Magazine article UN Chronicle

Tajikistan Time to Reflect

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Tajikistan Time to Reflect

Article excerpt

It has been just over five years since a peace accord in 1997 put an end to the bloody civil war in Tajikistan and during that time, positive, albeit halting, steps have been taken in the country's transition to civil order and democracy. And the transition remains vulnerable.

While a fifth anniversary of peace is something to cheer, it is also a time to reflect on the terrible price the war exacted and to redouble efforts to establish a firm rule of law and a culture of pluralism. In a visit to Dushanbe on 21 October, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the 63 members of the new Tajik Parliament that they should continue to work for the establishment of the rule of law. "Popular trust in the judiciary", he said, "and the fairness of the authorities is the best safeguard against extremism and renewed violence." For a society to deal with fundamental questions, such as the rule of law and pluralism, it has to pay heed to the voices of all of its members and engage all of them, including women, in formulating solutions, he stressed.

In an earlier message to the international conference in commemoration of the anniversary, held in Tajikistan in June 2002, Mr. Annan said that the most important factor in ending the conflict had been the political commitment of the parties to stop the devastation and to begin a process of national reconciliation. That commitment was tested through more than three years of complex negotiations, ultimately producing the politically difficult but necessary compromises that made possible the signing of the General Peace Agreement in Moscow on 27 June 1997.

Tajikistan's independence in September 1991 began relatively peacefully but was all too quickly followed by a civil war and armed insurgency. By mid-1993, in a country of less than 6 million, an estimated 50,000 people had been killed, 600,000 displaced internally and an additional 60,000 made refugees in northern Afghanistan. Still more had fled to the neighbouring Central Asian republics and other countries of the former Soviet Union.

The United Nations first active response to the situation in Tajikistan was in the fall of 1992, with the dispatch of a fact-finding mission led by the Secretary-General's envoy Raymond Sommereyns--Director in the Department of Political Affairs. Mr. Sommereyns told the Chronicle that the mission's report had recommended that the Secretary-General continue his goodwill efforts and "be supportive of local and regional efforts". The newly independent States, he said, had been "looking to the United Nations for help", but also hoping for more to come out of the "peace dividend" that was widely expected at the time.

On the basis of the mission's recommendations, a peace-keeping operation--the United Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT)--had been set up by the end of the year in Dushanbe. Information from UNMOT led in April 1993 to the appointment of a Special Envoy of the Secretary-General. The efforts of Ambassador Ismat Kittani of Iraq and subsequently of Ambassador Ramiro Piriz-Ballon of Uruguay began to bear fruit, with the first inter-Tajik talks being held in Moscow in April 1994, followed in September by the signing of a temporary ceasefire. Over the next several years, the Special Envoy and later Special Representatives of the Secretary-General continued the work to strengthen the negotiating process and integrate the efforts of other countries and organizations. …

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