New Kyrgyz government faces immense challenges
Sun, 11 April 2010
By Antoine Lambroschini - Kyrgyzstan’s interim government may have more or less secured control, but faces a huge challenge to pull the corruption-ridden Central Asian country back from the brink of ruin. Angry protests gripped the capital Bishkek on Wednesday, with 76 people killed in clashes that forced President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to flee. The difficulties Kyrgyzstan’s new leaders face are illustrated by the state of official buildings: the government’s headquarters and the presidential offices have been sacked and pillaged, while the prosecutor’s office has been torched.
Getting an effective government up and running will also be complicated by a chronic shortage of cash. According to the country’s new leaders, the ousted president emptied the state coffers before fleeing, leaving it just some 16 million euros ($22 million). “The state coffers are almost empty. All the funds have been transferred. That is why we have frozen the banking system,” said Edil Baisalov, the new chief of staff for interim leader Roza Otunbayeva.
Her deputy in charge of economic affairs, Almazbek Atambayev, travelled to Moscow on Friday to try to receive urgent financial assistance to help the interim government meet the country’s most pressing needs. Added to this list should be assuaging the anger of the country’s disgruntled population, whose desire for fundamental change and to put an end to the nepotism led to the revolt.
“We should give a chance to the interim government, but every day it should be held accountable to the people, letting people know what it is doing today and what it will do tomorrow,” said Abdymutaly Parpiyev, a school principal who attended a memorial service on Friday for the 76 killed in the clashes held in front of the presidential offices. Otunbayeva announced on Thursday the highly symbolic measure of disbanding the country’s development and innovation agency.
Headed by Bakiyev’s son Maxim, the agency was at the heart of Bakiyev’s system of political patronage and siphoning off of government funds, prompting wags to call it the “Maximisation of the economy”. The interim government announced it plans to review every privatisation conducted during Bakiyev’s five years in power. It also said it plans to lower utility prices, another key grievance that fed Wednesday’s events. The interim government appeared to be in control of the streets of Bishkek on Friday, despite gunfire being heard overnight.
In the rest of the country the situation was calm, and even in the south of the country where Bakiyev has his power base, new authorities loyal to the interim government were installed, said Otunbayeva. But her chief of staff estimated that the “situation is very unstable” and fears that Bakiyev will stir up a civil war from the multi-ethnic south of the country, which has traditionally had very hostile relations with the north.
“Kurmanbek Bakiyev is seeking to push the country towards a civil war... he is trying to arm men, with his brother he is leading a propaganda campaign to split the country between the north and south,” said Baisalov. He said he fears Bakiyev’s supporters will even try to assassinate leaders of the interim government, which have offered him the chance to safely leave the country. But in an exclusive interview in his native city of Jalalabad, Bakiyev said: “My main goal is preventing conflict and civil war.”
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