Central Asia: Water Wars


: Defense Security Cooperation Agency

July 12, 2010: The Kyrgyzstan government is investigating about a thousand people in the wake of last month's violence in the south (which left 309 dead and over 2,000 injured.) Property damage exceeded $70 million. But only 97 people have been arrested, and it's believed that those most responsible for the ethnic violence (of Kyrgyz against Uzbeks) have fled the country or are in hiding. The Uzbek minority has accused the government of half-hearted efforts to find and punish those responsible for the violence. The new government believes that there will be more violence in the south. This is largely because police and soldiers down south are still largely backers of ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, and fear prosecution. Many of the Bakiyev backers were gangsters, who paid off Bakiyev, and his cronies, for the right to smuggle drugs and engage in other crimes (like extortion). The government has asked the European Union (EU) for cash and other aid to assist in finding the guilty down south, and repairing the damage. The EU has agreed to help. This upsets Russia, which is not trusted by the new Kyrgyz government. Russia supported the recently ousted Kurmanbek Bakiyev (who came to power five years ago as an anti-Russian reformer, but soon went bad, and became chummy with Russia and anyone who would pay him to be friendly).

Kyrgyzstan, and other Central Asian nations, face a fundamental problem. Better medical care (especially public sanitation) and new technology have led to huge (more than fivefold) population increases in the past century. This is a dry region, and there isn't enough water to sustain such a large number of people. The Russians, who controlled the region for most of the last century, knew of the problem, and came up with several potential solutions (like diverting to the south, rivers that now empty into the Arctic Sea), but never implemented anything effective. Tensions will keep rising, as poverty and quarrels over resource disputes increase.

July 8, 2010: Russia sent 270 paratroopers back to Russia, after having been sent to the Kant airbase in Kyrgyzstan last month, to provide additional security.

July 3, 2010: A provisional president, Roza Otunbayeva, was sworn in. She will serve until late next year. By then,  national elections will have selected a new legislature and government. A former Soviet era official, the 59 year old Otunbayeva has been a Kyrgyz diplomat in the United States and Britain, and has consistently opposed corrupt officials. She got the presidency because most Kyrgyz trust her, and she promised not to run in the upcoming elections.

June 27, 2010: There was a 69 percent turnout for voting on a new constitution. About 90 percent voted yes. The major change with the new constitution is the use of a parliamentary republic (majority members of the legislature form a government).  Many who opposed the new constitution simply did not vote. There was no violence, which is a good sign.



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