Kyrgyzstan 1 year after the people’s revolution By Asker Sultanov

BISHKEK – April 7, 2011, will be a sombre day throughout Kyrgyzstan as the country marks the first anniversary of the April People’s Revolution.

A minute of silence on Ala-Too Square will be observed with TV and radio stations ticking off the seconds. All motor transportation will halt and drivers will be asked to sound their horns.

The presidential press office has asked all mass media to refrain from broadcasting entertainment programmes April 7 to show respect for those who died in the name of democracy.

April 4-14 has been declared the anniversary of the uprising. Commemorations, lectures and forums about the significance of the revolution are being held across the country.

Authorities also plan to officially open an apartment building for families who lost loved ones in the April revolution.

The government of then-president Kurmanbek Bakiyev was overthrown because it failed to meet the hopes vested in it by the people, Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva said at a scholarly conference on the 2005 revolution that brought Bakiyev to power.

“The country’s socio-economic situation got much worse, and all this led to the events of
The honour guard still stands at attention as schoolchildren queue up to enter the history museum in April 2011. [Maksat Osmonoliyev]
April 6-7, 2010,” she said. “The main cause of (Askar) Akayev and Bakiyev’s overthrows was the long-unresolved contradictions between society and the government.”

A year of parliamentary government

The past year has seen some changes.

“The country had its first democratic elections, the parliament is responding instantly to public demands,
Smoke hangs over Bishkek’s Ala-Too Square during the April 7, 2010 protests. [Maksat Osmonoliyev file photo]
ministries have become more open, police work has improved, corruption has decreased,” Farkhod Kadyrbekov, spokesman for the Cabinet, said. “All these facts are verified by the international community.” But not everything is ideal, he conceded. April’s unrest left businesses in shambles and created land disputes and instability that led to June’s ethnic riots, which killed more than 400.

“Many problems exist, but the main thing is that they don’t go undiscussed and the government is working on them,” Kadyrbekov said. “Ignoring problems was the main failing of the previous governments.”

The Kyrgyz economy is “suffering serious problems, food prices are going up, the standard of living is going down and the investment climate is deteriorating,” said Alikbek Dzhekshenkulov, leader of the Pan-National Congress, which includes 20 opposition political parties and 15 NGOs.

One year later, Ala-Too Square has been repaired and is calm. [Maksat Osmonoliyev]
If the present leadership finds the strength to “decisively reject corrupt bureaucrats, turn away from small-group interests and conduct a national dialogue, negotiate with all of the country’s political forces and form a government of national accord, the situation might come under control,” he said.

Some expressed dismay.

“The government is creating only the appearance of changes, but in general the situation … has gotten worse,” said Choro Suerkulov, chairman of the April 7 Party. The Talas resident and his friends staged the first demonstrations last year in Talas and Bishkek.

“New and fundamental changes are necessary in this country,” he said. “Our country can’t survive a third revolution.”

All the members of April 7 will take measures this year to remember the revolution, he said.

“A convoy of 100 cars with a police escort will head from Bishkek’s Southern Gates to the Ata-Beyit memorial complex,” he explained. “Memorial services in honour of the fallen will take place there.” April 7 Party members will march to Ala-Too Square at 3pm to an obelisk built near the White House to remind officials of their need to keep the promises they made to the people, Suerkulov said.

Compensation delayed to some

The torched remains of the General Prosecutor’s office in Bishkek after the April 2010 uprising. [Maksat Osmonoliyev file photo]
Families who lost loved ones last April have received compensation of 1m KGS ($21,121) each, he said, but not all the injured – who numbered more than 1,000 – have gotten compensation.

“Right after the April events the tragedy in the south occurred,” he said. “All the compensation funds went to victims in the south.”

Begai Altynbekova lost her 29-year-old brother Tenizbek last April.

“He probably wasn’t thinking about the worst. He was part of a demonstration calling for changes that still haven’t happened one year after the revolution,” she said.

Her family received compensation, “However, we’re still dissatisfied because the situation in Kyrgyzstan hasn’t changed. Grocery prices keep going up, life is tough for ordinary folks, everything’s the same as it was – why did people die?”

Suzakbek Koshenbayev, who said he was injured last year in Ala-Too Square, hasn’t received any compensation, but maintains his revolutionary spirit.

“I’m glad that one year ago I took an active stance,” he said. “Since then, I’ve continued to participate in demonstrations.
One year later reconstruction of the General Prosecutor’s office proceeds slowly. [Maksat Osmonoliyev]
The police have begun paying more attention to people. Whenever I’m dissatisfied, I write to different government agencies. Formerly, nobody would answer, but now they call back, they solve problems.”

Talas resident Melis Choriyev, a teacher of Kyrgyz language and literature, was among the first demonstrators. On April 6, he and several hundred others headed to Talas’s main square to protest the system.

“For me personally, little has changed,” he said. “There’s still much to do, but I see no reason to stage another revolution. Relatively constructive people are in power. It’s not the people’s job to tear them down.”

Constitution offers hope
The ratification of a new constitution that enlarged the role of parliament and reduces the chance of creating an authoritarian, family-based government in Kyrgyzstan was one of the positive changes from last year, said American University of Central Asia political scientist Azamat Temirkulov.

“More than that, the fight against crime and corruption is not some show but is a real process with tangible results,” he said. “Progress is not as visible in the socio-economic sphere as it is in politics. But for such a short time, given our political instability, this government’s work can be called satisfactory.”

The coalition government took on serious obligations and is methodically trying to tackle its goals, he said.

“Among the negative changes, you can include the emotional stress that society suffered from April to June 2010,” he said. “The destabilisation damaged the economy, investors and working people fled, economic activity declined. But the main thing that suffered was harmony in society, and this was the most negative consequence of the change of government.”

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