Peace process on hold as Nepali Maoists protest | The Daily Star
11:00 PM, November 16, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:00 PM, November 16, 2009

News Analysis

Peace process on hold as Nepali Maoists protest


Sri Lanka's outgoing Chief of Defence Staff General Sarath Fonseka (C) pays tribute to fallen soldiers at the War Memorial in Colombo yesterday. Sri Lanka's president promoted his air force commander to be the country's top military officer to replace General Fonseka who quit following a rift with the government. Photo: AFP

He is famous for his fiery speeches, but Nepal's Maoist leader Prachanda projected a dramatically different image last week when he danced in the streets with one of the country's top actresses.
Pictures of the former warlord grinning awkwardly as he jigged with the star during a mass anti-government protest dominated newspaper front pages in Nepal, where the former rebels have been working hard to soften their image.
For a man who spent years hiding in Nepal's jungles and hills, directing a Maoist guerrilla war that left at least 16,000 people dead and brought the Himalayan nation to its knees, it was a dramatic transformation.
The Maoists fought a decade-long civil war with the state that only ended in 2006, and are still listed as a terrorist organisation by many governments, including that of the United States.
But they won landmark elections last year and formed a government that lasted for eight months, before losing power in May when the president overruled their attempt to sack the head of the army.
Since then, they have severely hampered the coalition government that replaced them after their administration fell six months ago by holding regular protests and preventing parliament from sitting.
The peace process that began when the war ended in 2006 has also ground to a halt, and last week the Maoists brought tens of thousands of supporters on to the streets of Kathmandu, blockading the main government building, in a show of strength following the failure of negotiations with the ruling parties.
"The numbers they were able to mobilise and the fact they were able to keep control and maintain the peace indicate the protest was a success," said Maoist expert SD Muni, a professor at the Institute of South Asian Studies in Singapore.

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