The final batch of the nearly 3,000 child soldiers who served in the Maoist army during Nepal's decade-long civil war have been discharged and re-entered civilian life today, in a move hailed by United Nations officials as a milestone in the country's peace process.
The 268 individuals released today during a ceremony in Rolpa included those who had joined the Maoist army as minors, and as late recruits, and had remained in temporary camps for three years after the signing of the peace deal that ended the conflict.
“The release of these young people today is not only symbolic for the country but a milestone for these young men and women who spent their formative years inside a military structure losing out on critical skills vital for adulthood,” said Gillian Mellsop, Country Representative for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).
“All those concerned must now act swiftly to ensure that they reintegrate successfully,” she added.
A total of 2,394 disqualified Maoist army personnel have been discharged in seven cantonments across Nepal since the process began on 7 January 2010. The discharge is a key component of an action plan signed in December 2009 by the UN, the Government of Nepal and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M).
Altogether 2,973 individuals were disqualified from the Maoist army as minors in a UN verification process that ended in December 2007. Another group of 1,035 were disqualified because they were recruited after the ceasefire in May 2006 that ended the armed conflict. Roughly one-third of those disqualified are female, according to a news release issued by the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN).
Before being discharged, the young people are be briefed by the UN on options for their new lives and will be given civilian clothing and identity cards. They will also undergo a rehabilitation process, by the Government with UN support, to gain new skills by attending school or learning a trade.
“The conclusion of the discharge process is a positive step in Nepal's peace process at a time when building confidence and trust amongst the parties is all-important,” said Karin Landgren, the Secretary-General's Representative in Nepal and head of UNMIN.
“The period of your life dedicated to armed struggle is now in the past. You have a role in helping make Nepal a country that is just, equitable, democratic and peaceful,” she told the young people at today's ceremony.