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KYRGYZSTAN: Civil war fears

15-04-2010

BISHKEK, (IRIN): Residents in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, and some analysts say the threat of civil war is looming in the Central Asian country after thousands of protesters forced the government to resign and President Kurmanbek Bakiev to flee the capital.

Galina Vlasenko, a Bishkek resident, told IRIN she feared the beginning of a civil war. "They showed on TV how Kurmanbek Bakiev said at a demonstration in Jalal-Abad [capital of a southern province with the same name] that if there is an attempt to detain him he won't surrender and will use weapons. We are all afraid because there might be bloodshed and then civil war," she said.

Amatova Sonunbu, 48, from Jalal-Abad Province, said she heard that his supporters were trying to organize a demonstration and gather people from the provincial capital and nearby villages. "I am afraid that there might be a split between the north and south of the country," she said.

Anarbek Jusupov from the northern town of Karabalta hopes a civil war does not happen. "So many young people were killed. I think the opposing sides will have enough wisdom, will and patience to find a compromise," Jusupov said.

On 13 April Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Kyrgyzstan might plunge into civil war and become a "second Afghanistan".

Bishkek-based analysts say the threat of violence and civil war is real since Bakiev has not left the country and did not resign.

"There is a threat of destabilization in the country and one of the possible scenarios is civil war," Kadyr Malikov, head of the independent Religion, Law and Politics analytical centre, told IRIN.

"The interim government should urgently make a decision regarding Bakiev's status. While people are demanding justice for the killing of unarmed protestors, they [the interim government] must think about creating a corridor so Bakiev can leave the country. But that [departure of Bakiev] might mean the end of the interim government; people wouldn't agree with that," he said.

North-south rivalry

Currently, the south of the country and particularly people in Jalal-Abad Province are taking a passive stance, said Malikov.

"Bakiev is from a local 'Teyit' tribe and according to tribal traditions it is a shame for the whole tribe not to protect someone from the tribe," he said.

Politics in Kyrgyzstan is based on clans and there has been a historic rivalry between the north and the south and the clans that represent them.

Kyrgyzstan's first president, Askar Akaev, who ruled the country for more than a decade until he was ousted in public protests in 2005, represented the north. At the time leaders of southern elites suggested it was the south's turn to have the top job.

Bakiev's supporters may try to use the north-south rivalry to gain support. "Therefore, as long as Bakiev is in Kyrgyzstan we can't talk about stability," Malikov said.

Marat Kazakbaev, another local analyst, thinks civil war is a possibility. "However, the risk is not huge," he said.

"President Bakiev does not have [many] supporters apart his relatives and people from his ancestral village in Jalal-Abad whose number is probably around 2,000 people. He does not have country-wide support. People will not forgive the deaths in front of the Government Building [in Bishkek], the beatings and shooting at people by security forces in Talas and Naryn," he said.

He said there were two options: Bakiev should leave the country or be brought to trial.

Political scientist Alexander Kniazev does not exclude the possibility of a civil war, but said there was a low probability of this happening "because ex-president Bakiev does not command strong country-wide support."

Economic factors

Mirlan, 25, from Osh, the country's second largest city which is in the south and was considered one of the centres of Bakiev's powerbase, said he did not support Bakiev.

"I was not happy with his government's policy and decisions to increase the tariffs on electricity. For example, my electricity bill in December was 1,200 soms [US$27]. In January, after the rise, I paid 2,500 soms [$56], and 2,600 soms [$58] in February. It has more than doubled. I am doing kind of OK as I have a small workshop. But what about those who don't have jobs or are pensioners? It was a real blow to them," he said.

"The price of petrol increased by at least 25 percent and other things went up by a similar amount. Would you be happy if you faced such things? They say that the president's younger son controls all major businesses in the country."

A local businessman who preferred anonymity said the regime went too far. "You need to give people jobs and keep their stomachs full. Otherwise, if they are hungry and angry this is what happens," he said.

According to the World Bank, Kyrgystan's annual gross national income per capita was $780 in 2008.

The National Statistics Committee of Kyrgyzstan said in an 8 April update [http://www.stat.kg/rus/express.pdf] on major socio-economic indicators that the average monthly salary in the government sector was about $135.

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