JUMPING A CENTRAL ASIAN SHIP….
The cabinet of Kyrgyzstan President Askar Akaev resigned yesterday (May 22) after Kurmanbek Bakiev, the country’s prime minister, and Amanbek Karypkulov, head of Akaev’s administration, stepped down from their posts. The resignations followed a meeting of the country’s Security Council devoted to the findings of an official investigation into the clashes between police and protesters in the Aksy district this past March, which killed five people. Earlier this week, Akaev vowed to punish those officials found responsible for the Aksy violence, but also said the clashes were caused by those who had called for “insurrection,” acted illegally and tried “to split society”–a clear reference to the political opposition. Meanwhile, the trial of parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov, whose January arrest led to the Aksy clashes, is set to resume on May 24.
Meanwhile, protesters who had been blocking the Bishkek-Osh highway for over a week to protest parliamentary approval of a treaty ceding border land to China, lifted their blockade but warned they would resume it if they government does not meet their demands. They are demanding that the borderland treaty be annulled, those responsible for the Aksy killings be punished and the case against Beknazarov be dropped.
The political polarization and violence in Kyrgyzstan is further testimony to how the country has lost its reputation as a democratic bastion in autocratic Central Asia. Likewise, the Committee to Protect Journalists earlier this month named Kyrgyzstan as one of the ten worst places in the world to be a journalist. (The others were the West Bank, Colombia, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Belarus, Burma, Zimbabwe, Iran and Cuba.) The New York-based group accused Akaev of using “the threat of international terrorism as an excuse to curb political dissent and suppress the independent and opposition media.”