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<   No. 1441   2007-01-06   >

Comic #1441

1 {scene: Jane Goodall's office, in Africa}
1 Terry: {over phone} Jane? Hi, it's Terry.
1 Jane Goodall: What's Steve done now?
2 Terry: {on phone} He's a guest of the government of Nepal...
2 Jane Goodall: Nepal?! Do you know who runs Nepal?
3 {scene change: Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu}
3 Terry: There was a Maoist insurgency that destabilised the royal family and effectively led to some sort of coup d'état, right?
4 Jane Goodall: {over phone} More like a coup-thulhu...
4 Terry: <gasp> You mean...?!!

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A coup d'état is a sudden overthrow of a government by illegal and potentially violent means, by a reasonably small faction using some inside position in the government to establish and maintain a power base. This often means high level military commanders are involved, as their complicity is usually needed in order both to gain control of the government and to retain it after the coup occurs.

The recent real-world history of Nepal has been scarred by bizarre and tragic circumstances, beginning with the insurgency of Maoist-aligned rebels which began in 1996, leading to civil war. The Maoists set up a parallel government in areas they controlled, amounting to around 70% of the country.

In 2001, eleven members of the Nepalese royal family, including the King and Queen and most of their children and siblings, were assassinated in a shooting spree within the royal palace. The Crown Prince Dipendra was accused of the murders, but himself lay in a coma after the event. By tradition, he was crowned the new king of Nepal, but spent his entire reign unconscious, and died three days later. It's still not entirely clear whether Dipendra turned a gun on himself or was wounded by palace guards, and in fact it hasn't been established to everyone's satisfaction that he was actually guilty. Conspiracy theories concerning the event abound.

Following the death of Dipendra, his uncle Gyanendra succeeded to the throne. Some of those conspiracy theories suggest that the entire massacre was orchestrated by Gyanendra in a bid to take over the throne. In 2002, Gyanendra dismissed his Prime Minister and took direct control of the government of Nepal. The next three years were a period of constitutional chaos in the country, as Gyanendra dismissed successive Prime Ministers, finally dissolving the constitutional monarchy and taking over as absolute monarch in 2005, citing the ineffectiveness of the government to deal with the Maoist rebels as reason.

This sort of assumption of absolute power from an already established position of regulated or ceremonial power within a government is called a self-coup, and considered to be a form of coup d'état.

2016-08-26 Rerun commentary: Picking up the threads of Nepalese history:

A mere three months after this comic was originally published, a series of strikes and protests forced the king to reinstate Parliament. A coalition of seven political parties - which included the former Maoist rebels - resumed control of the government and drastically reduced the king's powers, enacting an interim constitution, pending drafting of a new constitution for the country. At the end of 2007 they agreed to abolish the monarchy and declare Nepal a federal republic.

At elections in 2008, the Maoists won a majority government and proceeded to abolish the monarchy as promised, turfing the now former King Gyanendra out of the former royal palace.

The original deadline for drafting a permanent new constitution passed without progress being made, but eventually in 2015 a new constitution was ready and formally adopted, less than a year ago from the publication of this rerun.

Interesting times, indeed!

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