Nepal on a knife-edge

“Mass shooting slays most of Royal family’. No, it didn’t happen here but remember the extraordinary day when a Crown Prince shot dead most of Nepal’s Royals, including his father King Birendra, before turning the gun on himself? It was a story that got a lot of attention in the UK, not just because of our preoccupation with Royalty and because of its obvious drama, but also as a result of Britain’s enduring fascination with Nepal: a culturally rich and diverse country and destination of choice for mountaineers and trekkers alike. As the Times reports, today sees the culmination of a process that began that day – the first elections in Nepal for nine years – but just as they began with bloodshed, so it seems they are finishing up amid violence too.   Here at Amnesty we’ve highlighted how growing violence has marked the last fortnight, including attacks by armed groups, intimidation of political candidates and reports that the Young Communist League and others have harassed voters in several districts. Supporters of all major political parties have been involved in a number of street demonstrations leading to, at times, violent confrontations.  But the election is a turning point for Nepal. It’s an opportunity to put an end to years of violence and work towards a new kind of political future. Many Nepalese have been looking forward to voting into power a new assembly that they hope will write a new constitution for the country and turn the 240-year-old monarchy into a federal republic.  Worryingly, the Guardian, which also devotes a full page to Nepal, reports that more than 4,000 troops loyal to the throne have refused to leave the king’s Kathmandu palace, raising fears of a bloody showdown between royalists and republicans.  The eyes of the world have been on the Zimbabwe elections but here’s another ballot that’s worth watching in the coming days.  A world away in reality but only a few pages in the Times and the Guardian is the story of Sark’s move, after 400 feudal years, to democracy. A long time coming and no one would expect violence as a result, although it is interesting to note that the until now all-powerful seigneur (he has the right to keep the Channel Island’s only pigeons and the front pew in church) apparently has his own private army of 40 men with muskets.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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