Books on Kyrgyzstan
Update No: 295 - (29/07/05)
'Tulip Revolution' turning against US
The 'Tulip Revolution' is turning sour on one of its main instigators - the US.
The Soros Foundation and other NGOs galore from the West were right behind it,
and now the regional tyrannies are turning on them.
But Kurmanbek Bakiyev, just the day after his landslide victory in the
Kyrgyzstan's July 17th presidential election, told a press conference the
presence of a US military base in the Central Asian republic should be
reconsidered. Following 9/11, the US military were allowed to use the Manas
airport base in Bishkek to conduct military operations against the Taliban
regime in Afghanistan. Rent paid by the US to use the base has reportedly
provided millions of dollars to Kyrgyzstan's state budget. Former president,
Askar Akayev, supported Washington's global "war on terror" and was
applauded by the US for his suppression of "Islamic extremism".
In September 2003, however, Akayev agreed to allow Russian military forces to be
deployed at Kant airbase, just 46 kilometres from the US base. This was seen by
Western analysts as bending to the Russian wind as a counter to US influence. An
anti-US turn was already apparent under the old regime.
Bakiyev emerged as the leader of last March's "Tulip Revolution" - a
pro-democracy uprising that forced the previous president, Akayev, to flee to
Moscow, where he claimed the uprising had been organised and financed by
Washington to install a pro-US regime. Akayev had been the country's president
since 1990, when it was a constituent republic of the USSR. Shortly after the
dissolution of the Soviet Union in late 1991, Akayev was re-elected in
The March 24th uprising against him was sparked by widespread anger among
Kyrgyzstan's 5 million inhabitants over electoral fraud, government corruption
and widespread poverty.
The irony is that Akayev's regime followed the recipes prescribed by the
International Monetary Fund to restore capitalism in Kyrgyzstan. As a result,
the tiny republic now has the largest debt per capita in Central Asia and almost
60% of the population live below the poverty line, according to World Bank
In an interview with Associated Press in Moscow on July 1st, Akayev said
Washington wanted to project its influence in Central Asia and was apparently
vexed by his efforts to balance US, Russian and Chinese interests in Central
Asia. "I did everything to balance the interests of the three great powers.
But the United States doesn't want a balance. Americans want [others] to have a
clear orientation on Washington."
Akayev's claim that the US had organised his overthrow was based upon reports
that Washington had provided support to the Kyrgyz opposition through
pro-Western non-governmental organisations. The February 25th Wall Street
Journal, for example, reported that one of the main NGOs working with the
opposition, the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, was being funded by
the National Democratic Institute in Washington, which is financed by the US
government (but then Moscow is not known for financing NGO's).
US President George Bush later hailed Akayev's ousting as part of the
"march of freedom around the world" that included the US- organised
elections in occupied Iraq. He told the general assembly of the Organisation of
American States on June 6: "In the last year-and-a-half - think about this
- we've witnessed a Rose Revolution in Georgia, an Orange Revolution in Ukraine,
a Purple Revolution in Iraq, a Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, a Cedar
Revolution in Lebanon - and these are just the beginnings. Across Central Asia,
hope is stirring at the prospect of change - and change will come."
In the July 17th presidential election, Bakiyev won 89% of the votes cast. Human
rights commissioner Tursunbai Bakir Uulu, known for his Islamist orientation,
finished a distant second with 3.73% and Akbaraly Aitikeyev, the head of the
Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, followed him with 3.63%.
Bakiyev had served as prime minister under Akayev in 2000-02, but had resigned
following mass protests after police fired on opposition protesters. He then
moved over to the opposition, leading protests in March that culminated in an
opposition takeover of government buildings in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, and
Akayev's flight to Moscow. Bakiyev took over as interim prime minister, pending
the new presidential elections.
At a July 18th, news conference, his first after winning the election,
Bakiyev told reporters: "This election can be called a convincing victory
of the popular revolution." He then went on to say that Kyrgyzstan intended
to review the presence of US troops on its soil. He made no mention of the
presence of Russian troops.
The Kyrgyz news agency AKI quoted Kyrgyzstan's ambassador to Moscow, Apas
Jamagulov, as saying on July 18 that the US base at Manas would be
"gradually" shut down, while stressing that the Russian base, at Kant,
two minutes flight time away, would remain operational.
At a July 5th summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation - an
alliance comprising Russia, China and all of the former Soviet Central Asian
republics except Turkmenistan - the leaders of these six member-states issued a
call for the US to set a deadline for removing its troops from air bases in two
of the SCO's member-states, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
Originally set up in 1996 to deal with border disputes between its member
states, the SCO has transformed itself into a regional security alliance,
including organising joint military exercises.
US officials responded angrily to the SCO call. On July 14th, General Richard
Myers, the top US military officer, accused Russia and China of bullying the
Central Asian states into issuing the call. "Looks to me like two very
large countries were trying to bully some smaller countries", Myers told
reporters at the Pentagon.
Bakiyev's support for the SCO call, however, would not require no
"bullying" from any outside powers, but simply that he reflect the
sentiments of the majority of the Kyrgyz people. Three years ago, the US
BusinessWeek magazine reported that an April 4, 2002 US State Department study
had found "that most people in Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, and Kyrgyzstan oppose
an extended US military presence".
However, US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Bishkek on July 25th-26th
to meet with Kyrgyz defence minister Ismail Isakov. The meeting duly took place,
the upshot being that Rumsfeld effectively leaned on this small state just as
their giant neighbours, Russia and China, had leaned on them previously at the
Astana meeting of the SCO. But Russia had already taken a firm line with new
president Bakiyev, who earlier had announced on July 17th that with the
appeasement of the situation in Afghanistan, it was time for the US to pull out
of its base in Kyrgyzstan. Amidst smiles, handshaking and pledges to co-operate
against terrorism and any resurgence of this in Afghanistan, the complete
opposite was voiced and Bakiyev now says that the situation there was still not
stable. Therefore his government would continue to support the struggle, but his
last word on this was that "the timetable for withdrawal would be decided
in accordance with the development of the situation in Afghanistan." There
was however a rider "…and within the framework of US- Kyrgyz
relations," not what Moscow would have wanted to see, allowing as it does
the prospect of massive subventions from Washington, to keep what they have got.
'Next oil frontier'
China's "Peoples Daily Online" reports that far from departing,
the US seeks to consolidate its military presence in Central Asia. In his July
14th comments on the SCO call, Myers said that having bases in Central Asia
"is important to the United States for lots of reasons, not just for
operations in Afghanistan." He failed to elaborate what these other reasons
are. However, they were outlined some years ago in BusinessWeek.
The May 27th, 2002, edition of BusinessWeek ran a cover story - "The Next
Oil Frontier"- in which it reported: "American soldiers, oilmen, and
diplomats are rapidly getting to know this remote corner of the world, the old
underbelly of the Soviet Union and a region that's been almost untouched by
Western armies since the time of Alexander the Great.
"The game the Americans are playing has some of the highest stakes going.
What they are attempting is nothing less than the biggest carve-out of a new US
sphere of influence since the US became engaged in the Mideast 50 years ago.
"The result could be a commitment of decades that exposes America to the
threat of countless wars and dangers. But this huge venture - call it an
Accidental Empire - could also stabilise the fault line between the West and the
Muslim world and reap fabulous energy wealth for the companies rich enough and
determined enough to get it."
"From incidental sums fewer than five years ago", the report added,
"the amount of US investment in the region has jumped to US$20 billion...
Major investors include ChevronTexaco Corp, Exxon Mobil Corp., BP PLC, and
The BusinessWeek article explained that key to these companies exploiting the
oil and gas wealth of Central Asia is the construction of pipelines that lead
south to the Persian Gulf or the Indian Ocean, where it can be shipped by tanks
to the energy-hungry Japan and China. However, Washington wants pipelines
"that will help its friends in the region and freeze out its enemies -
especially the Iranians".
That, of course, means the construction of oil and gas pipelines that run south
through Afghanistan and Pakistan. The big US oil companies have had such
pipeline projects on their drawing boards since the mid 1990s but have been held
up by the continuing warfare in Afghanistan - first between the
Pakistani-trained Taleban and the rival Islamist and warlord factions grouped in
the Northern Alliance, and now between the US-led occupation forces and the
remnants of the Taleban.
"What is fast evolving is a policy focused on guns and oil", the 2002
article in BusinessWeek observed. "The guns are to protect the local
regimes from Islamic radicals and provide a staging area for attacks on
Afghanistan. The goal is 'to get rid of terrorism, not just get it out of
Afghanistan', says A. Elizabeth Jones, Assistant Secretary of State for European
and Eurasian Affairs. The guns, of course, will also protect the oil ..."
It all reflects the fact that foreign policy decisions under the Bush
governments have not reflected the realities of the world, when these are in
contradiction to a neo-con projection of US influence and power. Envisaged on
the grand scale, as though the immense and complex region of central Asia was in
some way a cohesive entity, one can see that if the US were to seriously go down
this road, with a hostile Russia and China resenting their presence, the
capacity for disaster could make Iraq look like a side-show.
Micro-credit promotes rural business culture in Kyrgyzstan
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) poverty reduction programme has
over past years provided assistance to micro-enterprise in Kyrgyzstan.
Micro-credit programmes extend small loans to very poor people for
self-employment projects that generate income and help them to look after their
families. The target of the programme are the poorest families who suffer poor
access to credit, with no experience of running a business and lacking
marketable skills. The programme is based on the UN's Millennium Development
Goals (MDGs) that aims to boost rural livelihoods, among other things and the
National Poverty Reduction Strategy (NPRS), IRIN reported recently.
Olga Grebennikova, UNDP Kyrgyzstan's public affairs officer, recently said that
in the capital Bishkek there were long term changes to the culture of the people
who had learned to use micro-credit as a tool to improve their lives. The
programme in Kyrgyzstan that began in 1998, in a small group of villages
participating in a pilot scheme has spread rapidly throughout Kyrgyzstan and
currently operates in 130 villages. It works by organising low-income
communities into self-help groups that flourish into rural cooperatives and
OSCE gives Kyrgyzstan a helping hand with tourism
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) Centre in Bishkek is
helping to promote foreign tourism in Kyrgyzstan in the wake of unrest in March
by organising tours of the country for foreign journalists, New Europe reported
The first group of European and American journalists began a visit to the
country on June 10th. This visit was organised by Destination marketing
Association and the Helvetas project in cooperation with the International
business council, the Kyrgyz government and the OSCE Centre.
It is expected that several groups of journalists from Europe, the United States
and Commonwealth of Independent States countries will also visit Kyrgyzstan in
the near future. Through these tours, the journalists will become better
acquainted with the real environmental and political situation in the country
and create tourists. "Foreign tour operators reacted predictably to the
March 24-25 events and some trips for the coming summer season were
cancelled," said Ruslan Bakirov, manager of Destination. He added that
these tours and the newspaper reports would show that Kyrgyzstan is safe now and
there is no threat to foreign tourists. It has been reported that Kyrgyzstan and
the Issyk-Kul Lake area in particular, is ready to receive tourists. "Kyrgyzstan
has remarkable natural sites and tourism can be the locomotive
development," said Asim Acikel, the OSCE centre's economic and
environmental officer, adding that international marketing can help to counter
negative media reports about the region.