Troops deployed to protect key areas of Nepal’s capital Thursday - a day after police clashed in the streets with protesting communists who are demanding that the president back the firing of the country’s army chief.
The Himalayan country descended into crisis on Sunday when President Ram Baran Yadav overruled Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s order to remove the general. The move shattered the country’s fragile stability _ achieved three years ago after Maoist guerrillas ended their 10-year insurgency, laying down their arms and joining a political peace process.
As part of that process, former rebels were supposed to be integrated into the national army, but many are still confined to their U.N.-monitored barracks.
Dahal, a former insurgent leader, blamed the army chief for the continued sequestering of the former communist fighters. He resigned Monday in protest, prompting his Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) to leave the ruling coalition and causing the government to collapse.
About 500 of Dahal’s supporters took to the streets of Katmandu on Wednesday. Police responded with tear gas and bamboo batons. No one was seriously injured.
Later in the day, Dahal announced that his party would only join a new government if the president supported the firing of Army Chief Rookmangud Katawal.
Dahal’s party is the largest in parliament, but it does not have a clear majority to rule. The president belongs the second-largest, the Nepali Congress party.
Home Ministry spokesman Navin Ghimire said police and soldiers were keeping close watch on the streets on Thursday. Authorities have imposed a ban on protests and rallies in key areas of Katmandu this week.
The Maoists have planned to rally around the president’s house, and security in that area, in particular, has been stepped up, Ghimire said.
The Maoists have warned they will continue to demonstrate in the streets and in parliament to block a new prime minister from being voted in. They have stayed away from crisis talks attempting to form a new coalition government.
The Maoists fought a bloody 10-year war before laying down their guns in 2006. They won the most votes during parliamentary elections last year and then abolished the centuries-old monarchy.