The slow-motion train-wreck that is the Nepali peace process tumbled further out of control in January, with new levels of inter-party hostility and deepening cracks within the Maoist camp.
The two main opposition parties, the Nepali Congress and the United Marxist-Leninists (UML), have stopped trying to reach an agreement with the ruling Maoist party (UCPN-M).
On 26 January, Congress and UML supporters attempted to blockade the prime minister Baburam Bhattarai and other Maoist leaders as they tried to make their way to the UCPN-Maoist annual conference in Bhaktapur.
Congress and the UML have demanded Bhattarai resign as the price of forming a national unity government to oversee parliamentary elections expected in May.
Meanwhile the breakaway CPN-Maoist party is gaining recruits.
In early January, in a single week, nearly 3,500 UCPN-M members defected to CPN-M, which declared a policy of unarmed ‘people’s revolt’, while holding out the possibility of at any time re-launching the ‘people’s war’.
Fighting charges of corruption, the governing UCPN-Maoists hit back at the breakaway group, saying its leaders were ‘immoral, mysterious and most non-transparent in their personal and family lives and financial activities’.
Meanwhile, the issue of human rights violations during the Nepali civil war rose up the political agenda after the arrest in Britain of a Nepali colonel accused of torturing two men in separate incidents in 2005.
In Nepal, Maoist prime minister Babaram Bhattarai told journalists on 12 January that it would not benefit any party to pursue human rights violations from the civil war: ‘If investigations are conducted not even the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML would come clean.’