Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Deadly Riots in Kyrgyzstan Challenge Interim Government

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Deadly Riots in Kyrgyzstan Challenge Interim Government

Article excerpt

Ten days after an interim government overthrew the president in Kyrgyzstan, riots have killed several people and mobs are seizing ethnic minorities' land and businesses.

Unrest is spiraling in Kyrgyzstan, and growing ethnic strife is threatening the tenuous grip of the interim government that seized power in a bloody street revolt 10 days ago.

Days of rioting around the capital, Bishkek, have left several people dead and scores injured. Mobs of impoverished Kyrgyz have targeted businesses and land owned by other ethnic minorities, particularly Russians, for seizure.

In the country's volatile and ethnically diverse south, which was the home base of deposed President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, outright insurrection by pro-Bakiyev loyalists appears under way.

On Monday, Faizulla Rakhmanov, the governor of Jalalabad, a southern stronghold of the former president, told a rally of 1,000 supporters that they would soon move against the interim government in Bishkek. "We will restore Bakiyev's rule," he said. "Bakiyev ... will come back."

Mr. Bakiyev fled Kyrgyzstan last Friday and resigned his presidency after intensive international mediation. On Monday, he left his temporary exile in neighboring Kazakhstan for Belarus at the invitation of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

The chief of staff of the interim government, Edil Baisalov, told the Russian Interfax agency Tuesday that Bakiyev could return to Kyrgyzstan "only in the capacity of a prisoner," charged with the deaths of at least 85 people killed by riot police during the April 7 uprising in Bishkek.

Vast array of problems

But the new government, headed by the liberal and multilingual former foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva, faces a vast array of problems, which some experts fear might ultimately overcome it.

"Kyrgyzstan is an extremely poor country, with deep regional divisions, that lacks any strong or developed state institutions," says Alexander Konovalov, president of the independent Institute for Strategic Assessments in Moscow. …

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