Five years after popular tulip revolution, Kyrgyzstan is once again in the midst of protests, violent uprising, and instability. The revolution carried out on the tide of people’s dissatisfaction with corruption and deception of Askar Akaev’s family rule and with the purpose of bringing more equality and justice, unfortunately, did not help promote democratic and economic development in Kyrgyzstan.
Contrary to expectations, the new leaders set in place after the successful coup d’etat quickly forgot their popular slogans and became very much like the officials of previous regime by putting their self interests above national priorities and population’s wellbeing. In so doing, President Bakiev made 3 major mistakes.
First, his government actively persecuted many members of opposition groups, human rights activists, and journalists critical of his restriction of freedom of expression. Second, his son and relatives were appointed to powerful government positions in order to control investments and wealth in and out of the country. Third, the prices for public services and utilities were sharply increased adding an unbearable burden to already difficult living conditions of the majority of country’s population.
A country that strives to achieve steady and sustainable development must first provide freedom of expression and respect for different viewpoints. Then, proven specialists and experts young and old from all parties and parts of the country should be involved in high level administrative positions, so that society is invested in power sharing structures rather than split into North vs South or East vs West. Finally, government’s efforts should be constantly and transparently communicated to public, so it is clear what positive impacts are being achieved. In summary, it is crucial in matters of managing a country to pay serious attenttion to opposition’s voice, engage wide range of specialists in administration and certainly, show accountability towards public interests and wellbeing.
It seems like if these three mistakes take place at the same time and continue for a while, almost any nation will rise up against its “leadership.” In the context of Central Asia, for example, if we examine Uzbekistan, even though the opposition is crushed and government is being controlled by Karimov’s regional clan, the available natural resources and economic capacity have helped the ruling elite maintain its population’s living standards at a level not worse than before. The situation in Turkmenistan is pretty similar to this case. Kazakhstan seems to be better off based on these 3 criteria evaluation. Its abundant hydrocarbon reserves have helped the government provide improved econonmic opportunities and better living conditions for its population, opposition groups have been less harassed, and younger professionals educated abroad have been more involved in country’s leadership.
In the instance of Tajikistan, the oppression of opposition leaders and attacks on relatively independent media have become an ordinary thing and definitely, made the freedom of expression more resticted than before. The influence of president’s family members and regional favoritism in executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government has been out of control and the “government of the elderly” reigns. In addition, sky-high prices, involuntary contributions (not profit-oriented investments) for Roghun, and introduction of toll fees for roads have all increased public disapproval of Rahmon’s government to a dangerous level. Therefore, Tajikistan may be the next potential hot spot and land of instability. This time Kyrgyz people showed their impatience compared with over-patience of our nation. But everything has beginning and end to it and if “water keeps pouring, it will eventually overflow the bowl” as a Tajik proverb says.
However, no such violent uprising and regime change as in Kyrgyzstan is going to be easy or useful for Tajikistan since the lack of political stability causes tremendous harm to economic, social, and cultural life and inevitably halts progress for some time. So, it is the duty of everyone of us, above all President Rahmon and his top officials, not to let our country get into turmoil and chaos, but rather to strive hard to avoid making these three mistakes in governing the state. We need to learn from others, especially from our neighbors, and the people’s protests in Iran and now second time in Kyrgyzstan should be serve as good lessons.
Although, most of us desire to see a new, patriotic, well-educated, and strong-minded leader for the country, it is not yet for the best interest of our nation to resort to force and weapons or calling people to the streets in order to achieve this goal. We need to take a slightly different path and God willing, we will succeed.