Books on Kyrgyzstan
Update No: 312 - (20/12/06)
Kyrgyzstan Parliament questions US military presence after
fatal shooting of civilian
The US air base near Bishkek supports operations in nearby Afghanistan. But
being host to a US military base no longer has the cachet it once did, say
during the Cold War. Events in Afghanistan and Iraq have ministered to a
lowering of esteem for the US military, which is now notorious for its capacity
for bungling and random mayhem.
Even in far-away Kyrgyzstan they have bungled their way to a sorry degree.
Instances of rape have occurred, with American militia the suspects. Now it has
come to homicide.
After a US serviceman fatally shot a Kyrgyz civilian, Kyrgyzstan's Parliament on
December 15th has gone so far as to question further US military presence in the
country. Lawmakers in the former Soviet republic voted unanimously for a
resolution asking the government to reconsider "the expediency" of
allowing the US military to maintain the Manas Air Base on Kyrgyz territory,
following an incident on December 6th in which an American air force serviceman
shot to death a Kyrgyz truck driver at the base. In an official statement
released soon after the incident, the base said the serviceman fired in self-defence
after the driver threatened him with a knife.
Lawmakers accused officials at the base of hindering an inquiry into the
incident by not allowing Kyrgyz investigators to question the airman and examine
his gun. "The Kyrgyz people are seriously indignant at the fact that the
American side is slow in responding to, or completely ignores Kyrgyzstan's
requests," the parliamentary resolution said.
The resolution also called for the lifting of immunity of US troops deployed in
the country. Status of Forces Agreements between the US and countries where US
military personnel are stationed grant American servicemen varying levels of
In the resolution, the Kyrgyz Parliament also said the shooting "extended a
list of incidents linked with the base that create a negative US image among our
people." In September, a US servicewoman deployed at the base vanished
while shopping in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital. She reappeared several days
later, claiming she had been kidnapped. She was flown out of the country hours
after reappearing and Kyrgyz investigators complained they could not properly
complete their inquiry.
Kyrgyz authorities also blame the crew of a US military tanker plane for a
September collision with a passenger jet that caused a fire, but no injuries, at
the nation's main airport.
Kinship and patronage networks emerge as a potent political force
Kyrgyzstan is a remote tribal society of erstwhile nomads, whose livelihood
was disrupted, but by no means totally destroyed by Communism. Moscow had its
own military base there at Frunze, to which the couplotters in Auguat,1991 were
fleeing by plane on their arrest.
Informal patronage networks and kinship ties, dating back a long way, have
played a pivotal role in determining the outcome of the recent constitutional
crisis in Kyrgyzstan, enabling an opposition coalition to secure enhanced checks
on executive authority. A sustained protest in Bishkek's Ala-Too Square, lasting
from November 2-9, acted as the catalyst for constitutional change in Kyrgyzstan.
This protest, organized by the For Reforms coalition, exhibited a far greater
degree of organization than previous protests, including the one that became
known as the Tulip Revolution in March 2005.
The For Reforms leadership was well-prepared in early November for a prolonged
protest, providing their supporters with tents, traditional Kyrgyz yurts and
portable toilets on Ala-Too Square. In addition, the demonstrators themselves
exhibited far more discipline than was evident in earlier anti-government
A key factor behind the protest's success was that the opposition's leadership
had strong personal ties to nearly every single rank-and-file demonstrator on
Ala-Too Square. As Scott Radnitz, a political scientist at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, put it: "Among those conditions that proved
critical were local vertical networks through which various [opposition] elites
could 'reach down' in order to mobilize certain segments of the population; and
horizontal networks by means of which elites could 'reach out' in order to agree
with one another at least temporarily on a common political agenda."
The opposition also took advantage of earlier missteps by the Bakiyev
administration that served to undermine popular support for the president. The
most prominent example of administration bungling was the so-called
Matryoshkagate affair, in which Bakiyev critic Omurbek Tekebayev was clumsily
'set up' for arrest on drug trafficking charges.
The protest participants represented all generations and most social groups,
although unemployed men in their thirties and forties were most conspicuous.
There were certainly genuine supporters of democratic reform found in the
protester ranks, but the majority of demonstrators were tied to influential
opposition leaders through extensive kinship and/or regional networks, known in
Russian by the term zemlyachestvo.
For example, Azimbek Beknazarov, a member of parliament, brought in busloads of
supporters from the Aksy region, his home region and the site of the 2002
confrontation between government troops.
Former parliament speaker Tekebayev's supporters came from his constituency in
Bazarkorgon and Jalal-Abad, in southern Kyrgyzstan. Tekebayev also relied on his
personal ties with influential MPs and former officials to bolster support for
the For Reforms coalition.
Melis Eshimkanov, an opposition MP who owns the Agym newspaper was instrumental
in mobilizing rural dwellers as well as his supporters from Naryn province.
Most importantly, the opposition coalition received strong financial backing
from several prominent entrepreneurs, including Almazbek Atambayev, Omurbek
Babanov and Temir Sariyev. In addition, these wealthy oligarchs mobilized
supporters from their home towns in the North, employees of their vast holdings,
their relatives and friends.
The logistical capabilities demonstrated by the opposition sharply contrasted
with those exhibited by Bakiyev and his supporters. The president, like his
political opponents, attempted to tap into kinship and patronage networks. Only
Bakiyev's networks proved far less organized than the opposition's.
Several hundred Bakiyev supporters staged an anti-opposition demonstration in
Bishkek. But the majority of these protesters reportedly came from Bakiyev's
hometown in Jalal-Abad. Bakiyev and his allies also resorted to authoritarian
tactics, trying to force state employees, pensioners and students to turn out in
support of the government. Yet these tactics backfired, helping to swell the
number of opposition supporters, and, ultimately, force Bakiyev to cede some
presidential power to parliament.
There are good and bad lessons to be learned from the constitutional crisis and
its outcome. On the positive side, the events of early November in Bishkek
showed that a well-organized and peaceful protest movement in Central Asia can
accomplish desired change. It is especially noteworthy that the For Reforms
movement proved capable of bridging regional divisions in pursuit of a common
goal. The movement's success could prompt political elites in other Central
Asian nations to develop similar vertical and horizontal networks to challenge
The potential negative consequence is that the November events could accelerate
the trend known as "hyper-democracy," in which self-interested wealthy
actors rely on mass mobilization to promote their own narrow political and
Corruption investigation into the Akayev-era
Now that a constitutional crisis has subsided in Kyrgyzstan,
non-governmental organization activists and opposition politicians are again
mulling ways to revive a state investigation into the corrupt practices of
former president Askar Akayev and his family.
The constitutional crisis, which gripped Kyrgyzstan from November 2-9, ended
peacefully with the adoption of a new state framework enhancing legislative
checks upon executive authority. Just days before the start of unrest in Bishkek,
NBC News reported that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation had prepared a
report documenting Akayev's operation of a criminal network. The network's
reputed aim was to siphon state funds into the pockets of the former president,
as well as his family and friends.
The FBI report on Akayev's conduct reportedly raised questions about the fate of
over $100 million in Pentagon sub-contracts awarded to companies controlled by
Akayev family members. The two Akayev family-controlled entities supplied jet
fuel to US forces operating at a military base outside of Bishkek. Akayev was
ousted amid the March 2005 Tulip Revolution and now resides in Russia.
Although the FBI would not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation,
many Kyrgyz believed the NBC report, which echoed earlier reports published by
the New York Times and Financial Times. One of the demands aired by opposition
demonstrators at the outset of the constitutional crisis was the return of
property and funds allegedly embezzled by Akayev, along with his relatives and
political cronies. The restitution call was quickly overshadowed by the power
struggle between president and parliament. But now that a new system of checks
and balances is in place, the restitution issue may again claim the centre stage
Edil Baisalov, a member of the opposition coalition that led the recent
protests, told EurasiaNet in early November that both the United States and
Kyrgyzstan needed to pursue the claims of corruption more doggedly. "This
money could do great benefit to Kyrgyzstan," he said. "It is in the
interest of the Kyrgyz people and in the interest of the American people that we
find out what happened to it." In response to the NBC report, the Pentagon
said that all of its contracts followed procurement procedures established by
the Department of Defence and that they also conformed to US law.
Members of Kyrgyzstan's political opposition, particularly MP and former
Prosecutor-General Azimbek Beknazarov, have criticized the pace and scope of
ongoing Kyrgyz government investigations into Akayev-era deals. On November 2,
Beknazarov condemned the authorities' recent decision to drop several cases
against Akayev associates and questioned their commitment to fighting
corruption, according to news agency 24.kg.
Officials dispute allegations of inactivity. According to a briefing paper
prepared last summer and distributed by Prosecutor General Kambaraly Kongantiyev,
his office opened a total of 105 criminal cases against the former president and
his associates between April 2005 and June 2006, involving assets totalling over
US$46 million. As of mid-November, Kyrgyz courts had handed down decisions in 32
of those cases, leading to 12 guilty verdicts. Investigations of the remaining
cases have stalled, a source within the Kyrgyz law enforcement system told
The briefing paper cited several problems encountered by prosecutors, most
notably a "lack of experience in investigating corruption when the accused
parties include individuals from the highest echelons of power." The
document also noted that many suspected offenders are living abroad and
therefore beyond the Prosecutor-General's reach. "The [outstanding] cases
are complete; we just need to interview Akayev and his family," the law
enforcement source added.
Chances appear dim that the cases can be wrapped up quickly. Via informal
channels, the source said, Russia's Federal Security Service has told Kyrgyz
officials that the Akayevs will not be available for questioning anytime soon.
"They told us, in a friendly manner, that the Akayev family is under the
protection of the Russian president's security detail," the source said.
There is little that Bishkek can do to prompt a change in Moscow's stance.
"We're [just] a small country," the source explained.
Sheradil Baktygulov, an independent expert on corruption, said that these
factors, though important, were still "not the primary reasons" for
the slow pace of the investigations. Rather, Baktygulov said that the real
culprits are the corrupt networks that stayed in place after Akayev's departure.
Despite the occasional reshuffle or replacement of senior officials, he said,
"in principle, these are the same people, in the same positions, as those
who were there at the time of Askar Akayev."
Thoroughly investigating the alleged graft under Akayev, Baktygulov went on,
would involve a level of housecleaning that would leave many current officials
uncomfortable. "If the talk is about uncovering these informal structures,
then all of that stolen property would have to be returned to the state budget.
And who wants that?"
Meanwhile, Bermet Akayeva, the president's daughter, told the Ferghana.ru news
service that the NBC report was "absolutely groundless." She claimed
that reports about Akayev family corruption were "reanimated in order to
distract the general public from the [deteriorating economic] situation in the
FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS
Economic ties discussed with Iran - Kyrgyzstan
Iran's Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Davoud Danesh-Jafari, and his
Kyrgyz counterpart, Akylbek Japarov, met on December 5th in Bishkek to expand
mutual economic and trade relations, Interfax News Agency reported.
In the meeting, the two officials underlined the need for the implementation of
agreements according to the laws of the two countries including avoiding double
taxation, expanding customs cooperation and considering laws for support of
investment to increase mutual trade exchanges to 200 million Euro in the next
year. During the talks, Japarov said that the grounds have been created for
Iranian companies to participate in economic and construction projects including
road, housing and agricultural industries in Kyrgyzstan. For his part,
Danesh-Jafari referred to Iran's valuable experience in house, dam and
road-building, and the agricultural industry. He also declared Iranian
companies' readiness to implement such projects in Kyrgyzstan. Moreover, the two
ministers reached an agreement on establishing a branch of private Iranian bank,
Eqtesad Novin, in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan. They called for optimum use of
economic, commercial and trade potential to increase bilateral trade exchanges
in the coming year. Danesh-Jafari met a number of senior Kyrgyz officials,
including central bank governor and minister of trade, industries and tourism.
According to Iran's Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Mohammad Reza Sabouri, the Iranian
minister also called on the Central Asian country's president and prime
MINERALS & METALS
Four firms bid for Wolframite deposit
Four companies will compete in a tender for the right to develop the Kensu
wolframite deposit in Kyrgyzstan, senior official of the Kyrgyz State Agency for
Geology and Mineral Resources, Kadyrbek Kakitayev, said, Interfax News Agency
reported on November 13th.
The four are a Russian-Kazak company, a Kyrgyz-Chinese joint venture, a Japanese
company, and a Kyrgyz company, all of which purchased a package of geological
information about the Kensu deposit and filed bids by the November 10th deadline
set by the special commission in charge of the tender. The companies had until
December 8th to submit their programmes, which must contain calculations of
investment, production costs and the project's earning capacity, as well as a
scheme of financing and a certificate confirming financing opportunities to the
amount of no less than 20 million Euro, Kakitayev said.