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June 15th, 2010, by Asher Pirt

Asher Pirt

View Asher Pirt’s GEF profile here

The violence in Osh and surrounding areas has claimed many lives. One estimate is that as many as 180 have been killed and hundreds wounded in violent clashes. The situation appears to be calmer but analysts point out that crowds still gather in the town centres and with many unemployed there is potential for further violence. Indeed, there is a great deal of resentment within a fractured community.

Everybody has a reason for the violence and why so many have been killed. The Provisional Government which came to power this April blame groups close to the former president Bakiev. However, the violence has taken on a form of vicious ethnic conflict. The underlying tensions between ethnic groups can be understood for a key factor for the intensity of the unrest in the area. Many commentators have remembered the violence in 1990 over the land dispute.

The fact that there has been a breakdown in effective security forces outside of Bishkek means that this was indeed a crisis waiting to happen. So blame can also be shared by the Provisional Government for its ineffective governance. The coming to power of the new Government in Bishkek has not led to a suitable political settlement. Until it really has gained legitimacy in all the Kyrgyz Republic’s regions through free and fair elections in October, it is likely that there will be further unrest and possible deaths.

It seems that the unrest started in a pub brawl and led to further individuals and their gangs getting involved. Uzbeks have been targeted and tens of thousands have fled to neighbouring Uzbekistan. If the violence continues between the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks it must questioned when the Uzbek authorities will feel the need to intervene. This will cause another significant crisis for the Provisional Government and lead to a partition of the country.

Whether the security forces sent to the region by the Provisional Government will be able to protect the innocent civilians and ensure security for them is something which is difficult to predict and their deployment cause more problems due to lack of training.  A reliable indicator that security has not yet returned is the fact that shops and business remain closed for fear of looting or further violence.

On 26 June a Referendum on a new Constitution is supposed to go ahead. However, with this violence would this really be wise? Indeed, the OSCE/ODIHR ROM Core Team must already be having significant doubts about the wisdom of deploying Short Term Observers in the country. However, the Provisional Government needs the OSCE Observation Mission to report that the new Referendum is legitimate. Whether a referendum which requires such a small turnout is legitimate is another question.

The OSCE will also be needed to return in October in order to report that those who are the future legislators entered Parliament through free and fair elections unlike Bakiev’s supporters in 2007.

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