Monday, June 21, 2010

Boris Petric: NGOs Responsible for Kyrgyz Chaos

After the 2005 Tulip Revolution, Kurmanbek Bakiyev quickly put an end to the advantages gained by some Uzbeks in Osh during the privatization period. These politico-economic entrepreneurs, of which Deputy Batyrov is a good example, were gradually marginalized. The Bakiyev brothers then set about gaining control of the economy, and encouraged other “Uzbeks” to monopolize major economic resources from the Akayev administration’s former protégés. Control of the economy passed into the hands of Bakiyev’s allies. These new economic leaders were soon required to set up various dummy companies benefiting the presidential entourage.

Events took another turn when Roza Otunbayeva came to power in April 2010. President Bakiyev’s allies in the Osh region were quickly dispossessed of the advantages they had enjoyed. The situation deteriorated rapidly and tensions arose between different groups which aspired to control economic activities. An Uzbek businessman, Aibek Mirsidikov, was murdered in mysterious circumstances. According to rumor, Mirsidikov was involved in Mafia and other criminal activities. He was closely linked to the Bakiyev family, and it was even said that the President’s brother put him in charge of the lucrative Afghan drug trade and reorganizing economic relations in Osh. The fall of President Bakiyev therefore led to a new politico-economic shakeup in the region. The current conflict was probably triggered by the rise to power of some politico-Mafia groups, and the fall of others. The groups that had flourished under the previous government were not willing to accept defeat. Adopting extremely violent tactics, they began settling scores, aided and abetted by the Bakiyev brothers. The extent of these retaliations meant the conflict finally took an interethnic turn.

This time, however, Kyrgyzstan does not seem to have the institutions required to restore order through legitimate force. Indeed, over the last few years, the country has dismantled its institutions as a result of international pressure. There is no real army or police force. Politico-Mafia groups organize largely social regulations. Battle between them for economic influence is linked to the political tensions. Despite having both Kyrgyz and Uzbek members, these groups have transformed their rivalry into a major interethnic conflict.

Obviously, Kyrgyz political leaders, especially Bakiyev, are partially responsible for the current conflict. However, international organizations and NGOs in Kyrgyzstan are also indirectly responsible. These organizations have been present in the country for over 20 years promoting a certain conception of society and political system. Their role in co-producing a policy that has exacerbated and strengthened ethnic differences instead of producing a common social contract should be questioned. Economic liberalization and Wilson-type democracies, promoted by international donors, have not led to social peace. Roza Otunbayeva, the muse of the Tulip Revolution and now President, seems unable to restore order. She has had to request assistance from Russian and international forces to fulfill one of the state’s primary responsibilities: the safety of its citizens. But we should question whether Kyrgyzstan is still a state or the incarnation of a new kind of political arena, which emerged in the last decade in different parts of the world. I propose to call this new political arena a globalised protectorate, where the governance of the political system is strongly embedded within transnational economic networks, NGOs and international organizations.