Four Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – have argued over their water resources since the collapse of the Soviet Union. At times these disputes have seemed to threaten war. The forthcoming presidential summit in Astana can help banish that spectre.
Protesters rallied in capital Tashkent against govt plan to amend district boundaries. After govt 5 Aug announced plans to merge parts of Tashkent with surrounding region, hundreds of Tashkent residents 6 Aug protested against potential loss of status as capital residents and associated education, employment and housing privileges; authorities 11 Aug confirmed cancellation of redistricting plans. Govt early Aug approved development plan for Sokh exclave in Ferghana Valley, including resumption of flights to enclave for first time since 1990s. General Prosecutor’s Office 12 Aug confirmed it had called on Kyrgyz authorities to detain Uzbek journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev; Kyrgyz govt 22 Aug extradited Abdullaev to Tashkent citing assurances by Uzbek authorities; upon arrival, Abdullaev was released but barred from movement inside country pending investigation for unknown charges. Law enforcement in Tashkent 17 Aug announced Kazakh authorities handed over Uzbek opposition activist Khurram Berdiev, arrested in Kazakhstan in Feb (see Kazakhstan), and that Berdiev had been charged with human trafficking. Interior ministry 10 Aug published draft legislation to allow right to hold public demonstrations; organisers will have to apply for permission two weeks prior and must comply with specific restrictions. President Mirziyoyev 27 Aug pardoned and released 113 convicts mostly sentenced on charges of religious extremism, including former Tashkent imam Rukhiddin Fahruddinov detained for past 15 years.
Uzbekistan’s first new president in more than a quarter century has taken some positive steps in the early days of his administration. In order to encourage more sustained progress, western partners and regional powers will need to balance conditional support with tactical pressure.
After 25 years of authoritarian rule, Uzbekistan faces unpredictable neighbours, a jihadi threat and deep socio-economic challenges. New President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has taken small steps toward vital domestic and foreign policy reform, and outside partners should push him to do more to avert real dangers ahead.
Domestic repression and self-imposed isolation has characterised Uzbekistan for much of the time since its independence in 1991. Following the death of Islam Karimov, the country’s long-time and only post-Soviet president, the outside world must seize a rare opportunity to re-engage with this critical Central Asian country.
Growing tensions in the Ferghana Valley are exacerbated by disputes over shared water resources. To address this, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan urgently need to step back from using water or energy as a coercive tool and focus on reaching a series of modest, bilateral agreements, pending comprehensive resolution of this serious problem.
The economic crisis has caused millions of migrant labourers from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to lose their jobs in the boom economies of Russia and Kazakhstan.
There are strong indications that Uzbek security forces murdered one of Kyrgyzstan’s most prominent journalists, Alisher Saipov, in October 2007 during the build-up to Uzbekistan’s end of year presidential elections, most likely because of his involvement in Erk (Freedom), a leading exile opposition party.
If the succession process [in Uzbekistan] is less than smooth, there is potential for this to create regional instability, particularly if we look to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
If the transition [in Uzbekistan] turns to political chaos, the risk of violent conflict is high; and in a region as fragile as Central Asia, the risk of that spreading is also high.
Originally published in The Interpreter
El derrame cerebral sufrido por el histórico líder autoritario de Uzbekistán (y los rumores sin confirmar de un posible fallecimiento) ha empujado al país hacia lo desconocido, pero los más íntimos del presidente van a tratar de conservar el poder y lograr que haya los mínimos trastornos durante la transición.
Originally published in Esglobal