Books on Kyrgyzstan
Update No: 298 - (27/10/05)
Central Asia is in turmoil. A terrible tragedy unfolded in Uzbekistan in May
when a massacre occurred in Adjidon in the eastern part of the Ferghana Valley
close to Kyrgyzstan. It is no accident that an uprising occurred there right
next to the one country in the region to have a revolution, earlier this year,
indeed led by politicians from its southern province, Osh, adjoining Uzbekistan.
Tashkent put the upheaval down brutally, killing hundreds, while many more fled
to the new land of freedom, Kyrgyzstan.
Bishkek was very nervous about giving refuge to Uzbek oppositionists on such an
occasion. Uzbekistan is the regional giant after all, however unpleasant its
regime. Some refugees were returned across the border to Uzbek police almost
immediately. They were said by Kyrgyz officials to be escapee criminals from the
jailbreak that released the political prisoners, though how true this is, is not
known. The remaining refugees were ferried to Romania by the US shortly
afterwards, provoking Tashkent to revoke its lease of a military base to the
Americans at Karsi-Khanabad on the Afghan border.
The Kyrgyz are none too happy at having agreed to lease a similar base, but with
full intelligence facilities, to the US at Kant, conveniently placed to monitor
developments in North China, not just Afghanistan. They have tentatively asked
the Americans to put a date on its termination, but without setting a deadline,
unlike the Uzbeks of the end of the year. For there is another giant they do not
want to alienate, China.
Condi comes to town
This was all tactfully explained to Condi Rice when she visited Bishkek in
mid-October. The US Secretary of State was on a tour of Central Asia that
conspicuously omitted Uzbekistan.
She arrived in Kyrgyzstan on 11 October on the first leg of a three-day regional
tour that also took her to Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan. It is
significant that Kyrgyzstan was first on the itinerary, the most recent
practitioner of democratic revolution in March, and Uzbekistan, that of its
suppression in May, was not on the agenda at all.
She held talks with President Kurmanbek Bakiev and Prime Minister Feliks Kulov,
the Lenin and Trotsky of the affair as it were. Rice praised Bakiev's role in
Kyrgyzstan's Tulip Revolution last March and the country's July presidential
poll, which she called "the freest and fairest elections in the region so
Rice is a very bright woman, a president of Stanford University by the age of
41, who spoke to her interlocutors in fluent Russian. They were well aware that
she might just be the next president of the US.
She thanked the country's leadership for its "excellent" cooperation
in the war on terrorism: "We appreciate very much Kyrgyzstan's support and
hosting of our forces -- the coalition forces -- at Manas [air base], which
contribute to the stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan under United
Nations mandate," Rice said.
Continued US Presence
Despite the diplomatic language, there are many causes for concern about
this most recent of the 'colour revolutions', one fear being that is quickly
reverting to Central Asian type, where there is little conception of the public
interest, once politicians are elected.
Bakiev reiterated Bishkek's position on the American presence at Manas
international airport, near the Kyrgyz capital. He said U.S. troops will stay in
the country as long as the situation in neighbouring Afghanistan requires. He
makes it very clear that this is a temporary arrangement, and that they are
there under a United Nations mandate - the war in Afghanistan. Since he said
this publicly in his very first speech at his recent presidential inauguration,
this is probably the best he can do to appease his giant neighbours, China and
Russia, who want the US out, yet not to gravely offend the world's only
"It's not the first time we say -- I have stated this before -- that a
military presence of coalition forces at the Manas international airport will
last until the situation in Afghanistan is completely stabilized, until there
are peacekeeping forces there acting under the aegis of the UN," Bakiev
said. "This means the duration of their stay directly depends on the
situation in Afghanistan."
During the press conference, Rice repeatedly said that bilateral cooperation is
not limited to security ties only. She pointed out that Kyrgyzstan's democratic
reforms and anticorruption measures -- as well as its economy and agriculture
sector -- have been at the centre of negotiations with the Kyrgyz leadership.
Rice and Bakiev also agreed that Kyrgyzstan should continue its cooperation with
neighbouring countries, including China, as well as Russia.
"We do not believe that there is any reason that Kyrgyzstan has to choose
between good relations with the United States and good relations with Russia --
indeed, we have good relations with Russia -- or good relations with China.
Kyrgyzstan should have the very best possible relations with all of its
neighbours," Rice said.
Rice said Bishkek and Washington intend to deepen their partnership. She
said the United States will "help Kyrgyzstan become a strong and
Rice also said her talks with officials in Bishkek included discussion of the
possibility that Kyrgyzstan could participate in the US official agency aid
programme known as the Millennium Challenge Corporation. But she said the
country has yet to meet the criteria on good governance, openness, and
"There is hard work ahead for Kyrgyzstan on matters of constitutional and
political reform, on matters of economic reform, and the fighting of
corruption," Rice said. "I know that these are issues that are a high
priority for you [Bakiev], and I am glad that we had the opportunity to discuss
how the United States might assist in Kyrgyzstan's economic and political
The Millennium Challenge Corporation was established at the initiative of the
U.S. President George W. Bush in January 2004 to provide development assistance
to countries that "rule justly, invest in their people, and encourage
economic freedom." It has particular emphasis on obviating corruption which
remains rife in this country, as in its neighbours. The point being that the US
is not going to give large sums of taxpayers money to any country, until it is
satisfied that it will be used for the national benefit and not, like so much
aid in the past, disappear into the private bank accounts of the big-shots.
Kyrgyzstan's revolution at risk
The Kyrgyz, nevertheless, have reason to be nervous about developments at
home too where the revolution is at risk of unravelling, as the country's new
president and parliament find themselves on a collision course.
Two recent developments - the dismissal of Azimbek Beknazarov as prosecutor
general, and the assassination of MP Bayaman Erkinbayev - have lifted the lid
off a long-simmering power struggle involving the executive and legislative
branches. The incidents also underscored the prominent role of criminal elements
in Kyrgyzstani politics.
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev dismissed Beknazarov on September 19. Beknazarov had
been aggressively pursuing corruption cases, including several involving friends
and relatives of former president Askar Akayev, who fled the country amid the
Tulip Revolution in March. Officially, presidential aides attributed the
dismissal to supposed malfeasance in two particular cases, one involving the
murder of prominent businessman Abdalim Junusov and the other related to a
shooting incident at a hotel in the southern city of Osh. Presidential allies
also expressed dissatisfaction with Beknazarov's maverick style. "Beknazarov's
actions have crossed some boundaries," said Miroslav Niyazov, secretary of
the Kyrgyz National Security Council. "This man has formed a mistaken and
inflated idea about the role and place of the prosecutor's office."
Beknazarov characterized his ouster as politically motivated, linked directly to
unease within the executive branch over the prosecutor's diligent efforts to
uncover instances of official corruption. At a September 20 news conference, he
alleged that corruption within the top ranks of government was rampant under
Bakiyev. A statement issued by a coalition of non-governmental organizations,
including Kyrgyz Citizens against Corruption, condemned Bakiyev's action, saying
the executive branch was intent on stopping Beknazarov before he turned his
attention on the actions of the incumbent administration. "Bakiyev
sacrificed Beknazarov to the interests of criminality," the statement said.
"Incumbent authorities are not interested in the struggle against
corruption. Organized criminal elements have begun to openly cooperate with
officials." Meanwhile, some political analysts also saw the firing as an
attempt by Bakiyev to consolidate his hold over the executive branch. They noted
that a political ally of the president, Busurmankul Tabaldiyev, was appointed
Two days after Beknazarov's firing, two masked gunmen killed Erkinbayev, a
member of parliament and a wealthy entrepreneur, as he was returning to his
Bishkek home. Political analysts differed on the possible motive for the
killing. Some linked it to politics, as Erkinbayev was one of the catalysts for
the March protests in southern Kyrgyzstan that ended up driving Akayev's
administration from power, while others expressed the belief that the murder was
rooted in the victim's murky business behaviour.
Beknazarov's dismissal and Erkinbayev's assassination have galvanized
parliamentary resistance to Bakiyev's administration. A parliamentary resolution
adopted September 22 asserted that "the criminal situation in the country
has sharply deteriorated over the past several months." The resolution also
sought to dilute presidential powers. It specifically called on the president to
consider a reshuffle of his team and urged that Prime Minister Feliks Kulov -- a
one-time Bakiyev rival now widely considered seen as a tenuous ally - be given
responsibility for carrying out an anti-corruption campaign. In addition, MPs
sought to exert greater legislative oversight over the Interior Ministry, the
National Security Service and the prosecutor's office, demanding that the three
agencies keep parliament informed on the Erkinbayev murder investigation.
Prior to passing the resolution, MPs assailed Bakiyev's administration for
allowing corruption and criminal behaviour to rise to levels unseen even during
Akayev's administration. Some criticized the president personally for appointing
friends and relatives to important governmental posts. One MP, Kabai Karabekov
said the presidential administration "resembles a Mafioso structure."
Bakiyev attributed current problems to corruption within law-enforcement
agencies, emphasizing that the difficulties long predated his administration.
"It is no secret to anyone that law-enforcement agencies and bandits are to
a certain extent working together," Bakiyev said. "This situation
didn't appear yesterday."
The president also fired back at MPs, demanding that they provide "the
names of specific relatives of mine who are currently occupying an official
post." He went on to accuse MPs of criminal behaviour. "You are
perfectly aware of what is happening [concerning corruption]," Bakiyev told
MPs during the September 22 parliament session. "Among you present here [in
parliament] are businessmen who, unfortunately, are often in conflict with the
law, and who are evading taxes."
During a public appearance on September 26, Bakiyev sought to redirect attention
away from the building conflict between the executive and legislative branches.
He called on the government to occupy itself with "stimulating economic
activity instead of politics."
MPs seem disinclined to ease up on the administration, however. Many legislators
now view Bakiyev's team as incapable or unwilling to curb the criminal influence
in government, political analysts say. On September 23, parliament passed a law
granting MPs the right to carry firearms for self-defence. Some MPs are
concerned that, in the weeks ahead, Bakiyev may attempt to politically weaken
Kulov and, potentially, even try oust him from the government. If the president
adopts such a course, it would likely provoke a sharp response from parliament,
political observers say.
Another concern is that the political tension in Bishkek could deepen the divide
separating residents of northern Kyrgyzstan from southerners. Many northerners
associate the rise in crime and corruption with the March revolution, which was
led mainly by politicians with southern political roots, including Bakiyev. In a
broader sense, the political wrangling is prompting many Kyrgyz to lose faith in
the revolution's potential to bring about a more responsive government. The
great popular complaint against Akayev's regime was that it had grown out of
touch with the day-to-day concerns of the population. Now, the perception is
growing among Kyrgyz citizens that members of the executive and legislative
branches are intent mainly on accumulating personal wealth and gaining control
over income-generating state assets, instead of working to improve
socio-economic conditions in the country.
Poland to cooperate With Kyrgyzstan
Poland is interested in active cooperation with Kyrgyzstan, Ambassador of Poland
in Kyrgyzstan, Vladislav Sokolovsky, said at the opening of the recent
international exhibition "Bishkek - 2005", Interfax News Agency
Sokolovsky said that Polish businessmen in large numbers had arrived at the
Bishkek exhibition. The entrepreneurs were acquainted with opportunities in the
country and to plan ways of cooperation. According to the Ambassador, Poland
joined the European Union one and half years ago. In turn this is a good
opportunity for Kyrgyzstan to introduce new technologies together with the
Polish enterprises in manufacture and to develop industry. "Kyrgyzstan is
the country with which it is possible to cooperate and work. The Polish
businessmen in your country are interested in stability and the investment
climate," Sokolovsky said.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS
Kyrgyz premier discusses economic issues with Russia
Kyrgyzstan's Prime Minister, Felix Kulov, on September 30 was on a two-day
official foreign visit to Russia. Kulov said his visit was purely political but
it was focused on economic issues. He stressed the importance of relations with
Russia and considered Russia as a main strategic partner, Interfax News Agency
Kulov said that the talks revolved around the participation of the Russian
capital in a number of Kyrgyz industrial enterprises and various economic
sectors. Kulov also said the new Kyrgyz government would focus on the fight
against corruption and unemployment in the country to improve the economic
situation. He said, "One of the main reasons for the recent revolution in
the country was the economic situation. Therefore, it is obvious what could
happen if we do not improve our economy."
Meanwhile at another meeting with Kyrgyz President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, head of
federal financial monitoring service of Russian Federation (Rosfinmonitoring),
Victor Zubkov, said that Russia will assist Kyrgyzstan in creation of a
financial intelligence service, Kyrgyz presidential press service said.
Zubkov has observed that Russia will provide methodical and technical aid,
provide experience exchange, training and internship for specialists from
Kyrgyzstan. For his part, Bakiyev stressed an importance of interaction between
the two states in activities against money laundering. "We shall apply all
efforts to pass legal acts related with creation of a new structure - financial
intelligence service of Kyrgyzstan," he said, adding that the new service
is a totally new structure and therefore it needs methodical and other aid.
Zubkov also met Akylbek Zhaparov, minister of economy and finance of Kyrgyzstan.
Meetings with experts from the National Bank of Kyrgyz Republic and heads of
other state structures were also planned during Zubkov's visit to Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan is part of the Eurasian Group to Counter Money Laundering and Funding
of Terrorism. This group includes Belarus, China, Kazakstan, Russia, and
Tajikistan. Kulov believes there should be no redistribution of property in
He described Russia as Kyrgyzstan's number one friend, adding that his country
should also have good relations with other nations.