At 3 pm on May 13, just a couple of hours before he would be ousted from office, Bektur Asanov, the provisional governor of Kyrgyzstan’s southern Jalal-abad province, appeared calm and unaware of looming danger. He even insisted that the provisional government faced no threat of a counter-strike by supporters of Kurmanbek Bakiyev, whose administration collapsed in early April.
The ability of social networking platforms to mobilize anti-government protesters is a well-documented phenomenon. But in the aftermath of recent political unrest in Kyrgyzstan, social networks also have proven themselves a useful tool for maintaining order, and for helping the victims of violence.
Inter-ethnic tension has spiked in Kyrgyzstan’s southern capital Osh, which is home to a large ethnic Uzbek minority. The lack of Uzbek representation in government agencies and law-enforcement bodies is the main source of discontent.
Kyrgyzstan is paying a severe economic price for its political instability. The Central Asian country is suffering from a de facto trade embargo, as neighboring states, including China, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, are keeping their respective borders closed.
Top officials at the State Department in Washington are said to be "fuming" with US Embassy personnel in Bishkek for supposedly failing to maintain strong ties with erstwhile opposition politicians who now are leading figures in the Kyrgyz provisional government.
Not too long ago the vaulted, shiny red roofs were the object of both envy and scorn. It is widely believed that they belonged to Maxim Bakiyev, the wealthy son of Kyrgyzstan’s recently ousted leader, Kurmanbek Bakiyev. An angry mob ransacked the home on April 7, looting the property before setting part of it ablaze.
For the leaders of Central Asian states surrounding Kyrgyzstan, the early April upheaval in Bishkek constitutes a nightmare scenario: an angry mob looting the capital, marching on the seat of government and driving an authoritarian-minded leader from power.
The Kyrgyz Republic’s new leadership has a unique chance to alter the Central Asian nation’s development course – creating an environment where democratic and economic reforms can take root. The Tulip Revolution of 2005 failed to fulfill its democratization potential. The US government must do all it can to help Kyrgyzstan to seize on this second opportunity.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov expressed solidarity with Russia on April 20, setting aside disputes that have strained relations between Moscow and Tashkent to stress the two countries' shared concern about instability in Kyrgyzstan. Analysts say the ongoing instability in Kyrgyzstan has the potential to threaten Karimov's regime.
Political instability is encouraging inter-ethnic hostility in Kyrgyzstan. Some Bishkek schools and shops closed on April 20, a day after a pogrom shattered the peace in a suburb of the Kyrgyz capital. Some non-Kyrgyz residents are now saying they want to leave the Central Asian country.