Central Asia: Happened Before, Will Happen Again


April 20, 2010: In the outskirts of the Kyrgyz capital, over a dozen people (including police) were injured (one fatally) as ethnic gangs fought each other over a real estate dispute (between ethnic Kyrgyz, who took land from ethnic Russians and Turks). Kyrgyz also looted businesses and homes of the more prosperous Russians and Turks. So far, 130 have been arrested as police tried to calm things. That's not easy, Kyrgyzstan is a large place (200,000 square kilometers), with only 5.5 million people. The new government has a problem with thousands of government employees, especially those in the security services, who were hired mainly because of their loyalty to former president Bakiyev, and willingness to do whatever the boss asked. These people fear losing their jobs, or worse (prosecution or retribution). Prosecution will not be easy, as Bakiyev supporters burned buildings holding key records, in the days before Bakiyev resigned.  The new government has pledged to prosecute the many followers of Bakiyev, who participated in the widespread corruption and looting.

The new government expects Russia and the United States (who both have military bases in the country) to be generous, in part as penance for saying nothing as Bakiyev stole much of the money paid to Kyrgyzstan for those bases. At the time, the understanding was that Bakiyev would shut the bases if either Russia or the United States made a big deal about the stealing. Russia did have its state owned mass media run an anti-Bakiyev campaign in the last two months, which helped drive Bakiyev out. His leads many Kyrgyz  to believe that the new reform government was bought by the Russians, and will not be as reform minded as they say. The Russians are trying to use whatever influence they have on the new government to get the thousand American and NATO troops stationed at Manas air base expelled. The government is not inclined to do that, if the Americans offer enough money. Apparently they have, as the new government has offered to extend the American lease for another year.

Many Kyrgyz fear that the new government will quickly turn as corrupt as the old one. That's because loyalty to family and clan is very strong in Kyrgyzstan, and everyone knows it (although most would prefer not to dwell on it). These loyalties were made stronger during nearly a century of communist rule, when the Soviet bureaucrats were corrupt as well, and who you knew counted for a lot. Still does.

April 18, 2010: Bakiyev supporters in his hometown of Jalalabad (in the southwest) rioted, and took over a government complex and a television station. Like most corrupt rulers, Bakiyev favored (with jobs and economic opportunities) people he trusted most (family and those from his hometown). But Bakiyev has fled with his immediate family and a few close associates, leaving most of his supporters in a precarious position. Most will now lose jobs and access to opportunities, and some will be prosecuted for corruption and other crimes. Many of those rioting are local police, so the government has to bring in security forces from other parts of the country.

April 16, 2010: Former ruler of Kyrgyz Kurmanbek Bakiyev has left Kyrgyzstan, moving to neighboring Kazakhstan. The government provided the aircraft to move Bakiyev. Terms of his departure were negotiated with the new Kyrgyz government, the UN and European Union diplomats.


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