Friday, June 18, 2010
Central Asia’s strife
Few know where it is, let alone spell its name. But the story of Kyrgyzstan is the common, yet no less painful tale of the complexities of young nationhood, the dynamics of establishing governance and the complexities of forging unity among contrasting ethnic parties.
It is a chapter which even Indonesia has had to endure to solidify it’s existence as a plural democratic state.
Like many countries, Kyrgyzstan’s history can be traced to its colonial past of being annexed by Russia in the mid-19th century before breaking free in 1991 under conditions of political instability as a republic under the Commonwealth of Independent States.
After the ouster of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April, political stability has crumbled and tension has risen. Ethnic violence, especially in the southern part of the country, between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, has left more than 100 dead. Thousands of refugees have been reported to have fled toward the border with Uzbekistan. Ethnic Uzbeks make up about 15 percent of the 5.5 million population.
What is most disconcerting are the reports from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is that some of the violence was premeditated and coordinated.
Yet there does seem to be hope on the horizon. The presiding interim government has pledged that a national referendum on constitutional reform will go ahead on June 27. The referendum will help pave the parliamentary elections in October.
“We will fight to the last to ensure that the referendum takes place,” interim leader Roza Otunbayeva said.
More surprisingly it recently withdrew a request for a peacekeeping force, contending that violence was subsiding.
Despite these potentially positive developments, we urge the UN, the EU and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to remain vigilant.
In particular, Russia has a moral obligation to ensure that it can be at the ready to pacify conflicts that widen greater regional unrest. Moscow must be careful, nevertheless, that its potential presence is not perceived as a means of reasserting its sphere of influence as a former Soviet “colony”. The strategic importance of this Central Asian country should also not be lost on observers as it also hosts foreign military bases.
We further urge the establishment setting up of a “humanitarian corridor”, as proposed by the UN, to aid refugees affected by the unrest.
Experience has taught us that decisive preventive action can help avert a humanitarian tragedy in the making. The Jakarta Post Editorial