Kyrgyzstan

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CIA map of Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan (Кыргыз Республикасы) is a landlocked Central Asian nation, formerly part of the USSR, and bordering China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In April 2010, it underwent a popular revolution, ousting President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and installing a popular provisional government. Bakiyev resigned, with conditions; factions of the new government want to put him, and members of his family, on trial in Kyrgyzstan or an international court. [1]

There are border disputes with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan; and Uzbekistan. It lies along the classic Silk Road. [2]

Centred directly over Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Irs capital is Bishkek, with an approximate population of 1 million. The only country with U.S. and Russian military bases, the Manas International Airport, near Bishkek, is a civilian facility that also contains a major base supporting U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan.

Demographics

The population is 98% literate, with an average 12th grade education. Its 5 million citizens, with a 1.38% growth rate (2008 est.), are 75 percent Muslim, with 20% of the remainder Russian Orthodox 20%; 5% belong to other religions. Islam was introduced between the ninth and thirteenth century.

According to the 1999 census, the population, ethnically, is:

Classic history

By the thirteenth century, all the Kyrgyz groups were conquered by the son of Genghis Khan, and the Kyrgyz remained under Mongol rule until 1510. Russia conquered the Uzbek Quqon (Kokand) Khanate that controlled the country, in 1876, giving it control. Under Soviet rule, the Kyrgyz Republic "played a specialized, uneventful role as the supplier of agricultural products and specific mineral and military products. Until the 1960s, Russians dominated the republic’s government. Beginning in that decade, the accession of Kyrgyz politicians to high-level positions established the pattern of local patronage that still underlies politics in Kyrgyzstan."[3]

Economics

On becoming independent, Kyrgyzstan was progressive in carrying out market reforms such as an improved regulatory system and land reform. It was the first Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) country to be accepted into the World Trade Organization. Much of the government's stock in enterprises has been sold.

Drops in production had been severe after the breakup of the Soviet Union in December 1991, but by mid-1995, production began to recover and exports began to increase.

The economy is heavily weighted toward gold export and a drop in output at the main Kumtor gold mine sparked a 0.5% decline in GDP in 2002 and a 0.6% decline in 2005.

The government made steady strides in controlling its substantial fiscal deficit, nearly closing the gap between revenues and expenditures in 2006, before boosting expenditures more than 20% in 2007-08.

There has been continuing cooperation between the government and international economic organizations, focusing on a comprehensive medium-term poverty reduction and economic growth strategy. In 2005, Bishkek agreed to pursue much-needed tax reform and, in 2006, became eligible for the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative.

Progress fighting corruption, further restructuring of domestic industry, and success in attracting foreign investment are keys to future growth. GDP grew more than 6% annually in 2007-08, partly due to higher gold prices internationally, but growth is likely to decline from that level in 2009, due to declining demand and lower commodity prices in the wake of the international financial crisis.

The country has strong potential for hydroelectric power development and export, but this sector has not grown.

In May 2009, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development made a $20 million line of credit available for medium, small, and microloan business lending. [4]

Modern history and events

Independence

After independence from the former Soviet Union, President Askar Akaev established an authoritarian government, but was defeated in elections in the spring of 2005, won by prime minister Kurmanbek Bakiev. An opposition, under Bakiev, led to 2006 changes in the constitution, which strengthened parliamentary government. The political opposition organized demonstrations in Bishkek in April, May, and November 2006 resulting in the adoption of a new constitution that transferred some of the president's powers to parliament and the government.[2] This was called the "Tulip Revolution".

A Kyrgyz ambassador to the U.S. recounted, "My people's hopes have receded as our nation has steadily become more authoritarian. Kyrgyzstan may still be the most democratic nation in Central Asia, but the ways in which it differs from its more authoritarian neighbors are steadily being erased. Millions of Kyrgyz dream of a better, more democratic future". U.S. criticism of authoritarianism and encouragement of democracy gave them hope.[5]

Afghanistan War (2001-)

While Kyrgyzstan does not directly border Afghanistan, it hosted an important regional facility used by the United States for its Afghan operations, the Manas Air Base. The US calls it Ganci Air Base, after Peter Ganci, the Chief of the Fire Department of New York, killed in the 9-11 Attack in New York. The country recently asked the U.S. to leave, with a final parliamentary vote on February 19, 2009, [5] although this may be under reexamination.

In 2002, the U.S. deported two Uighurs, suspected of being members of the East Turkestan Independence Movement, for planning terrorist attacks in Kyrgyzstan, including on the U.S. Embassy. The Ferghana Valley remains troubled by insurgency.

According to a past Kyrgyz Ambassador to the United States, his country had many reasons for wanting the base. Kyrgyzstan saw common security interests with the U.S.: "Fifty of our uniformed servicemen had been killed from 1999 to 2001 in gun battles with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (UIM), an organization that formally allied itself with al-Qaeda and that operated out of bases in Afghanistan it maintained with al-Qaeda and Taliban support." U.S. operations against al-Qaeda and the Taliban also benefitted Kyrgystan...allied forces dealt the IMU a devastating blow... The U.S. commitment to end those operations corresponded with the national security interests of my country. "Contrary to news reports, he said, the reason for asking the U.S. to leave was not principally due to Russian pressure. Once the air base opened, however, the broad engagement between the two countries came to focus only on the base. [5]

After the 9-11 attacks, the U.S obtained a good deal of regional cooperation for operations in Afghanistan. According to Andrew Hoehn of the RAND Corporation "And at that time, on a fairly urgent basis, relationships were forged with Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan so as to be able to use air facilities, airfields in both countries. It was at Karshi-Kanabad in Uzbekistan and at Manas in Kyrgyzstan." Jason Lyall, of Princeton University, said "It moves about 500 tons of cargo and supplies every month and about 15,000 people transiting through there every month as well. And on the refueling side it is really, really important for aircraft that are flying over Afghanistan both for search and rescue missions, say for downed pilots and things of that nature, as well as for bombing raids." Last year, more than 11,000 aircraft were refueled over the skies of Afghanistan by tankers based at Manas.[6]

Uzbekistan, in 2005, closed Karshi-Kanabad airfield; VOA reported this as due to Russian pressure. VOA, however, reported that Russia certainly played a role in the Kyrgyz base-closing decision.

Manas issues

Manas (Kyrgyz Манас) is the hero of the Manas epos — possibly the longest epic poem known to mankind. The epos was historically only transmitted orally and continues to do so (there is even a profession devoted to this, the Manas-chi) despite other media being available now. It is widely regarded as the central piece of Kyrgyz culture and heavily referenced in all blends of Kyrgyz art. For these reasons, the name Manas has found multiple reuses, including schools, a square in central Bishkek, the capital's airport, and a military base used by the U.S. military during their operations in Afghanistan.

Expressing concerns for the security of Kyrgyz citizens, President Bakiyev cited the incident of the killing of a Kyrgyz citizen, in 2006, by a U.S. airman. The airman was transferred out of Kyrgyzstan, and the dead man's family was offered compensation. United States Central Command commander GEN David Petraeus said, in January an investigation into the death was being reopened. In announcing the base closure, Bakiyev said he was not satisfied with the inquiry and that his government's "inability to provide security to its citizens" was proving a serious concern.

The Kyrgyz government has said it is closing the Manas base to the U.S. Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State, called the closing "regrettable", "regrettable," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, but it won't affect the U.S. military effort in nearby Afghanistan. Russia opened a base in Kant, Kyrgyzstan, in 2003. CNN reported that Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, said it would assist the U.S. in transporting nonmilitary cargo to Afghanistan. [7] A Defense Department spokesman, Geoff Morrell said it was "a hugely important air base...It provides us with launching point to provide supplies in Afghanistan. We very much appreciate [Kyrgyz] support in using that base, and we hope to continue." He said there are 18 months in which the lease could be renegotiated, before it expires and hopes Kyrgyzstan will reconsider their position.

The situation was unclear in early 2009, but Bakiyev eventually signed an agreement On April 29, Morell said there is "reason to hope." Prime Minister Igor Chudinov, however, said "Not a single government official has been authorized to hold such negotiations... No one. I have no information about any such negotiations. Omurbek Tekebaev, leader of the Ata-Meken opposition party, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that talks are underway, and "According to information I have received, the U.S. military presence in Manas air base will be prolonged for another three years." Economics, especially increased aid from Russia, were cited; Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said the U.S. would be willing to pay more. [8]

The Kyrgyz parliament, in February 2010, voted to end the arrangement, influenced by Russian pressure. Disagreement was led by was former parliamentary speaker and opposition leader Omurbek Tekebaev.
We have to probably renegotiate the Manas basing agreement, because it was the opposition that pressured Bakiyev into renegotiating in the first place," said Alexandros Petersen, senior fellow with the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council. "The leading opposition figures are not anti-American or more pro-Russian than anyone else in Kyrgyzstan, but because they led the drive to raise the rents they might have to reopen negotiations for political reasons." [9]

Economics development

Kyrgyzstan also hoped to benefit economically from the base, a wish that was never hidden, but never really materialized. The local government saw U.S. cooperation on a number of fronts: "security concerns, economic concerns, and advocacy of human rights and democracy. But once the base was established, it became clear that while other concerns might be voiced from time to time, only one thing really mattered: the air base. In the end, this shift served neither country's interests." There were also tensions about a U.S. shooting of a Kyrgyz citizen, with a U.S. response that left the locals concerned about U.S. candor.[5]

Still, economics seem a major factor. Quoting Robert Legvold of Columbia University, "It would appear to be more than a coincidence that the decision was announced to the Americans in Moscow when (Kurmanbek) Bakiyev, the president of Kyrgyzstan, was in Moscow and immediately after he'd received this large package of aid, a $2 billion credit and a $150 million grant. That appears to be more than a coincidence, not the least since we know that the Russians have been urging both the Uzbeks and the Kyrghyz to set a deadline by which the Americans should be removed from the base, or by which the outsiders should be pushed out of the central Asian facilities." One of the issues is that Kyrgyzstan wants to raise the lease price to the U.S. to an $17 million, as part of an overall $150 million economic package to Bishkek.

A key question for the U.S. is how much the logistic benefits are worth to the U.S. Michael Williams, of the University of London, said the base has recently become even more important. "Given the fact that the current supply routes run from Pakistan and they come from Karachi, from the sea, all the way up the country into southern and eastern Afghanistan. And given the insecurity, both in the provinces of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan and in southern and eastern Afghanistan, it has been quite difficult ensuring regularity of supplies. NATO has had several convoys attacked. Several hundred NATO vehicles were destroyed in a single ambush a few months ago." [6]

For at least a year, Russia has been critical of Bakiyev, when his government took $300 million of Russian money with the understanding that Manas would be closed. Newsweek reported that Bakiyev reneged on the understanding, increased the American rent, and made a sworn enemy of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. "Neither Russia nor your humble servant have any links to the events in Kyrgyzstan. When Bakiyev came to power a few years ago he severely criticized his predecessor for nepotism—and now I have the impression that Bakiyev stepped on the same rake."[10] A significant part of Kyrgyz revenues come from the 800,000 Kyrgyz migrant workers in Russia, whose contributions reduced when the Russian economy sank in the worldwide recession. [11]

Political changes

In December 2006, the Kyrgyzstani parliament voted to adopt new amendments, restoring some of the presidential powers lost in the November 2006 constitutional change.[2] Since then, economic mismanagement left the country, expected to be a net exporter of electrical power, in a power crisis.[5]

By late-September 2007, both previous versions of the constitution were declared illegal, and the country reverted to the 2003 constitution, which was subsequently modified in a flawed referendum initiated by Bakiev. The president then dissolved parliament, called for early elections, and gained control of the new parliament through his newly-created political party, Ak Jol, in December 2007 elections.[2]

2010 disturbances

In the first quarter of 2010, protests had been building against Kurmanbek Bakiyev's government for weeks, but the situation broke into violence in April.UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking to the Kyrgyz Parliament on April 3, said
For the United Nations, the protection of human rights is a bedrock principle if a country is to prosper. Quite frankly, ladies and gentlemen, recent events have been troubling, including the past few days. I repeat: all human rights must be protected, including free speech and freedom of the media. I also urged the president to orient his policies to promote the democratic achievements of Kyrgyzstan, including its free press,[12]
The dynamics are unclear, although one Western interview with Edil Baisalov, a former Kyrgyz opposition leader and participant in the events of 2005 who has been in exile in Sweden but is returning, obtained the comment,
The events of today don't look very nice on TV. We don't have the flavor of the Orange Revolution (Ukraine). We don't see peaceful European protesters standing in the square holding candles. Despite our efforts to organize a national movement around civil resistance, this was a bloody uprising. It was clearly provoked by the regime and arrest of opposition leaders this week." [13]
Paul Quinn-Judge, an International Crisis Group analyst, based in Bishkek, said, from Tajikistan that it is unwise to think of current events through "Color Revolution"-tinted glasses.
We're not dealing with a revolution, and if anyone starts calling it a revolution in the next couple of days, we're going to have to slap that down," he said. "The unrest is spontaneous, and largely disorganized, which is very bad news.
Quinn-Judge, who was Time magazine's Moscow bureau chief from 1996-2006, further said,
The ‘Tulip Revolution' wasn't a revolution. It was we journalists who called it that, or at least allowed our editors to call it that, who are to blame for that distortion of history.
It was first described as a coup than a popular revolution. Quinn-Judge said "It was a fairly well-crafted, concerted extra-constitutional reshuffle of the government whereby some key former members of the government pushed out the government." [13] In a subsequent paper published by both ICG and the International Herald Tribune, Quinn-Judge commented that while government troops, at first, fired on demonstrators,
the people fought back, and the lid blew off the regime.

This has happened time and again in recent history, but we still seem surprised by it. A stable but undemocratic regime with a lavishly funded security machine suddenly crumbles when the foot soldiers decide they are not going to die in a ditch for the leader.

It happened in Saigon in 1975, when South Vietnamese special forces who were expected to fight to the end stripped off their uniforms in the street and went home; in Manila in 1986 when Ferdinand Marcos’s elite Presidential Security Command dissolved under popular pressure; in Moscow in 1991, when elite troops decided not to support a coup. [14]

Russian reactions

Russia increased security at its base at Kant, Kyrgyzstan, according to Chief of the Russian General Staff, Nikolay Makarov, who is with President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev at an arms control meeting, with President Barack Obama in Prague. Novosti reported that Bakiyev had left Bishkek for his stronghold in the southern part of the country, and the head of the provisional government, former Foreign Minister Roza Otunbayeva, said it now controlled the situation in four out of seven regions but Bakiyev was trying to rally support.[15] At the meeting, Michael McFaul, Special Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director for Russia and Eurasia denied the unrest was a Russian coup, saying The people that are allegedly running Kyrgyzstan and I emphasize that word because it's not clear who is in charge right now -- these are all people that we've had contact with for many years. This is not some anti-American coup. That we know for sure and this is not a sponsored by the Russians coup" [16]

On a Russian radio station, Bakiyev said "I am the elected head of state and I do not accept any defeat." Otunbayeva said she was now head of a temporary caretaker government after Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov signed a letter of resignation, and told Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty, she would "coordinate an interim administration for at least six months until a new constitution is drafted that would pave the way for 'fair' presidential and parliamentary elections"[17]

Otunbayeva, who is reporting on Twitter as @otunbayeva, spoke with Putin on 8 April, thanked him for Russia's "significant support" in exposing what she called Bakiyev's crimes and said Kyrgyz officials would be coming to Moscow to discuss Russian aid.[18]

While Otunbayeva said, on Echo of Moscow, "These treaties were signed in their time, taking into account those circumstances. They have a definite term. It is frivolous to say that we are going to chase out any bases, as some rumors have already said. Give us time to look around. I think that our decisions will be weighed, and they will serve the interests of our republic." Omurbek Tekebayev, who is responsible for constitutional matters in the provisional government, told Reuters that because of Russian support for the coup, "there is a high probability that the duration of the U.S. air base's presence in Kyrgyzstan will be shortened." [11]

Tekebayev, now a member of the interim government, said that in “the event of conflict, Russian troops could participate in bringing peace”. While Otunbayeva said “We have a range of needs, above all oil products, and we need finance,” which would be addressed by Russia, and Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin had promised help in the "difficult times; Russia was important and remains important for us.” With respect to the change of government, she said "I would not say that Russia took part."

Relations with Bakiyev

She did say her government would not negotiate with Bakiyev, and talking to Russian news agencies, said
“Today three bombs were defused. All this is being set up by Bakiyev’s forces. They do not intend to surrender. There are a lot of people with fat wallets that they filled under the former government. They are giving guns to mercenaries. You can see the flare-ups of violence across the city.[19]

The interim government issued arrest warrants for the president’s sons, Maxim and Marat, and his brother Zhanybek. Baitemik Ibrayev, its general prosecutor, said investigators had “testimonial evidence that these people gave orders to shoot” during the violence this week. [19] Bakiyev, in his resignation letter, said he realized his the responsibility for the future of the people, for the preservation of the country's unity, in accordance with article 50 of the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, he resigned. [1].

Reuters said "Bakiyev, in Belarus after fleeing Kyrgyzstan last week, claims he is still president. The interim government says he has resigned, but has not appointed a replacement."[20]

Plans for reform

The UN sent a special envoy, Jan Kubis, former Slovakian foreign minister and a former secretary general of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).[21]

Omurbek Tekebayev, deputy prime minister for constitutional matters, told Reuters "A referendum will take place on June 27 and parliamentary elections on October 10, possibly jointly presidential. The government has approved the timetable." He described a plan to create a parliamentary republic, with reduced presidential power and strong checks and balances.[20]

2010 elections

The parliamentary elections were held successfully, and considered fair and democratic by outside observers. It is less clear, however, if the country can successfully organize a multiparty government, since the five parties that polled over 5 percent all are in opposition to the interim government of Roza Otunbayeva. The leading opposition party is the Ata Zhurt, which supports deposed president Kurmanbek Bakiyev.[22]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Kyrgyzstan Confirms President's Resignation", Voice of America, 16 April 2010
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved on 2009-02-11.
  3. Martha Brill Olcott, ed., Kyrgyzstan: A Country Profile, Federal Research Division, Library of Congress
  4. EBRD supports Kyrgyz economy with $20 million credit for small and micro lending, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, May 8, 2009
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Baktybek Abdrisaev (February 20, 2009), "Last Flight Out of Kyrgyzstan: How the U.S. Lost a Vital Air Base", Washington Post
  6. 6.0 6.1 Andre de Nesnera (14 February 2009), "Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan is Major Hub in Afghan War Effort", VOA News
  7. "Clinton: Kyrgyzstan base closure decision 'regrettable'", Cable News Network, February 6, 2009
  8. "U.S. Says Talks On Extending Manas Lease Progressing", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, April 29, 2009
  9. Josh Rogin (April 7, 2010), "U.S. base in Kyrgyzstan at risk (again)", Foreign Policy (magazine)
  10. Owen Matthews (7 April 2010), "Despotism Doesn’t Equal Stability", Newsweek
  11. 11.0 11.1 Philip P. Pan, Craig Whitlock and Peter Finn (8 April 2010), "Amid violent protests, Kyrgyz opposition establishes interim government", Washington Post
  12. Jim Heintz (3 April 2010), "Ban sharply chides Kyrgyzstan on human rights", Associated Press
  13. 13.0 13.1 Joshua Keating (7 April 2010), "It’s Not a Revolution: Whatever just went down in Kyrgyzstan, one thing in clear: this isn't how it was supposed to happen.", Foreign Policy (magazine)
  14. Paul Quinn-Judge (11 April 2010), "Kyrgyzstan: "When Patience Runs Out"", International Crisis Group and International Herald Tribune
  15. Russia sends paratroopers to its airbase in Kyrgyzstan - General Staff, Novosti Press Agency, 8 April 2010
  16. "U.S. says Kyrgyz events not Russian-backed coup", Reuters, 8 Apr 2010
  17. "Kyrgyz President Won't Back Down, As Opposition Claims Power", Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty, 8 April 2010
  18. "Future of U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan remains uncertain", USA Today, 8 April 2010
  19. 19.0 19.1 Isabel Gorst and Catherine Belton (9 April 2010), "Kyrgyz interim leader asks for Moscow aid", Financial Times
  20. 20.0 20.1 "Kyrgyzstan to hold election on Oct 10", Reuters, 22 April 2010
  21. "U.N. head sends special envoy to Kyrgyzstan", Reuters, 8 Apr 2010
  22. Fred Weir (13 October 2010), "Ambiguity surrounding Kyrgyzstan elections raises fresh concern of instability", Christian Science Monitor