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Protests erupt after PM fires Nepal army chief

Protests erupt after PM fires Nepal army chief

Nepal's prime minister fired the army chief after a struggle over admitting former Maoist rebel fighters to the military, sparking mass protests and jeopardizing the survival of the country's first elected government since the monarchy was abolished.
President Ram Baran Yadav, meanwhile, rejected the ouster of the army chief, Rookmangud Katawal, calling it unconstitutional in a letter delivered to Katawal's office late Sunday night. Copies also were sent to Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal's residence.
Yadav was the first person elected as president in this Himalayan country, where a centuries-old monarchy was abolished last year. The army is officially under the president's command, not the prime minister.
However, since the country's constitution is being rewritten, many things are unclear, including who has the power to fire the army chief. The president is a member of the Nepali Congress, the main opposition party, which vowed to fight the decision.
The army chief's dismissal prompted a key political party to withdraw from the ruling coalition and frayed already tense relations between the government, dominated by former Maoist rebels, and the military they long fought.
The fallout could pose the biggest challenge yet for Nepal's troubled leaders who are new to politics and already struggling to provide basic services in the impoverished country.
The dispute between the prime minister - a former Maoist rebel leader - and Katawal centered on the difficult question of how to integrate former rebels as required by a U.N.-brokered peace agreement into the ranks of the army they fought for a decade.
Since giving up their bloody rebellion in 2006 and joining the political mainstream, the Maoists have confined their fighters to U.N.-monitored camps and locked up their weapons. Dahal wanted them freed and admitted to the national army but Katawal resisted the move and clashed repeatedly with the government over the issue.
The government says Katawal also ignored orders to stop recruiting soldiers, boycotted last month's national games, and allowing eight army generals to continue working past their tenure.
"The army chief was removed because he failed to give a satisfactory explanation on why the government orders were ignored," said Information Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara.
The Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist), the second largest party in the coalition government, withdrew from the coalition Sunday "to protest the prime minister's unilateral decision," the party's general secretary, Ishwar Pokhrel, said.
Leaders from several smaller parties walked out of the Cabinet meeting after Dahal announced his decision.


Updated : 2021-05-16 20:13 GMT+08:00