From guerilla caps to blue helmetsFormer Maoist combatants now in the Army set to serve in UN peacekeeping missions
Between 1996 and 2006, they flaunted red headbands or guerilla caps with a red star. Seven years after the peace deal, some of them started wearing peaked caps after their integration into the Nepal Army. More than 80 of them now are all set to wear blue helmets. This is former Maoist fighters’ transition—from making war to keeping peace.
Around 85 former Maoist combatants—of the total 1,420 integrated into the Nepal Army three years ago—are all set to be deployed for United Nations peacekeeping missions from next fiscal beginning mid-July. They are currently working under the National Development and Security Directorate of the Nepal Army. According to Nepal Army Spokesperson Brigadier General Tara Bahadur Karki, they will be part of four battalions—around 22 in each—and will be deployed most probably in Congo, Sudan and Lebanon.
“They are now part of the Nepal Army with duties and responsibilities just like their other colleagues have,” Karki said. They will get three months of pre-deployment before moving to various conflict-hit countries.
Starting this year, the ex-combatants will be part of peacekeeping missions of the Nepal Army in the future as well. The tenure of peacekeeping force has been extended to one year from six months from last year.
Nepal is a major troop contributor to the UN peacekeeping missions since 1958, and 110,771 Nepal Army personnel from different ranks have served in various peace missions till date.
Nepal has the sixth largest share in the United Nations peace keeping mission after Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan and Rwanda.
At present 4,365 personnel, including 96 female soldiers, are serving in various countries. Security experts say the move to deploy former Maoist combatants for peacekeeping missions is a manifestation of successful integration process.
“No country in the world has sent ex-combatants to UN peace missions just after three years of their integration [into the national army],” said Geja Sharma Wagle, a security expert.
He said that the suspicion that the apolitical nature of the Nepal Army would be affected following the integration too has been cleared after the former fighters’ selection to serve in UN peace missions. “The professionalism and neutrality of the Army has remained as strong even after the integration,” he added.
As many as 1,420 former Maoist fighters—from the post of colonel to private—were integrated into the Army on July 5, 2013 as per a deal between the UCPN (Maoist) and the government.