AS THE Maoist rebels moved closer to Kathmandu, circling the city with a vice-like grip, most residents believed that the first they would see of them would be marching through the streets, waving their weapons as they bore down on the palace to oust the King.Instead, the rebel leader flew out of the jungle on a private helicopter as an honoured guest of the Nepalese Prime Minister for tea and talks.
The man most people know simply as Prachanda — “the Fierce One” — then emerged to announce that within days his rebels would join an interim government that would seek to end a decade-long armed struggle that has killed 13,000 and divided the nation.
“This is an historic decision and will move the country in a new direction,” he said yesterday.Unarmed and wearing plain clothes, Maoist guerrilla guards stood outside the Prime Minister’s residence, holding back the crowds that were hoping to catch a glimpse of Prachanda.Until this spring few Nepalese had ever even seen a photograph of the elusive Maoist leader, who slipped into the western jungle and across the border to India more than a decade ago, inspired by the Peruvian Shining Path rebels, to foment a people’s revolution against the god-kings of Kathmandu.Now he has ambitions to be their leader.
As he flew into the city, his royal opponent sat quaking in his palace, stripped of his powers by a popular uprising that Prachanda had not had to lift a finger to organise, wondering whether he would survive the new order promised by the revolutionaries.
I do not really know. There has been a long struggle in Nepal (with the rare killing of a lot of the members of the royal family). And a Government with the Maoists… does not make me feel real confident about this country.