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Friday, April 30, 2010

Roza Otunbayeva

Written a few days ago, while access to certain internet sites was blocked.

Today is April 28.  Mere weeks ago on April 6 and 7 there was an anti-government demonstration in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan.  Government forces at the “White House” opened fire on the demonstrators and some 86 were killed.  Now the interim government is in control of all seven “oblasts” [provinces] of the country and is planning for a referendum on a new constitution, for parliamentary elections and a presidential election.  Today, we met with the head of the interim government – Roza Otunbayeva, former Kyrgyz ambassador to the US and Canada and former foreign minister of the Kyrgyz SSR.

A dynamic woman with deep credentials, both Soviet and post CIS, Otunbayeva gave the Harvard Alumni Travel group about 45 minutes of her time.  She spoke about the need to break the model of clan rule of the last two presidents and to move the country to a parliamentary system with a weaker president and more incentives for the many political parties to work together.  Today, the interim government published the proposed new constitution.  She is also a proponent of transparency and the need for a fast but peaceful transition to a civil society.  On the immediate practical side, she talked of the need to pay people on time and keep public services going.  Just before meeting with us, she had met with the parents of the young people who were shot a few weeks ago and responded to their demands for justice and extradition of President Bakiyev, now in exile in Belarus. 

Since the interim government will exist [barring unforeseen new coups d’├ętat] for six months, when new elections will take place, Otunbayeva has a lot on her plate.  Among other things, she wants to clean up the hydroelectric industry, where corrupt administrators have skimmed off a least 40% of revenues.  As for US military base near Manas International Airport, they had just received a copy of the agreement between the US and the prior government and are studying it – President Bakiyev had either taken it and other documents with him or it was among many government documents that were burned during April 6 and 7.  Otunbayeva said that they had so many things to do before all the elections, that the status of the base was not a short-term priority and that there would be time to deal with it later and before its expiration date.     During our meeting, she only mentioned Russia once in connection with its endless market for Kyrgyz fruit and vegetable exports; she never mentioned China.

PS – Otunbayeva declared that in six months she expects all restrictions on TV, press and other communications to be lifted.  So, may be, if I were to be back in November, the Internet website blocks I’ve been experiencing will be over.

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