The Collective Security Treaty Organization may not have done much last summer when ethnic violence broke out in Kyrgyzstan, but it won't stand idly by again, the group's head says. Nikolai Bordyuzha, the CSTO's secretary general, said the group is monitoring the situation, according to Regnum.ru:
"We are monitoring the situation in Kyrgyzstan, we know that there are elements of aggravation," - he said.
However, according to Bordyuzha, the Kyrgyz government to take proactive measures, including the transfer of additional units. "If you will continue worsening, the Council of CSTO will take appropriate action. We are ready for any action and have adequate capacity," - said Bordyuzha.
But Kyrgyzstan -- lately quite sensitive about foreigners opining about their ethnic troubles -- has reacted angrily to the CSTO's statement. According to a different Regnum story, Bishkek's ombudsman, Tursunbek Akun, said "neither the CSTO nor any other organization has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of Kyrgyzstan." And he said that the situation, anyway, was different now than it was last summer, when the government and its security forces were weak because of the recent change in government.
The CSTO has been lately talking up its willingness to intervene, saying also that just because it didn't get involved last year in Kyrgyzstan doesn't mean it wouldn't do so in Nagorno Karabakh if fighting broke out there. Does this mark the era of a new, more assertive CSTO? It'll be interesting to watch...
Mina Corp, the Pentagon fuel supplier once accused of being everything from a CIA front to the corrupter of Kyrgyz presidents and their sons, is attempting to become a model corporate citizen.
The company is granting $2.5 million to the American University of Central Asia (AUCA), a prestigious, cash-strapped institution catering to bright but often financially challenged students, mostly from Kyrgyzstan.
The money, according to a joint June 8 press release, will be used to create a one-year “bridging” program -- “The New Generation Academy” -- to annually prepare 70 talented high school graduates for a higher education.
In addition, Mina will “pay for 15 full scholarships, including room and board, for the Academy’s most able graduates in both 2013 and 2014 to study for a four-year degree at AUCA.”
Mina Corp doesn’t have many friends in Kyrgyzstan. But even the company’s critics admit $2.5 million earmarked for education is not an unwanted gesture, although some noted the sum is pocket change for Mina and its sister company Red Star Enterprises Ltd, who between them have sewn up hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel contracts at the Manas air base near Bishkek and Bagram air base in Afghanistan.
AUCA President Andrew Wachtel said at a press conference on June 8 that he was introduced to Mina Corp’s initiative in early 2011.
“We were looking for a reliable partner,” he said.
As the grim anniversary of last year’s tragic ethnic violence approaches, many people in Kyrgyzstan are worried about a renewal of the bloodshed. But members of parliament seem to be contributing to the tensions rather than addressing them.
Take, for example, Jyldyz Joldosheva. While parliament discusses various investigations, Joldosheva is pushing unsupported claims about how members of the Uzbek “diaspora” -- a word suggesting Uzbeks don’t belong in Kyrgyzstan at all -- are responsible for the violence. In Kyrgyzstan’s charged atmosphere, her ethnocentric, hateful invective could be easily misinterpreted as a call to arms.
Islamists, revanchists, and now NGOs: With days to go until the one-year anniversary of devastating interethnic bloodshed in southern Kyrgyzstan, the country’s officials have stepped up their blame game, scoring big points for bogeymen and zero for justice.
The latest burst of finger-pointing comes from President Roza Otunbayeva’s official representative to parliament, veteran politician Azimbek Beknazarov, who said on June 3 that NGOs and human rights groups bear responsibility for the violence, which left more than 400 people dead last June. As quoted by AKIpress, Beknazarov said:
Why did the bloody events occur? The report by the chair of the national commission tasked with studying the causes of the events in the republic’s south, Abdygany Erkebayev, speaks of third forces, but does not say who those are. But I will tell you, as a lawyer, that the third forces are NGOs, rights organizations and rights defenders, which continue to pursue their own agendas.
Kyrgyzstan’s leaders just can’t accept the international response to last June’s ethnic violence. Responding to the latest in a series of independent studies that dare say more Kyrgyz killed Uzbeks (though it did clearly point out that Uzbeks killed Kyrgyz, too), on May 26 parliament banned the report’s author, Finnish politician Kimmo Kiljunen, from entering Kyrgyzstan.
Not a single deputy in the 120-seat legislature was brave enough to vote against the proposal, which passed with 95 votes and one abstention.
As Kyrgyzstan approaches presidential elections, the country is becoming a bastion of intolerance. Anyone who challenges the dominant nationalist discourse, which essentially holds that Uzbeks got what they deserved during the ethnic bloodletting -- and, by the way, members of the minority are ungrateful separatist-terrorists -- is accused of conspiring against the nation. The majority, in turn, takes increasingly drastic measures to make sure all they hear is that they are correct.
When Kyrgyzstan announced that NATO would be refurbishing border posts and arms depots in the Central Asian country, many observers (including this blog) took it as a sign of President Roza Otunbayeva's decision to move the country decisively toward the west and away from Russia. But in an interview with state radio on May 16, transcribed and translated by BBC Monitoring, she took great pains to disabuse listeners of that notion. She highlights NATO's cooperation with Russia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to portray Kyrgyzstan's cooperation as nothing special. I'll quote at length because the vehemence of her statement seems telling. The questioner asked a very bland question about the possibility of a NATO liaison office opening in Bishkek:
Sometimes the quarrelsome Central Asian republics need a father figure. Lucky for them, Moscow is more than happy to play surrogate.
Officials in Kyrgyzstan are complaining that Uzbekistan has been illegally stealing gas in a disputed border region since the two countries became independent.
"The gas issue has been Kyrgyzstan's main headache for 20 years. Today they [Uzbekistan] owe us some $5 million. We should consider this issue and adopt relevant provisions," a parliamentarian from the ruling Social Democratic Party said on May 13, CA-News.org reported. Kyrgyzstan should seek “the return of the underground gas storage facility Severniy Sokh and the Congara-Galcha gas and oil fields located in Batken Region which are being used by the national [oil and gas] holding company, Uzbekneftegaz," deputy Egemberdi Ermatov said.
Kyrgyzstan has few gas fields and limited technical expertise. So at the same time, officials are lining up an eager partner: Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom.
Also on May 13, Deputy Prime Minister Shamil Atakhanov announced talks with Gazprom to form a new joint venture to supply gas to Kyrgyzstan. The deal will “break our dependence on Uzbek gas,” he said in comments carried by the KyrTAG news agency, and, he hopes, will win Kyrgyzstan back the disputed fields.
Two months after passing a deficit-plagued budget, Kyrgyzstan’s parliament has amended it, reallocating about $12.9 million to compensate those who lost relatives in last June’s ethnic violence in Osh and Jalal-Abad. While the effort seems commendable on its face, the political pressure surrounding it and the implementation process to come both raise doubts about how fair and transparent the payouts will be.
Under a decree signed by Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev, made public May 10, families of Kyrgyzstani citizens killed in the clashes will receive a one-time payment of 1 million soms (about $21,500); families of the missing will also collect a million soms; those who sustained serious bodily injuries -- as determined by experts in forensic medicine -- will get 100,000 soms; and those who received “less grievous bodily harm” -- ditto the official diagnosis -- will get 50,000 soms.
Here are two of the biggest challenges to an equitable compensation process:
Twenty years of neglect have left Kyrgyzstan’s energy system in desperate shape. But just how bad could it be? A new report quantifies the gloom: Simply plugging the holes and getting the existing equipment into reliable shape will cost between $1.5 and $2.1 billion, or up to 46 percent of GDP, says a study sponsored by the US government’s development wing, USAID. Without urgent attention, the country could be plunged into darkness for months -- energy experts who have examined the detailed findings say -- and Bishkek could lose its heating.
The findings, compiled at the Energy Ministry’s behest, detail deterioration in a sector where most facilities -- generation plants, transmission lines, and distribution systems -- are 30-40 years old “and have passed the end of their economic lives.” Poor management and the political challenge of raising energy tariffs to sustainable levels have left the entire sector operating at a loss.
NATO has apparently agreed to help Kyrgyzstan renovate its border posts and arms depots, after a NATO official traveled to Bishkek and met with President Roza Otunbayeva. From Reuters:
"The president stated that the technical standard of border posts was insufficient and appealed to NATO's leadership to provide support in this respect," Otunbayeva's press service said in a statement after the meeting.
It said Appathurai "expressed NATO's readiness to assist in conducting a major overhaul of depots holding rocket and artillery weapons of the Kyrgyz Republic's Defense Ministry, with particular emphasis on the southern region of the country."
It gave no further detail.
There also appears to be no word from NATO.
In March, Otunbayeva visited Brussels and asked NATO for counterterrorism help, but didn't specify much about what that would entail.
Aside from the technical help that NATO will provide, this seems to be further evidence that Otunbayeva seems to be trying, gently, to orient Kyrgyzstan away from Russia, or at least adding some strategic counterbalance. Remember when everyone was convinced last year that the unrest that led to Otunbayeva assuming the presidency was engineered by Russia? If so, Moscow has to have some buyer's remorse.