Kyrgyzstan’s new lawmakers, representing five political parties, took their oaths of office on November 10. The much-anticipated opening legislative session in Bishkek increased the pressure on squabbling political leaders to cobble together a coalition government.
Air temperatures in the single digits don't deter swimmers at the Issyk-Ata hot springs in northern Kyrgyzstan. The malodorous, sulfur-infused water lures weekenders of all ages to the Soviet-era sanatorium some two hours from Bishkek.
David Trilling is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor.
By some estimates, 20 Protestant churches have been robbed, often violently, in northern Kyrgyzstan recently. A typical raid happened on November 4, the AKIpress crime blotter reported:
About 10 unknown armed people wearing masks attacked the office of the spiritual center of the Seventh Day Adventist Church located on Magadanskaya Street.
The unknown people tied up the hands and legs of a guard – 61-year-old Chupakova – with a scarf and took possession of a laptop and a metal safe containing 158,000 soms [about 3,400 dollars].
A watchman was murdered during a church robbery in August. Yet Evening Bishkek reported on October 29 that the robberies are eliciting little police interest (translation via BBC Monitoring):
A wave of robberies has swept Protestant churches in Bishkek and Chui Region. It seems that there is only one single group involved because all the robberies are carried out according to the same scenario. Many pastors and parishioners are frightened: what if their house of worship will be next? Will an end be put to all this?
The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry has called on Washington to “suspend its cooperation” with a controversial company supplying fuel to the American airbase at Manas Airport. The request comes two days after the Pentagon renewed its contract with Mina Corp, currently under investigation in both countries.
Many in Kyrgyzstan’s provisional government accuse Mina Corp – which Washington said would keep the contract on November 3 – of helping line the pockets of ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Seven months after Bakiyev’s downfall, then, it looked like a slap in the face when the Pentagon chose to stick with the same secretive company, the MFA statement suggested.
The events of April 2010 led to the fall of the family-clan regime of ex-President Bakiyev and exposed corruption schemes surrounding fuel supplies to the Manas Transit Center.
These corruption schemes led to the levying of export duties on all refined oil products coming in from the Russian Federation, supplied for the needs of the population of the Kyrgyz Republic, which fell as an additional heavy burden on the shoulders of the Kyrgyz people.
In connection with this, the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic calls on the Government of the United States of America to suspend its cooperation with Mina Corp until the completion of the investigation by prosecutors of the Kyrgyz Republic.
Bishkek’s pleas for help to combat narcotics trafficking are finding a sympathetic Russian ear. The new head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), high-ranking diplomat Yuri Fedotov, is eager to lend a helping hand.
By closing its border and forcing a remote Tajik valley into isolation for the winter ahead, Uzbekistan is showing it will spare no effort in its protracted battle of wills with Dushanbe.
The Zarafshan Valley is accessible from the rest of Tajikistan only in the warmer months, when snow does not close the road. In winter, residents depend on Uzbekistan for access to the outside world. Previously, according to a bilateral agreement, residents of the valley were allowed to enter Uzbekistan for five days without a visa, Ferghana.ru reports. The border is now shut.
Uzbek authorities told Dushanbe that they have shut the only post connecting Zarafshan with Uzbekistan's Samarkand Province and have not provided a reason, Tajik MFA officials say. The area is home to some 121,000 people, according to official statistics from 2007. Tashkent has refused EurasiaNet.org's request for comment.
This latest squeeze is unsurprising, given the rapidly deteriorating relations between the two countries, mostly over Tajikistan’s plans to construct a giant hydropower dam at Rogun. Uzbekistan is worried the upstream plant will cut water supplies to its intensive agricultural sector.
Three weeks after voters in Kyrgyzstan went to the polls to pick their new parliament, the Central Elections Commission (CEC) has finally announced what we’ve all been expecting since election night: Five parties passed the five percent threshold to divide up the new parliament’s 120 seats. They are
“In elections there are always winners and losers,” he said. “It’s quite another matter how participants in the elections behave after the process. This concerns not everybody, but those who cannot resign themselves to losing.”
Let the countdown begin. The parliament must sit within two weeks. The five parties have two more weeks to name a premier.
Recent violence on the Tajik-Kyrgyz border may vindicate those predicting that Islamic militants could spill over the Ferghana Valley’s porous borders. It could also deepen tension between the valley’s three squabbling governments.
In Tajikistan’s Charku village, authorities have been battling militants they call members of the extremist Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an al-Qaeda affiliate, killing three and arresting one on October 29, Avesta.tj reports.
After two months of militant activity in Tajikistan, the latest fighting is unusual because it has happened in the de facto no man’s land between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. There is no clear border between what the Kyrgyz call Kok-Tash and the Tajiks Charku; the frontier zigzags between homes in the ethnically mixed settlement with Tajiks and Kyrgyz laying claims to each other’s territory. (Contrary to some media reports, Charku is not a Tajik enclave, but a peninsula of contiguous Tajik land pointing into Kyrgyzstan.)
Washington is pouring money into a project in Kyrgyzstan that, based on available evidence, has very questionable chances of success.
USAID has awarded a no-bid contract to Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI), a for-profit company, "to ensure from the outset that the new parliament and its members understand their representative roles and functions," The Washington Post’s Walter Pincus reports.
Democratization may be a laudable goal, but politicians in Kyrgyzstan understand their roles and functions in a very different way than Washington would care to acknowledge. Some, for example, readily admit spending tens of thousands of dollars to buy seats on their party lists.
In this case, the institutional inertia of Washington’s democratization programs is costing the American taxpayer $3.25 million. True, it’s not a lot in the great scheme of American spending (the US has pledged roughly $100 million in aid to Kyrgyzstan this year), but considering what the Post has reported about DAI’s track record, how effective will this spending be?
A July 2010 review of recent USAID inspector general reports covering Pakistan and Afghanistan show that such contracts have trouble producing results.
A 2008 contract to DAI to increase the capacity of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas found that after almost two years, and spending of about $15.5 million, "little progress had been made" because most of the first year was spent developing plans and building relationships.