Past Assumptions and Present Realities
With signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord in November 2006, a decade long Maoist Insurgency ended and the management of arms and armies was one of the most contentious issues of Nepal’s Peace Process. Around six years of contests and discussions among the concerned stakeholders, the process of supervision, integration, and rehabilitation of the ex-combatants was concluded finally with integration of 1,422 ex-combatants into Nepali Army and reintegration of 15,620 into society with the package of voluntary retirement in 2013. Nepal’s approach to reintegration is internationalized as a unique process since it largely implemented through a national mechanism for reintegration. No doubt, many other countries have failed to carry out DDR processes, wholly and successfully.
As part of my work and research, I had interacted with a large number of ex-combatants in 2013, during my work with the secretariat of Supervision, Integration and Rehabilitation of the Maoist Army Combatants and Nepal Peace Trust Fund. During the period, an interesting trend was observed. Significant numbers of the ex-combatants were re-settled in the communities at preferred locations, without returning to their community of origin. In that phase, most of the ex-combatants expressed their insecurities in livelihood opportunities, social and political integration in their new settlement. Also, bridging a trust gap with locals and forming economic way of livelihood were major concerns for them.
In the period of 2015 to 2017, I worked with a non-government organization, in the project “From Combatants to Peacemakers” as the training, monitoring and evaluation coordinator, and get chance to meet a large number of ex-combatants in their communities. In the period of last six years, some of the significant changes have taken place and which has direct or indirect impacts to the ex-combatants; particularly those re-settled into the communities. After the promulgation of the new constitution in 2015 and elections of three tiers: federal, provincial and local, was held in Nepal in the year of 2017 and the then Maoist Party led by Prachanda united with the CPN UML. Despite claiming the process as a unique and great success at national and international level, challenges associated with social and economic reintegration of ex-combatants also published in newspapers and sincerely looking it as the lesson learnt might be a policy relevance for reintegration in other post conflict countries. Since the existing reality of ex-combatants and impact of their free will, i.e. selection of voluntary retirement, is not dealt properly in academic works with references of the different time period; therefore, investigating existing realities of the ex-combatants might be interesting work for academic and other audiences. In this context, this study tries to revisit social reintegration of the ex-combatants; comparing with the initial trends of reintegration with current trend and realities. Also, the study examines the process taking into noticed that what went successful and failure in line with expectations of the actors involved in the decision-making processes.