Introduction and Overview
Kyrgyzstan which is also known as the Kyrgyz Republic is a landlocked country with mountainous terrain which is located in Central Asia. The nation’s official language is Russian, and it runs a unitary parliamentary system of government with a president and prime minister. The capital city of the country is Bishkek, and the country is divided into nine administrative regions with four major ethnic groups whose majority is Kyrgyz.
The country which consists of 5.7 million people and a population estimate of 6, 019,480 as at 2016 population estimate. Kyrgyz attained its independence in August 1991, through the independent was formally recognized in December 1991. 2017 estimated Total Gross Domestic Product (PPP) of the country is $22.737billion with GDP per capita of $3669 while the GNI stands at $1170 and urban population rate of 35.7 percent.
Kyrgyzstan’s Human Development Index value increased from 0.615 to 0.664 between 1990 and 2015 which is an increased of 7.9% which leaves the growth in the years of schooling of the country to be 2.2 years and an increase of 1.2 years in the expected years of education with a staggering 4.5 years increase in the country’s life expectancy. Though, this leaves the Gross National Income of the country to decrease by about 9.1% between 1990 and 2015. In comparison to Armenia and Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan is performing great compared to the later and below the formal. The multidimensional poverty headcount of the country is 0.9 percent points higher than the income poverty which implies that the individual living above the income poverty line of $1.90/day may still suffer deprivation in Education, Health, and other living conditions.
As a country, Kyrgyzstan joined the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 1991, and this was as a result of the move by the then elected President, Askar Akayev who ran unopposed and was elected the President of the newly independent Republic by direct ballot.
Also, the country was in the past ravaged with various political unrest from the popular uprising which was known as Tulip Revolution which saw the forced resignation of Akayev and the emergence of the new government which was formed by the opposition party whose president was President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
Culture and Development
As a country, the formation of Krygzystan was influenced mainly by the Turkic tribes that migrated in the early middle ages from the territory of Altay and East Turkestan. Despite having many tribes, the dominant group/tribe in the country is the Kyrgyz who made up of a large part of the country.
Kyrgyzstan, like many of its neighbors, voted against independence when the Soviet Union collapsed. With no history as an independent nation, they have struggled with the loss of centralized government control. The people of Kyrgyzstan are, however, meeting these challenges, and Kyrgyzstan is held up as the most democratic and market-oriented country in Central Asia.
Furthermore, it was reported that the typical dishes in the country is Lagman (hand-rolled noodles in a broth of meat and vegetable), manti (dumplings filled with either onion and meat or pumpkin), plov (rice filed with carrot and topped with vegetables in spicy broth and pieces of congealed corn starch), Samsa (meat or pumpkin-filled pastries), and fried meat and potatoes. Most meat is mutton, although beef, chicken, turkey, and goat are also eaten. Kyrgyz people don’t eat pork, but Russians do. Fish is either canned or dried. Lagman and manti are the everyday foods of the north, while plov is the staple of the south.
Most people eat four or five times a day, but only one large meal. The rest are small, mostly consisting of tea, bread, snacks, and condiments. These include vareynya (jam), kaimak, (similar to clotted cream), Sara-Mai (a form of butter), and various salads.
Kyrgyz cafes, chaikanas, and ashkanas usually will have six or seven dishes, as well as two or three side dishes on the menu. Many places also will serve shashlik, which is marinated mutton grilled on a skewer. It is common for only a few of the menu items to be available on any given day. Drink options are limited to tea, soda, and mineral water. Patrons are expected to order as a group, and all eat the same entrée while ristora (restaurants) usually have more varied European and Russian dishes.
As such, the dominant culture and development of the Kyrgyz is deeply rooted in their history with the Soviet Union and most importantly, with the history of the people of the country being a nomad from the starts of the creation of the country.
ICT and Development
According to the 2016 ICT Development Index, the percentage of people using the internet in Kyrgyzstan is 30.25 with an active mobile-broadband subscription per 100 inhabitants at 30.98 with the percentage of households that have access to a computer is merely 19.51% and internet access in these homes is 16.50.
The ranking by the report shows some improvement in the country ICT penetration as the country moves from the rank of 108 in 2015 to 113 in 2016, which is not too significant. But, despite the improved ranking of the ICT Development Index, the Freedom of the Net 2016 report claimed the country internet penetration only increased to 30% of the total population.
The increasing internet penetration in Kyrgyzstan should have been a blessing, but the freedom on the net report says otherwise as the overall score of internet freedom in the country was at 35 out of 100 which is well proven as the telephone conversation between opponents of the government was leaked online thereby sparking speculation that the government is misusing its surveillance power. While the country internet regulator did not block access to any social media application nor did they block any content on the internet, Bloggers and ICT users are reported to have been on the watch of the government as they were arrested for opposing the government with their use of the internet.
KyrgyzTelecom which is a state-owned telecommunication company controls the majority of the internet access with a market share of 60 percent which led to its monopoly of operation with a reduced internet penetration. Although it was reported that the country bandwidth was upgraded to 4G and the telecommunication companies introduced unlimited internet plan, sadly this further increase the digital divide in the country as the majority of internet access was concentrated to the urban areas in the country. As ICT is still in its infancy in Kyrgyzstan, entrepreneurship in the country is focused in the city that has access to the internet, and most of the startups are focused on service-oriented businesses leaving the remote part of the country to deal in agriculture.
Human Right and Development
Due to the past ethnic unrest in the country, the majority of the human right abuse was as a result of racial tensions in the south of Kyrgyz. Denial of due process, lack of accountabilities in judiciary and law enforcement proceedings, use of arbitrary arrest by the law enforcement officials, mistreatment, torture and extortion against the Uzbeks are the most popular sources of human right abuse in the country.
BBC reported that Azimzhan Askarov who is an ethnic of Uzbek was found guilty of inciting racial hatred during a deadly violence in the southern city of Osh in earlier 2010. Askarov trail was well reported as an unfounded ruling, and his criminal case was fabricated even as Transparency International confirmed and claimed that Askarov collected evidence that implicated the police in the violence of 2010.
Furthermore, Human Rights Watch described disturbing scenes from the trial of Askarov as his lawyer was physically attacked while the police watched the scene. Also, one of the prominent local activist Sardar Bagshibekov told Reuters that the trial was “very biased, heavily dominated by the prosecution. Strong pressure was put on defense lawyers and the accused”.
A Human Rights Watch report further claimed that there were few meaningful improvements in Kyrgyzstan human right record of 2016 as authorities have failed to implement a March 2016 decision of the UNHRC calling for the immediate release of the human right defender Azimzhan Askarov. The same report said that the government did not take any steps to provide justice for the victims of interethnic violence of 2010. Impunity for ill-treatment and torture remains the norm and violence & discrimination against women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people continues.
Though the human right abuses in the country are closely related to the past civil unrest which is solely due to ethnic-related issues and corruption, the government apathy to fix this crucial area of development is disturbing.
Corruption and Development
Kyrgyzstan was ranked 136th out of 176 countries according to the 2016 Transparency International corruption index.
According to Business Anti-Corruption Report, corruption is a common thing in all sector of Kyrgyzstan while bribery is an everyday part of doing business. Apart from petty bribery, the company is likely to experience favoritism and political interference.
In recent years, several reforms have been put in place by the government, but the corrupt judiciary undermines the effectiveness of the government reforms. Following a report by Transparency.org, The judiciary and law enforcement institutions are not independent and are plagued by corruption. The US Department of State in 2011 said that the judiciary is the most corrupt institution in Kyrgyzstan. And yet in another survey, more than 70% of business people said they are having no trust in the judiciary system of the country.
Furthermore, the diplomat in its October 2015 report on the Kyrgyzstan’s Anti-corruption failure criticizes the government approach to corruption by saying that the government’s approach to corruption is on the corruption perception rather than a campaign against the forces driving institutionalized corruption. It further reported that the emphasis on creating hardline anti-corruption image has caused high-profile elites to be indicted in corruption while lesser-known officials have been left undisturbed.
Cases of corruption and revolution are the norms in the history of Kyrgyzstan as it was seen in the history of the country. On March 24th, 2005, President Akayev deserted his post shortly after the Tulip Revolution that began after the parliamentary elections of February 27th and March 13th, 2005. The revolution was as a result of alleged corruption and authoritarianism of Akayev, his families, and his supporters. The outing of Akayev led to the succession of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev who was the acting president. President Kurmanbek Bakiev switched his beam light on the activities of the past president.
In mid-April, President Kurmanbek created a commission to investigate the assets and properties related to the Akayev families, and the commission was headed by the Deputy Prime minister Daniyar Usenov. The commission announced tentative lists of 42 businesses to be checked for the ties of Akayev clan and also, he made it known that the commission will also investigate the money transfer through offshore routes.
On 27th of April, during a press conference to discuss the efforts of the commission, the commission declared that it was difficult for it to determine who controlled many of the companies on the lists and the actions of the commission to link corruption ended in Usenov saying that the focus on corruption should be on future compliance rather than past wrongdoing. He further said, “we are not asking about what happened yesterday, otherwise – we will have to put half the country in jail.”
Just as in the case of Akaev, President Bakiyev was forced to flee the country to the city of Osh as a result of corruption which was linked to his administration. During the tenure of Bakiyev, he appointed his son, Maxim Bakiev into the national development agencies and it was alleged that Maxim placed $35 million from a $300 million loan from Russia into his private account.
One expert while speaking about the riot that led Bakiyev out of office said the government had triggered the protests by imposing punitive increases on tariffs for water and gas.
Just like Akayiev, Bakiyev was also dethroned with the same cases of corruption.
Environment and Development
The Environmental Performance Index of 2012 positioned Kyrgyzstan on 101st rank which takes them ahead of all Central Asia Countries; this may be likely linked to the national development plan of the country whose overall goal is to protect the environment and make it favorable for living in a context of economic growth.
The country strategy paper explains that the State Agency for Environment and Forestry (SAEF) currently have no appropriate power. They develop environmental policies and also provide services at the same time while its environmental supervision and control functions are weakened and even, the SAEF are faced with the lack of specialist and shortage of permanent staffs who lacks knowledge and experience to run the agencies efficiently.
Furthermore, the country national budget gives only a small attention to environmental spending as the sector is faced with the shortage of funds for the implementation of environmental activities which is supported by special funds and projects from international organizations.
It was objectively observed that the low environmental performance index showed a high level of natural resources degradation which witnesses lower efficiency of government and local government bodies activities due to the rational use of natural resources and the shortage of staffs.
Al Jazeera in its famous report of 2014 on the country’s primary source of revenue, Kumtor gold mine, reported that the owner of the gold mine faces allegations on corruption and environmental concerns.
The Kumtor gold mine is run by a Canadian firm Canterra Gold as a joint venture with the government. The owners are accused of discrepancies in the significant share of profits and ignoring of environmental regulations – threatening a glacier that acts as the crucial source of water for the country.
Kumtor which was reported to be the only open pit gold mine in the world operating on an active glacier and the rock waste removed from the pit was – until recently – dumped on the Davydov glacier which is a strategic freshwater reserve for Kyrgyz and a neighboring country – Uzbekistan.
With so many controversies surrounding the mine, from damages to accidents and threats it poses to the water resources of the country. The report by Earth Works Action stated that the accidents on the mine caused financial damages ranging from $20m to $42m which only $4.5m was paid to the government by the company.
Amidst the tension of the mine accidents, Al Jazeera reported that public sentiments against Centerra boiled over September 2013 where protesters in the Issyk Kul region – where Kumtor is located, took the governor hostage and threatened to burn him alive in a car.
The crisis led the spokeswoman for Kyrgyzstan’s state geology and mineral resources agency to comments, “we have to answer the question: Is the economy a priority, or should we protect the environment”.
Due to the controversies that surrounded the Kumtor mine, the opposition politicians and their supporters have continued to call for the nationalization of Kumtor, prompting President Albazbek Atambayev to warn that the move would destroy the country’s investment climate as the country depends on foreign capital for industrialization. As Canterra also threatened to take the case to the international court of arbitration if the government should give in to the opposition demands for nationalization of the mine.
Foreign Aid Picture
The strategic vision of Kyrgyzstan in the long term is a strong and independent country that is part of the developed countries, a place that is comfortable for living, a place where their rights, freedoms, and security are ensured, a multi-lingual and friendly domestic environment governed by the rule of law, a country with high level of education, healthy natural environment, public stability, international image of state with stable background, robust economic growth and high attractiveness for investors .
In the Kyrgyzstan National Sustainable Development Strategy, the history of the yesteryears of the country following the collapse of the Soviet Union was well referenced as it was said to put the country in “survival mode” as the Soviet Union time was a lost opportunity for the country.
The strategy does not fail to address some past intervention from donor countries and international organizations who enacted projects like “Comprehensive Development Framework” (2001), “National Poverty Reduction Strategy” (2003), “New Economic Policy” (2009) and others which all heads down mainly because of the bad governance, corruption and criminalization of certain state institutions during the first two presidents of the country. The strategy express readiness to change the system for a more direct goal with clearly defined target indicators, shared by the people and the collective vision of them.
With this strategy and clear development goal by the country, can we conclude that Kyrgyz is growing? Well, it depends on the metrics we are to use. Meanwhile, in the comparison of the goal with the result published by UND. The strategy is still far-fetched from the reality of the country. As this is 2017, will Kyrgyzstan abolish this strategy or are they going to build on it?
The History of Conflict
The history of conflicts in Kyrgyzstan during the Soviet rule can be dissected as having so many occurrences of disputes which according to BBC comprises of the Russian control of the country now known as Kyrgyzstan.
The Russian rule is categorized of some crucial occurrences which can be itemized below;
- In 1876, the Russian forces incorporated Kyrgyzstan into Russian empire after it conquers the Khanate of Kokand.
- From 1917 to 1923, there was an outbreak of civil wars in the wake of October revolution in Russia.
- The members of the Kyrgyz intelligentsia who expressed dissent concerning the Soviet land reforms which aimed at creating significant state-owned farms which is against the nomadic livestock herding way of life of the people were either jailed or executed.
- Before the region achieved the status of a full republic of the Soviet Union in 1936, the official name of the country was changed to the Kyrgyz Autonomous Republic in 1926.
- There was an outbreak of interethnic clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz around the town of Osh which lead to a state of emergency after several hundred people were killed and this, in turn, led to the emergence of Askar Akayev to become the president of the country.
The independence rule of the country brought about a new era with a president, Akayev, who came into power after an election by the parliament shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the nineties post-ethnic clashes between the minority Uzbeks and the majority Kyrgyz.
Since the 1990s, Akayev was the president of the country until he was overthrown out of power when he was accused of nepotism, corruption and growing authoritarianism which all happened in 2005 after the Tulip revolution.
The Tulip revolution is indeed a breath of fresh air for the people of Kyrgyzstan as the revolution that forced Akayev out of power brought Bakiyev into power. In July of 2005, Kurmanbek Bakiyev who was a prime minister under Akayev came into power through a presidential election which was conducted after Akayev resigned from Moscow.
According to The Guardian, Bakiyev concentrated power within his circle of friends and families, and he was found of securing lucrative state contracts for his allies. During his tenure, there were gross human rights violations where journalists and activities were either killed or disappeared.
Bakiyev nepotism got unbearable when the utility prices were increased, and this led to yet another revolution that broke out of the country capital, Bishkek which in less than forty-eight hours, 85 people were killed. This revolution led to the end of Bakiyev as a president of this small central Asian country.
The case of conflicts in Kyrgyzstan has been a reoccurrence of a two-edged sword, disputes in Kyrgyzstan is either as a result of the south and the north ethnic upheave or a revolution caused by an abuse of power or corruption of government.
Development Challenges and Opportunities
Kyrgyzstan has struggled to be truly independent since its independence in the nineties, but till date, they are still ravaged with the ghost of the past in yet a new and not so new challenges.
As a country, asides its utopian national development plan and longtime goal, the government need to pay close attention to the issues of corruption as it undermines the development of the country which has led to a significant role in the revolutions of the past, because country that experience war or violence usually have a stunted growth compare to the ones who are not affected by conflict.
Asides the challenges of corruption in the country, the rule of law must be maintained, and a proper judiciary system must be in place to defend the defenseless amongst the populace while also paying attention to the causal of ethic upheave which is the second largest barrier to the development of the country as it usually leads to civil unrest in Kyrgyz.
As a relatively well-cultured country, Kyrgyz can do and should do better in giving everyone a voice within the country, and the issue of human right abuse should be well dealt with as every human has its right under the law of the land and the international human right law.
Asides considering policy changes within the country, the environmental law and policies too should be considered as it affects the drinking water which is one of the most important aspects of the development.
For a country to grow, its population needs to be well catered for, and as such, the government needs to create more internet friendly environment to enable the country also to have their slice of the development that comes with globalization and economic growth by leveraging on the opportunities that come with internet penetration. While also not forgetting to expand the internet reach to the rural communities to limit the digital divide in the country.
Although development is not a one-way town, I think some of the challenges listed and the solution suggested in this report should be treated with urgency by the government of Kyrgyz for its development.
Business Anti Corruption: http://www.business-anti-corruption.com/country-profiles/kyrgyzstan
Earth works Action: https://www.earthworksaction.org/voices/detail/lake_issyk_kul#.Wdz0UxNSzzK
Country Studies: http://countrystudies.us/kyrgyzstan/4.htm