Caught My Eye

by Nathan Hamm on 3/26/2005 · 3 comments

Sorry for the absence today, but life does sometimes intrude.

First up, an election date has been set. Kyrgyzstan will pick a new president on June 26. And, interim-president Bakiyev is quoted in the story as saying that the situation in Bishkek is calming down. More on the looting below.

IWPR has started a page for the lates news that you can find here. Inexplicably, the following excerpts that came in an email weren’t on the page when I took a look.

On the counter-protesters heading from Akaeyev’s hometown to Bishkek:

Up to 3,000 supporters of President Askar Akaev, who insists he is still head of state and is now reported to have flown to Moscow, were reported to be on the march and – by the afternoon of March 25 – to be nearing Bishkek.

The counter-protest began with demonstrations in Kemin, Akaev’s birthplace, apparently organised by his minister for emergencies and ecology, Temirbek Akmataliev, a close associate of his who has been sacked by the emerging opposition-run administration.

Crowds of people then split off from the demo and set of on foot, horseback and an assortment of vehicles. When they got as far as the town of Tokmok, residents panicked, closing their shops and dialing the police. People started gathering with the aim of preventing the marchers from coming into the town.

IWPR contributors attempting to take pictures of the march had stones thrown at them when people recognised them as photojournalists.

On the looting and chaos in the city. The looting is alleged to have been organized by Akayev supporters.

Police units supported by ad hoc “people’s militias” patrolled the main streets and neighborhoods. The crowds of people attempting to loot shops were smaller in numbers than the previous evening, and were quickly dispersed by police – who had been sanctioned to use firearms – and their civilian assistants.

One alleged looter was shot dead by a shop owner, and a second died of a stab wound. About 50 people were detained for looting.

Army soldiers were drafted in from a base at Koitash near Bishkek to help civilian units with security.

IWPR was told by a number of opposition sources that much of the looting so far had been instigated by figures from the Akaev administration who wanted to discredit the new leaders by creating unrest.

“We have proven evidence that the looters consist of gangs of thugs who were paid in advance and were organised by Akaev supporters,” said Edil Baisalov, leader of the NGO Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, adding, “I think that rule of law was re-established last night.”

Azima Rasulova, coordinator of the opposition youth movement Kelkel, said the same individuals alleged to have attacked protesters on March 24 had gone on to start the looting. “They had white [baseball] caps and according to our information, they were organised by some of the newly elected deputies. The same evening [March 24], eyewitnesses saw tough looking men wearing the same caps, breaking shopfront windows to let young people go inside.”

On reaction from leaders in the region:

Roza Otunbaeva, the Atajurt movement co-leader and former ambassador, said she would be getting down to work as interim foreign minister as soon as the new cabinet had been completely formed. She predicted that Kyrgyzstan would not shift away from its multi-polar approach to foreign relations.

If the official Uzbek statement fell short of an expression of delight, the same was not true of opposition and human rights activists in the country, who staged a demonstration on March 25 to celebrate “the victory of democracy” outside the Kyrgyz embassy in Tashkent. Many bore orange placards carrying messages of support.

The same day, the presidents of the two states whose bloodless regime changes have sometimes been seen as the blueprint for Kyrgyzstan’s “bloodless revolution” were meeting in Kiev.

Ukraine’s Viktor Yuschenko and Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia expressed solidarity with the people of Kyrgyzstan who they said were struggling for freedom and democracy. At the same time, Saakashvili insisted that neither Ukraine nor Georgia were “exporters of revolutions”.

RFE/RL has more on the regional reaction. Of particular interest to me:

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev offered his explanation of events in Kyrgyzstan to a group of business leaders in Astana today. He blamed ousted Kyrgyz President Akaev’s neglect of economic and social factors during more than a decade of rule. Nazarbaev said the Kyrgyz opposition was fueled by poverty and social ills, and the uprising made possible by lax security measures.

“It is absolutely clear that social and economic problems that accumulated for years in [Kyrgyzstan] have led to mass poverty and unemployment,” Nazarbaev said. “This sparked unrest in many parts of the country. The weakness of the authorities also played its negative role in allowing rioters and thugs to act as they pleased.”

Also from RFE/RL, Russia grapples with meaning of Akaev’s fall:

And even more from RFE/RL, China closed its border with Kyrgyzstan.

The semi-official China News Service announced in Beijing on 25 March that the Irkeshtam border trading station with Kyrgyzstan is closed and will remain so until 28 March, Reuters reported. The statement said there is “chaos” in Kyrgyzstan and that the trading post was closed “in order to guarantee the safety of passengers and goods.” A second trading station along the frontier nonetheless continues to operate.

China’s main concern with Kyrgyzstan centers on China’s own large and restive Muslim Turkic Uighur minority, which lives primarily in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. That province makes up one-sixth of China’s territory and borders on seven countries, including Kyrgyzstan, where the frontier is largely mountainous.

And finally, here’s NYT’s coverage

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This post was written by...

– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Sepra March 26, 2005 at 11:01 pm

Reuters also has the new interim government here

I’m working on a basic faq also, so if you have any suggestions, I’d be more than happy to hear them!

Curzon March 26, 2005 at 11:11 pm

Life does indeed intrude at times, does it not? Have a great Sunday!


Laurence March 27, 2005 at 4:19 am

Yes, Happy Easter Nathan! You deserve a holiday break!

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