A Protest, A Parade, and An Airbase

by Nathan Hamm on 5/22/2006 · 1 comment

The Kyrgyz opposition has another protest planned for this weekend–Saturday May 27, to be exact. It turns out that there’s a catch though. The military decided it wants to have a parade in the same place–Alatoo Square–at the same time.

Ismail Isakov denied the parade — meant to mark both Army Day and Border Guard Day — is aimed at disrupting the opposition’s plans, saying it was purely “coincidental” that the military parade and the antigovernment rally are to take place on the same site.

I’m sure it is just that–nothing but a coincidence. Never mind that the Defense Ministry announced the parade well after the protest was announced. And never mind that the two holidays in question fall not on May 27, but instead on May 28 and 29.

Somewhat related to this weekend’s protests in the minds of the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry is the news that a US delegation set to arrive to discuss terms for continued use of the Manas has delayed its trip. Why does the Foreign Ministry think there’s a link between the delay and this weekend’s protest?

Sources in the Foreign Ministry ascribe the non-appearance of the visitors to the fact that the Americans are waiting to see what the mass protests scheduled for May 27 end in. “They will make it clear if Bakiyev is prepared to accept a compromise of if he is going to insist on the previously announced price. Or else the Americans may be discussing the matter with the opposition,” a senior official of the Foreign Ministry said.

I have strong doubts that secret negotiations are going on with the opposition over the use of the airbase, but the quotation reveals quite a bit about where the heads of Kyrgyz officials are in regard to both the opposition and the United States.

Richard Boucher, who heads up South and Central Asian affairs for the State Department, touched on the base negotiations in an interview with RFE/RL.

They have asked us to look again at the costs — the burden on them, the cost to them of having this base there. We’ve agreed to do that. So we should be able to, I think in a week or two, send a team out to talk to the Kyrgyz government to talk about the cost of the base and our willingness to reimburse them for the cost of our presence there. I’m fairly confident we can reach a friendly solution on it.

He also said that it is too early to discuss a dollar figure. Between that and the “week or two” comment about when negotiations will take place, it seems that the June 1 deadline Bakiev threw out is not being taken seriously in Washington.

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– 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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{ 1 comment }

CXW May 27, 2006 at 10:02 am

And then, right at the last minute (well, the night before) the parade was cancelled – after 3 days of earnest rehearsals… Anyhow, the protest today was, inevitably, smaller than advertised/hyped – numbers peaked around 11.30 with around 4 – 5 thousand by my guestimate, and then trailed off as people found the sun a little too hot. Will be interesting to see if there’s similar attendance figure inflation like last time and how people think the protest went in terms of achieving the opposition’s aims. I’ll be posting over on the New Eurasia blog in a couple of days, once I’ve caught up with opinion and am back in Osh.

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