Rehabilitation and Reintegration of the Maoist Ex-Combatants in Nepal: Issues, Challenges and Potential Lessons

By Subedi, D. B. | Contributions to Nepalese Studies, July 2011 | Go to article overview

Rehabilitation and Reintegration of the Maoist Ex-Combatants in Nepal: Issues, Challenges and Potential Lessons


Subedi, D. B., Contributions to Nepalese Studies


Introduction

When an armed conflict ends, either by a peace negotiation or a military victory, the succeeding phase, characterized as post-conflict peacebuilding, often strives to deal with ex-combatants who are perceived as a threat to peace, stability and post-conflict development. Post-conflict peacebuilding generally encompasses a three-dimensional process, addressing security, creating and / or transforming institutions and structures needed for political settlement as well as transformation, and promoting socio-economic recovery and growth (Hanggi 2005:12). However, in the post Cold War era, much of the anxiety of the international actors engaged in post-conflict peacebuilding largely concentrates on the security threats arising from the non-state military structures and the ex-combatants who fundamentally challenge the state in military terms from within the boundaries of the nascent states. Thus, in response to addressing post-conflict security challenges posed by ex-combatants and their insurgent organization, disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration (DDRR (1)) has emerged as a technology of post-conflict social engineering within the framework of peacebuilding.

Traditionally post-conflict security and stability remain central to the core objectives of DDRR programme, however recognizing the inextricable links as well as mutual reinforcement between security and post-conflict economic recovery and development, a revisionist approach to DDRR has attempted to broaden its focus and scope, adding development dimension to reintegration and rehabilitation (R&R) phases (Coletta et al, 1996; SIDDR, 2006; Muggah 2006, 2009). Consequently, DDRR initiatives have shifted away from security focused 'minimalist approach' to the 'maximalist' understanding of reintegration in which interventions to maintain security and stability are sought to accomplish in tandem with wider post-conflict socio-economic development initiatives (Coletta et al, 1996; Knight and Ozerdem, 2004; Muggah 2006).

A key outcome of the maximalist shift has offered more spaces for non-state actors and civil society organizations, including bi-lateral donor governments, non-government organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations and the private sector to engage in DDRR programmes (Porto et al, 2007). The broadening of the scope and focus, nonetheless, makes DDRR a complicated process of post-conflict social engineering, with several inherent dilemmas and challenges. Some of these challenges include selecting appropriate beneficiaries (UNDP, 2005; Annan and Patel, 2009), balancing intervention and support between economic and social aspects of reintegration and rehabilitation (R&R), and the way the nexus between economic and social reintegration is expected to achieve the core objective of DDRR: to transform the identity of ex-combatants from militants to civilian.

In a DDRR processes emerged from a peace deal between the national government and insurgent organization in question, the challenges are further augmented by marginalization of the core objective of DDRR programme by transitional politics as well as politics of DDRR. In a DDRR generated by political negotiation, the significance and objective of DDRR may be political and, often times, it may appear to be a decisive agenda in the post-conflict power sharing. If DDRR is articulated in peace negotiation document, the process is also seen as a part of the initiative that attempts to transform an insurgent organization into a credible political force, as is the case in Nepal. Thus, trapped between the dilemmas of dual transformation, that of insurgents and their organization, identity transformation of ex-combatants can be a highly political issue. Unlocking the difficulty of political sensitivity in ways that might support successful R&R requires a true political commitment by all the actors involved.

Identity transformation of ex-combatants has strong economic and social dimensions and it is indeed a long term complicated process that might require collective efforts of ex-combatants, their families and communities together. …

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