Sunday, April 11, 2010

Confusion in the Kyrgyz Republic

Following up on the events in the Kyrgyz Republic, the cause of the successful revolt does appear to be grounded solidly on the intensity of anger, building up over the past three years, over the dashed hopes for reform ushered in by the Tulip Revolution. The latter revolt elevated the now ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to a leadership role that quickly degenerated into a kleptocracy of extraordinary magnitude spearheaded by his son, Maxim.

Maxim sold off the resources of the country and pocketed the funds for himself and his family. He sold water to Uzbekistan far beyond the Kyrgyz Republic's resources and electricity to, of all places, the Republic of Kazakhstan. The water sold could have been used to generate electricity rather than endure the twice daily power shedding that occurred in 2006 leaving even the capital, Bishkek, in the dark. He then raised electric rates by 170% as well as cell phone rates and pocketed that as well. In 2006 I witnessed his thugs cut down the surrounding two meter metal fence from the grounds on the Hyatt in retaliation for the hotel's refusal to increase his percentage ownership of the casino. The purported reason? So the public could visit the monument in the park without the need to pass security. The man needed to be removed - one way or another.

Bakiyev did nothing to stop the deterioration of the economy while indulging in conspicuous consumption and, on days he was bored, murdering journalists. Little has been done to find and punish the murderers of Alisher Saipov (killed in 2007), Almazbek Tashiev (2009) and Gennady Pavlyuk (also 2009). More than 60 cases of assaults on journalists have been reported since Bakiyev took control in 2005.

I am also sure that Moscow was not pleased after bribing him with a $2 billion loan channeled through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to close Manas airbase to NATO and then watching as the US outbid the bribe and he broke his promise to close the base and then suggested that he would give the US a second base.

This brings up the issue as to whether the revolt that toppled the government was aided by Russia. President Putin immediately called interim the president and promising support and aid. Meanwhile, in the US, the State Department in another example of saying too much when asked to comment implied that it was working with Bakiyev. Philip Crowley said,
We work with that sitting government. We have — as we’ve outlined in various reports, including the Human Rights Report — we have concerns about issues, intimidation by the government, corruption within the government…but that said, there is a sitting government. We work closely with that government. We are allied with that government in terms of its support for international operations in Afghanistan.
How about, "We urge calm and restraint on all sides to avoid further bloodshed". Period. Rumours are flying about in Bishkek, according to my former colleagues that Maxim has fled to the US. Not.Very.Helpful. Russia is viewed as helpful. The United States as a supporter of a corrupt regime.

Finally, domestic politics has played a key role. The country is divided between northern and southern clans. In 2005 as a result of the Tulip revolution, Bakiyev, a representative of the southern clans, came to power as president. That did not entirely please the northern clans, a feeling that was made worse as he failed to keep his promises including to avoid assigning his own clan to governmental positions and avoid press censorship . He did the opposite.

Apparently, the northern clans gave him an ultimatum about three weeks ago to remove his brothers and son from their positions. In response, he had opposition leaders arrested which lit the fuse of the revolution in Talas which then spread across the country to Bishkek. It was in Talas that the head of the interior ministry was found shot as well.

So, now Bakiyev has escaped south and has no support in the more powerful north. Buh bye Bishkek.

Now both the US and China are assessing the change. The US from a military standpoint and China from security and balance of power issues. Russia is the clear winner whether or not it supported or had any hand whatsoever in the revolution and continues its progress to rein in the former Soviet republics. Orange, Rose and Tulip revolutions have all been rolled back and perception always trumps the truth.

What will the new regime bring? Probably little change, although one can hope. Omurbek Tekebaev and Temir Sariev, the two most visible opposition figures, are the same people who were in power under both Akayev and Bakiyev. Both were reelected to parliament in 2005 in a fraudulent election that sparked the Tulip Revolution. Both retained their seats under Bakiyev, and Tekebaev served briefly as speaker in Parliament. In the 10 years they have been in politics, nothing changed and indeed became worse. It is unlikely they can or will change anything now.

No comments: