- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 11, 2005

Alarmed in Nepal

Nepal is heading toward chaos unless the king restores civil liberties in a nation in political crisis and under siege from Maoist rebels intent on spreading their ideology throughout Southeast Asia, the U.S. ambassador warned in the capital, Katmandu, this week.

“Nepal today is at a crossroads,” Ambassador James F. Moriarty told the Nepal Council of World Affairs.

“Unless the principles of freedom, civil rights and democracy once again take root through a process of true reconciliation among the legitimate political forces, I fear that your country will inexorably slide toward confrontation, confusion and chaos.”

Mr. Moriarty called on King Gyanendra to release political prisoners and restore all civil liberties, including freedom of the press and political expression.

He called on Nepal’s political parties to keep an “open mind” and “accept a hand, if offered,” from the palace.

“That doesn’t mean accepting everything the government says at face value, but it does mean being willing to negotiate in good faith to find a solution to Nepal’s problems,” Mr. Moriarty said.

“The people want reconciliation. They want peace. The way to achieve peace is with a democratic government united against the Maoist assault on Nepal.”

In 1996, the Maoist United People’s Front “began a violent insurgency, waged through killing, torture, bombings, kidnappings, extortion and intimidation against civilians, police and public officials in more than 50 of the country’s 75 districts,” according to a State Department background report on Nepal.

To compound the civil war, Nepal’s democratic system collapsed in 2002 when the king dissolved parliament and declared a state of emergency. Nepal has been spiraling toward chaos since June 2001, when Crown Prince Dipendra killed his father, King Birendra, his mother, Queen Aishwarya, his uncle, Prince Dhirendra, a brother, a sister and several aunts before committing suicide. The king’s surviving brother, Gyanendra, was proclaimed king.

Mr. Moriarty said the United States understands the threat Nepal faces from the rebels, who try to present themselves as champions of the poor.

“We can never forget that we are dealing with ideologues who have all the violent hallmarks of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot and who continue to insist on the righteousness of their armed struggle,” the ambassador said.

“Theirs would not be a regime of benevolent socialism. It would be an authoritarian assault on free Nepalis. Every day, the Maoists assail democracy itself, through attacks on political party workers, local government offices, journalists, human rights workers and other innocent civilians who want nothing more than peace.”

Smith goes to Africa

The chairman of a House subcommittee on Africa will travel to Ethiopia and Sudan next week to discuss threats to peace, human rights and economic development.

“Ethiopia is an American ally, and its stability is in our national interest,” said Rep. Christopher H. Smith, chairman of the House International Relations subcommittee on Africa, global human rights and international operations.

The New Jersey Republican, who arrives in Ethiopia on Sunday, said he will hold talks with government leaders about its failure to honor an international commission that set its border with Eritrea, which was attacked by Ethiopia in 1998.

“The war with Eritrea was ended in part on the promise to resolve the border dispute, and failure to respect the decision of the boundary commission could lead to renewed fighting,” Mr. Smith said.

In Sudan, he will discuss the fragile condition of the country after the death of First Vice President John Garang, a former rebel leader. His death sparked widespread rioting.

“The people of Sudan must continue forward on the path toward peace and progress,” Mr. Smith said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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