Though not always smooth, the process of integrating ex-fighters has been moving ahead.
Dev Raj Budha, a former Maoist battalion commander, has every reason to be happy these days. His five years in a cantonment are coming to an end shortly and he looks forward to starting a new life.
"Living in cantonment is just like living in prison," said the 27-year-old former Maoist combatant, who joined the rebel army eleven years ago. "But this life, to my happiness, is coming to an end very soon as our integration into the Nepal Army (NA) has begun," he told Khabar South Asia.
The process has not always been smooth. On Friday (July 6th), it ground to a halt because of a dispute over the age of combatants. The former fighters have two dates of birth – one registered with the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) and one with their official citizenship.
The NA only recognises the age recorded with citizenship, thus leaving some combatants ineligible because they would be either too old or too young. Discussions aimed at resolving the issue are in progress.
Meanwhile, some former combatants bristle at the requirements imposed on them in order to join the army. They say their experience with the Maoist army should be acknowledged and that they should not have to go through the standard training and tests.
"The integration is not being carried out in a dignified way," said a former brigade vice commander in the Maoist army, Dipak Lama. He is applying for the rank of army major.
Despite such glitches, Nepal has largely succeeded in meeting its commitment to dissolving the former Maoist rebel army and either absorbing its members into the national army, or returning them to civilian life. Some have accepted voluntary retirement packages in two phases – one in November and the second early this year.
In 2007, there were over 19,000 Maoist fighters in the cantonments, according to UN data. Now just over 3,000 are left.
The rehabilitation and integration of Maoist combatants is a part of Nepal's five-year-old peace process, launched in November 2006 with the UN-brokered accord between the government and the Maoists – a milestone which ended the armed conflict that claimed over 15,000 lives.
Late last year, the country's main political parties cut a deal on resolving their disagreements over how integration should be conducted.
"The Nepal Army has been carrying out the integration as per last November's seven-point agreement," said NA Spokesperson Brigadier General Ramindra Chhetri.
For many Nepalese, dismayed over the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly in May and the resulting political crisis, the relative success of the integration process provides a welcome note of optimism.
"Though the political parties failed to draft a new constitution, it is a happy moment for the country that another component of the [peace] process is being completed," Ramesh Shrestha, a school teacher, told Khabar.
Despite their reservations about how it is being handled, many former combatants say they are committed to going ahead with integration. "We are taking part in the process, with a sense of national responsibility towards sustaining peace," said Lama, the former brigade vice commander.