Bishkek/Brussels/Washington - Suggestions by Kyrgyzstan's Provisional Government yesterday that the situations in Osh and Jalalabad are stabilising, that foreign intervention is thus not needed, and that a referendum scheduled for 27 June can go ahead, are dangerously premature.
The situation in southern Kyrgyzstan remains unpredictable and volatile. The Provisional Government's handling of the situation has been less than assured, and it has itself admitted that its security forces lost control, and in some cases disobeyed orders. Crisis Group urges the government to focus its full attention on security concerns and achieving a long-term solution to the many social and humanitarian issues thrown up by the last four days of death and destruction. In particular it needs as a matter of the highest priority to create a well protected humanitarian corridor for aid deliveries.
Many hundreds have died since the night of 10 June. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced, and are now living in makeshift conditions in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Local officials in the south have told Crisis Group they fear they cannot guarantee the security of refugees encamped along the Kyrgyz side of the border with Uzbekistan. Human rights workers speak of Uzbek communities in the worse-affected cities too traumatised to accept medical aid from Kyrgyz health workers. Even the preliminary figures for destruction in Osh describe hundreds of buildings and homes destroyed. All this, moreover, has taken place against a back-drop of massive unemployment and poverty, in one of the most densely populated parts of Central Asia.
A further upsurge of violence cannot be excluded. Neither can a spread of the unrest to other parts of the south. A large number of weapons are almost certainly missing as the result of raids on police, military posts and arsenals. Anger is still high. Atrocity stories are rife on both sides. There seem to be few males among refugees who have made their way to the border. The Provisional Government should request the assistance of the international community – through the United Nations Security Council – to ensure the protection of its population from further violence.
We understand the Provisional Government's desire that a referendum on a new constitution go ahead on 27 June. We realise that the government feels this is a crucial test of its legitimacy. But we fail to see how a referendum is possible when many of its citizens, including a sizeable proportion of ethnic Uzbek Kyrgyz, are living without shelter. This alone could seriously undermine the referendum's legitimacy in the eyes of the international community and contribute to the sense of alienation of many southerners. Should the situation fail to improve dramatically in coming days, we urge the government to reconsider holding the referendum across the country. The best proof of legitimacy is successfully to restore peace and normality to the south of its country.
Kyrgyzstan needs help, and so far it has received little. International institutions and key nations such as Russia and the United States need to move rapidly to:
• Develop a humanitarian corridor, including the necessary security and logistical support from Russia and the United States, to permit OCHA, UNHCR, ECHO and other humanitarian agencies to provide assistance to the hundreds of thousands of displaced.
• Deploy a troika of officials from the UN, EU and Russia to find ways to boost the capacity of the Provisional Government to restore order, initiate urgent short-term reconstruction actions and begin the planning for the longer process of rebuilding the area and reconciling its communities.
• Support the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities to start a process of investigation and accountability.
In particular the United Nations Security Council should continue to closely monitor the situation in Kyrgyzstan and request regular briefings from the Secretariat on the humanitarian and political situation in the region. Should the situation further deteriorate or should the government of Kyrgyzstan request assistance, the Council should consider options to authorise the deployment of a limited law-enforcement mission or international military observer mission to support the government’s efforts to protect populations within a specific time frame and possibly followed by a multilateral policing operation.