Op-Ed: Kyrgyzstan’s internal struggle against Atambayev’s ill-fated legacy
Kyrgyzstan has been undermined by a series of political echoes inherited from former President Almazbek Atambayev. Politicians who opposed his policies and were imprisoned -- are now on a hunger strike.
During the presidency of Atambayev, the controlled by him state media were his only supporters. The population, who “enthroned” the hero of another revolution, quickly was disappointed with Atambayev’s actions. The level of corruption, against which the people rose to barricades in April 2010, having overthrown Bakiyev’s government, grew to enormous proportions.
Atambayev sold out his own country! The number of privatization contracts, when profitable enterprises and mineral deposits were sold to foreigners for nuts, was growing every year. Sales contracts were drawn up in such a way that investors received almost 100% of profit, working on simplified tax schemes. The country’s budget, and taxes, received pennies.
Furthermore, these contracts did not provide for the conditions for compulsory employment of Kyrgyz citizens, which increased the number of unemployment in the country. In places where Kyrgyz citizens were employed, their labor was estimated at the level of low-profile laborers. Even if they were highly qualified specialists.
Atambayev and his associates received payoffs in millions of US dollars for signing such contracts from buyers.
In six years the country had been indebted for many generations of Kyrgyz people. More than $4 billion US dollars or almost 700 dollars for each resident of the country, including infants and the elderly. All this goes without mentioning the interest that annually accrues to the borrowed external loans.
Atambayev and his government drove the people into poverty. And today, thanks to the “efforts” of the former president of Kyrgyzstan, the country has the lowest GDP per capita among all CIS countries.
Although the country has such natural resources as uranium, gold and, most importantly for the region -- water and electricity generated by numerous hydroelectric power plants; the Kyrgyz people are left standing at the gates of foreign offices with an outstretched hand and begging for alms.
Kyrgyz patriots began to criticize Atambayev’s policies almost immediately after he stepped into the presidential office. All attempts to call Atambayev to attend to state affairs responsibly through dialogue were futile. As a result, some citizens, who several years ago stood next to Atambayev at the barricades against Bakiyev’s corrupted regime, were forced to unite in the People’s Front against the authoritarian Atambayev government that was destructive for Kyrgyzstan.
The patriots managed to gather thousands of supporters and their number kept growing every time. After all, the opposition demanded not only the resignation of the president, but also create a people's commission to investigate the activities of his associates - Ikramjan Ilmiyanov, Chynybai Tursunbekov, Turgunbek Kulmurzayev and Farid Niyazov. All these people are among the richest citizens of Kyrgyzstan, who have made their fortunes during the period of public service. It is quite logical that the people want to punish those who steal from the state budget.
Another demand of the People’s Front that intimidated Atambayev was to appeal to the International Criminal Court in The Hague (The Netherlands) to consider the responsibility of instigators and perpetrators of ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in June 2010. It was Atambayev who gave the order to “open fire at the demonstrators”, who took to the streets with demands to stop corruption in the country. It was through the fault of Atambayev that more than 2,000 people were killed in Osh city, and about the same number of people got gunshot wounds. The city was immersed in chaos, thousands of shops, city hospitals, hundreds of cars and buildings were burnt.
This fear of exposure encouraged the then president Atambayev to label patriots as traitors. On the eve of the next rally, which was supposed to gather tens of thousands of citizens who were disappointed in Atambayev and his government, the People's Parliament’s leaders were accused of trying to seize power and destabilize the situation and were imprisoned, turning them into top wanted terrorists.
Former deputy head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Kubanychbek Kadyrov, former governor of the Jalal-Abad region Bektur Asanov and many other politicians and public figures, including Ernest Karybekov, the chairman of the international public foundation Institute for the Study of Water Problems and Hydropower Resources in Central Asia, became political prisoners of the Atambayev regime.
With the help of current head of the State National Security Committee, Abdil Segizbayev (one of the closest associates of Almazbek Atambayev who was responsible for links with radical Islamic groups and "channeled" the Afghan heroin through Kyrgyzstan to Russia and Europe), the Committee falsified sophisticated criminal cases, to the point that, allegedly, the opposition members were going to kill the president.
And their only fault was that they were fighting for their homeland, they criticized the authorities for their mediocre government and disastrous policies.
Did the people of Kyrgyzstan start to live happily after the trial of the opposition? No. The Atambayev gang is still firmly holding on to power, not allowing the newly elected president to implement reforms aimed at the development of Kyrgyzstan. Not allowing to carry out democratic reforms, crushing any dissent.
Therefore, Bektur Asanov (sentenced to 15 years in prison) and Kubanychbek Kadyrov (16 years) and Ernest Karybekov (22 years), went on a hunger strike and would rather die than live in injustice.
Do these heroes, really have to die to stop the political robbery of Atambayev and his gang? Are prisoners of political conscience, such as Nelson Mandela, supposed to spend decades in prison, so that the people of Kyrgyzstan would demand to call to responsibility the most corrupt in the history of the sovereign country president? How many patriots need to perish so that Atambayev's bloody regime would finally be eradicated, and Kyrgyzstan would become a truly prosperous democratic country?
In any case, the situation around convicted opposition members has become so tense today that, most likely, in the near future Bishkek will expect the speeches of major international human rights organizations condemning the policy of pressure on the opposition. If the authorities do not listen to them, then, most likely, Kyrgyzstan will have to survive another revolution. Only this time the people will rise not against the incumbent president, but against the corrupt Atambayev, who has seized power, and the criminal group he had formed.
Is this really what the legitimately elected President Sooronbai Jeenbekov wants?