Nepal's first prime minister takes office
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Pushpa Kamal Dahal was sworn in as Nepal's first prime minister on Monday. Dahal is a former guerrilla who led a decade-long insurgency against Nepal's Hindu monarchy and still goes by his wartime name of "Prachanda", meaning "terrible" or "fierce".
KATHMANDU, Aug 18 (Reuters) - A Maoist former guerrilla
chief who led a decade-long insurgency against Nepal's Hindu
monarchy was sworn in on Monday as the Himalayan republic's
first prime minister.
Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who still goes by his nom de guerre
Prachanda - meaning "terrible" or "fierce" - took the oath of
office in front of hundreds of invited guests, including
diplomats, civil servants and politicians.
Soon after the ceremony a smiling Prachanda, accompanied by
his former Maoist security guards, met Kathmandu-based foreign
"It is quite clear that the peace process has to be taken
to a logical conclusion and it will be my priority to prepare a
new constitution," Prachanda told reporters in his new office.
Ian Martin, a senior U.N. envoy to Nepal, told Reuters that
the new government faced many challenges, including the
rehabilitation of thousands of former Maoist fighters.
"I think from the point of view of the people of Nepal it
is time that they get some economic progress and some of the
benefits of the peace they waited for," said Martin, whose job
includes monitoring the peace process with the Maoists.
More than 19,000 former guerrillas are housed in 28
U.N.-supervised camps. Prachanda's government must also bring
the army, traditionally seen as loyal to the now-abolished
monarchy, under civilian control.
The Maoists had promised to form a small cabinet on Monday
but that was delayed because potential allies were still
haggling over portfolios in the new government, party officials
Prachanda was picked on Friday by a special assembly meant
to write a new constitution and double as an interim
Prachanda's election, after his Maoist party won a surprise
victory in April's assembly elections, is a major step towards
capping a peace process after a civil war in which more than
13,000 people died.
But the former school teacher will face a tough task
meeting the hopes of millions of Nepalis in one of the world's
poorest nations eager for law and order and economic
Prachanda's group still figures in the United States list
of terrorist organisations, although U.S. officials have met
Prachanda no longer uses the language of Marx and Mao and
he has embraced private investment. But he has also promised
land reform for millions of poor farmers that make up the
majority of Nepal's population.
The United Nations food agency says Nepal is one of 16
"hunger hotspots" as Nepalis, among the world's poorest, face
soaring food prices and a chronic shortage of energy including
electricity, fuel and cooking gas.
Kidnappings and robberies are common.
Business officials say regular shutdowns and labour strikes
have sapped business confidence and the government must revive
investment in industry to create jobs.
"There is one reason for all these examples of anarchy: the
absence of the state," the Nepali Times weekly said in its
latest edition. "We can only hope that all this will change
with the election of a new prime minister."