Kyrgyzstan + 1 more

Hearing: Instability in Kyrgyzstan - the International Response

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WITNESSES:

ROBERT O. BLAKE, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

ARSLAN ANARBAEV, CHARGE D'AFFAIRES, EMBASSY OF THE KYRGYZ REPUBLIC

MARTHA OLCOTT, SENIOR ASSOCIATE, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE

BAKYT BESHIMOV, VISITING SCHOLAR, MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

THE HEARING WAS HELD FROM 2:30 TO 3:39 P.M. IN ROOM 210 CANNON HOUSE OFFICE

BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C., [REP. ALCEE L. HASTINGS (D-FL), MODERATING]

TUESDAY, JULY 27, 2010

REP. ALCEE L. HASTINGS (D-FL): Mr. Pitts, thank you very much for being here.

I'd like to open our hearing. Now, you all seem so far away. My goodness, I'm not accustomed to this hearing room. What is this here?

Anyway, welcome to the hearing on Kyrgyzstan. The country has been much in the headlines since the bloody uprising that brought down a president in April. In June, ethnic clashes in the south drew sad headlines all over the world. Apart from analyzing the causes of these events, this hearing is proposed to examine the prospects for better news in the future for Kyrgyzstan.

I've been to Kyrgyzstan several times and, considering how much promise the country held in the '90s, its arc since then has been marked by disappointment.

In Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan had the most highly developed civil society and seemed headed for democratic development.

But corrupt authoritarian rule, sadly typical of many states around the world and some of the post-Soviet states, led to clashes between the authorities and a civil society willing to defend its freedoms and prerogatives. The '05 Tulip Revolution that led to the ouster of former President Akayev brought no relief.

The tenure of his successor, President Bakiyev, was marked by centralization of power and even worse corruption, flagrant human rights violations and the criminalization of politics.

When demonstrations finally rose up against the regime in April of 2010, they were met by gunfire. Dozens died, ushering in a bloody beginning to a new chapter in Kyrgyzstan's post-Soviet history. The interim government which came to power after President Bakiyev's flight knew firsthand the defects of top-down presidential rule. They decided to create a parliamentary system with checks and balances and announced plans to hold a referendum on constitutional changes along these lines.

However, on June 10, there was an outbreak of savage violence in several southern cities between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. In the worst interethnic bloodshed in decades, hundreds - and I'm not sure of the number. There are witnesses here who may give us a better idea as to how many people were killed or sometimes butchered, even, in the most horrific manner. And about 100,000 people led to Uzbekistan, while 400,000 in all were displaced.

Nevertheless, the referendum went ahead on June 27, passing by wide margins, according to official tallies. As a result, Kyrgyzstan is going from a presidential to a parliamentary republic. The head of the interim caretaker government, Roza Otunbayeva, who was ambassador to Washington in the early '90s, is now the president for a transitional period, until 2012.

Mr. Secretary, I might add, she came to one of our OSCE Parliamentary Assembly meeting before these matters reached their head and was appealing tremendously to us to try and take actions. It was interesting to know how much energy she put in it. And it gives me hope that the OSCE may be able to play a substantial role.

Today, thankfully, the situation seemingly is more stable, but where we go from here is uncertain. Kyrgyzstan is the only country in the region to shift the balance of power to its parliament and how the experiment will fare is difficult to predict. But we, at least, are well-acquainted with the problems that centralized and corrupt presidential rule has produced. Equally unclear is how well the country will manage to reconcile its citizens of diverse nationalities, which will be critical if long-term stability is to be achieved.

Our witnesses are superbly qualified to help elucidate the situation for us.

But before turning to them, I would invite my fellow present panelists and my cosponsor - me being cosponsor of this resolution with reference to Kyrgyzstan - Congressman Pitts, to have any remarks he might wish to make.