Nepal: The Road to Peace

In April 2008 Nepal turned a corner. More than 60 percent of eligible voters turned out for elections to choose a new government tasked with abolishing the monarchy and forging a stable republic after a decade-long insurgency that claimed over 13,000 lives. Despite pre-election violence and intimidation, international observers agreed the elections were for the most part free and fair. The Maoists, once outlaws in the forest who are still on the U.S. government's terrorist list, in the end received a convincing popular mandate to lead the tiny Himalayan nation.

They have responded by toning down Leftist rhetoric, calling for greater foreign investment to revive one of the world's poorest economies. But Nepalis are not out of the woods yet. Daunting nation-building work lies ahead, none more critical than the integration of Maoist forces into a unified national army. Nearly 20,000 battle-hardened cadres are presently living in camps monitored by the United Nations, whose mission is set to expire in late July. Some within the military establishment fear they could become an army within an army if certain steps are not taken.

There are also concerns that the army is already too swollen after years of civil conflict, and must be reshaped – a massive project in and of itself. The former guerillas, for their part, say they are ready to live and fight alongside their one-time enemies so long as they are treated as equals. However, many are concerned that without a neutral mediator such as the U.N. to oversee integration, the process could unfold against their interests.

A violent relapse is not out of the question. It has happened before. Given the still-volatile climate in Nepal, ever prone to party infighting, the formation of a national army wholly committed to democracy will require patience, flexibility and an excess of good will on all sides. Jason Motlagh reports.

Nepal: Rebels with a Cause?

For many, Nepal conjures up notions of Mount Everest, Buddhist monks, and hippies seeking a Himalayan high. But this next story shows another side of Nepal -- a country recovering from a decade of civil war in which Maoist rebels recently brought down the long-standing monarchy. It faces the age-old problem: how to integrate former adversaries into a single army.

Produced and reported by Jason Motlagh

Edited by Robin Bell
Bell Visuals

Produced in association with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Ex-Rebels Integrated into Nepal's Democracy

(06-30) 04:00 PDT Chitwan, Nepal — Four years ago, a science student who goes by the nom de guerre Hardik dropped out of a Kathmandu university to join Maoist insurgents. Today, the 25-year-old rebel idles in a U.N.-monitored camp, studying English grammar or playing the flute between training drills.

Two Into One Won't Go

On a sun-baked plain four hours' drive south of Kathmandu, the capital, a platoon of Maoist fighters in jungle fatigues is on the move. A cry of "lal salaam!" ("red salute!") pierces the air as the drill instructor orders a halt, and the soldiers make thrusts with their mock-up wooden rifles. Even in the haze of dusk, it is clear there are still two armies in Nepal.

Nepal Confronts Delicate Task of Integrating Former Maoist Rebels into National Army

Four years ago, Hardik dropped out of his university-level science studies in the Nepali capital, Katmandu, to join Maoist insurgents in the bush. Admittedly scared sick at first, he said the rigors of guerilla warfare hardened his resolve to oust a ruling monarchy hopelessly out of touch with Nepal's poverty.

Today Hardik is one of more than 23,000 members of the People's Liberation Army idling in U.N.-monitored ceasefire camps, where weapons are locked away and his free time is spent doing English grammar exercises or playing the flute.

Meet Jason Motlagh

Jason Motlagh is a roving freelance multimedia journalist. He has reported from over 30 countries throughout West Africa, the Mideast, Central and South Asia for leading US and international media outlets.

Jason Motlagh at SIU Carbondale 2/16

Jason will share his experiences in reporting international conflicts. He will give lectures to students interested in international journalism/affairs with fresh information on global issues such as conflicts and the current social and political situations in countries he has covered.