Site map
0The virtual community for English-speaking expats and Russians
  Main page   Make it home   Expat card   Our partners   About the site   FAQ
Please log in:
To register  Forgotten your password?   
  Survival Guide   Calendars
  Phone Directory   Dining Out
  Employment   Going Out
  Real Estate   Children
   October 1
News Links
Business Calendar
Phone Directory
 Latest Articles
 Archived Articles
Analysis & Opinion
16.06.10 Kyrgyzstan: A Perfect Storm
By Roland Oliphant

Are Malignant Forces Trying to Harness a Perfect Storm of Political Instability, Economic Hardship and Ethnic Tension?

After a week of brutal violence in southern Kyrgyzstan, the official death toll in the southern cities of Jalalabad and Osh stands at 187, but is expected to rise. By Wednesday morning the Kyrgyz Health Ministry said that at least 1,870 had been injured. The Uzbek government says it has registered some 75,000 refugees, many of whom are in need of shelter and assistance. The situation now seems to have calmed, as Russian government aid plans have started to arrive in Bishkek.

While the situation in Osh and other cities appeared to calm overnight, the UN has identified a “critical” need for food, water, healthcare and protection for internally displaced persons, as well as security for thousands who are still too afraid to leave their homes. To make matters worse, the Osh water authorities have told UNICEF that they cannot access the city’s main water treatment plant because local residents have barricaded the district it is located in, threatening a potentially devastating release of untreated sewage into the Ak Buura river, which flows into Uzbekistan.

The border region where the violence broke out lies in the Ferghana valley, a fertile but poverty-stricken region split between Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan that has long been considered a potential trouble spot for a number of reasons. “It’s wrong to imply that the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks have just been waiting for the opportunity to start slaughtering each other,” said Cai Wilkinson, a Kyrgyzstan expert at the University of Birmingham. “Effectively we’ve ended up with a perfect storm of events: political upheaval, extremely bad economic circumstances and in the southern half of the country there are far fewer opportunities and a greater general sense of hopelessness.”

But as attention turns to the cause of the violence that erupted in Osh on the evening of Thursday, June 10, a picture is emerging of an unscrupulous third force determined to take advantage of that “perfect storm.” The UN, which has been releasing regular situation reports since Sunday, has uncovered “strong indications” that someone set out to deliberately spark an ethnic riot. “It was to some degree orchestrated, targeted and well-planned,” UNHCR Spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday. “The incident began with five simultaneous attacks in Osh involving men wearing balaclavas and carrying guns. It looked like they were seeking to provoke a reaction. For example, one of these attacks was on a gym, which was known to be the haunt of a criminal gang. There are quite a few criminal gangs in Osh, but targeting that gym was likely to provoke a reaction.”

Mirsulzhan Namazaliev, director of the Bishkek-based Central Asian Free Market Institute and a writer for the New Eurasia Web portal, backs the UN account. “Of course there was an inter-ethnic problem.” he said. “But in fact what happened in the south was not a natural process, because it was provoked by certain elements – I would say criminal elements – who were interested in doing this. Of course it was organized.”

The question now is who those masked men were, and more importantly who they were working for. The interim government that came to power during the violent riots in April was quick to blame ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who is from the Jalalabat region and has a political stronghold there, but he has vigorously denied such accusations from his exile in Belarus. Others have pointed the finger at the “neighboring countries,” including Russia. One theory is that the Kremlin refused to send troops because Rosa Otunbayeva wouldn’t bow to unspecified Russian demands, but even proponents admit they have no evidence for it.

Nor is there consensus on the provocateurs’ strategic goals. Namazaliev suggested the idea may have been to create a diversion to draw the army into the south to open the way for a coup attempt in Bishkek. But the capital has so far been calm, and the more orthodox line of thinking is that the rioters and whoever was behind them wanted to disrupt a referendum on changes to the Constitution planned for June 27. The referendum is meant to pave the way for fresh elections planned for this fall, and acting President Rosa Otunbayeva – who recently told Snob magazine that she was sticking to her plan to “introduce democracy in six months” – promised Tuesday that it would go ahead as planned.

That sense of hopelessness was not helped by the interim government’s signal failure to guarantee security even after declaring a state of emergency. Its political capital has never been high in the south, where Bakiev was popular, but now trust is virtually extinguished – especially following reports of security forces standing by or even taking part in the violence. It has also come under fire from the Bishkek intelligentsia not only for failing to respond, but also for failing to foresee attempts to disrupt the June 27 referendum. “They knew something like this would happen, but they expected it closer to the date of the poll,” said Namazaliev.

The problem is that the government is in a kind of limbo, said Leonid Ivashov, the vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Affairs and a former General-Colonel of the Russian Army. “They’ve rejected authoritarian methods, but they haven’t built democracy in the republic,” he said.

But it is not just a failure of the ability of the interim government, but also of the political will of Kyrgyzstan’s neighbors and supposed allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a regional grouping led by Russia that has been touted as a NATO-like guarantor of security. Despite a very public appeal for help, Russia and other CSTO countries have refused to send peacekeepers to help impose order.

That may be understandable – the task of stabilizing another state’s internal ethnic conflict is a notoriously tricky one, from which intervening nations seldom emerge with credit. But it is a serious test of Russia’s own stated ambitions in the region. Back in February Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the CSTO’s “rapid reaction force” would equal that of NATOs. But when Otunbayeva appealed for peacekeepers, it became clear that no such rapid reaction force exists. And although Russian planes carrying humanitarian aid began to arrive in Bishkek on Wednesday, Ivashov said that putting together such a response operation should take no more than six hours – not the best part of a week.
The source
Copyright © The Moscow Expat Site, 1999-2023Editor  Sales  Webmaster +7 (903) 722-38-02