Constitution Day, November 4, marked the beginning of a news campaign by official Dushanbe intended to portray the situation in Tajikistan in a more favorable light. In a speech broadcast on Tajik radio, President Imomali Rahmonov praised the citizens of Tajikistan for what he said was their desire to create a peaceful and democratic society. He also warned against efforts to create an Islamic state, stressing that Tajikistan will remain a "secular" and "law-based" country. The Tajik press simultaneously highlighted a public rally organized by the Movement for the Unity and Revival of Tajikistan that was held in the city of Hojent on November 10. Under the leadership of Atakhon Sayfulloyev, this organization is advocating regional support for President Rahmonov’s peace efforts and those of the National Reconciliation Committee (NRC).
In another effort aimed at demonstrating a return to normalcy in Tajikistan, the media is reporting daily of uninterrupted streams of refugees returning from northern Afghanistan to Tajikistan via Uzbekistan. To date, over 2,000 of the estimated 7,000 refugees in the Sakhi camp are said to have returned home by this route. (Tajik radio, November 10) A similar report noted that the UN World Food Program will begin distributing $4.2 million in aid next March, and emphasized that efforts to organize the distribution mechanism had gone smoothly. According to UN special envoy Gerd Deitrich Merrem, a conference has been scheduled for late November in Vienna, at which time donor-countries will coordinate their aid to Tajikistan. (Tajik and International sources, November 4)
The purpose of this flood of news from official Dushanbe is simple: to demonstrate to Tajik citizens and to the international community that Tajikistan is rebounding from its recent crisis. In reality, however, and despite some potentially positive developments, a wide range of problems remains unresolved. For example, Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, the first deputy chairman of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), is still not fully part of the peace process or the NRC. He remains skeptical both of the government’s intentions and of Russia’s continued presence in the country as a guarantor of security. His concerns are directed also at what are rumored to be conflicts within the NRC over the allocation of posts in a new Cabinet of Ministers. Demobilization could also prove a problem, as both the UTO and government military forces move in the coming days to begin assessing their respective strengths and to carry out a process of combining forces. How this will be done remains unclear.
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