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Kyrgyzstan: Protests to Continue Despite Resignations

The resignation of the Kyrgyz government over the deaths of demonstrators in Aksy is unlikely to ease tensions in the country.
By Kubat Otorbaev

The government of Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev resigned this week, in an effort to defuse protests over the deaths of six demonstrators in March in the south of the country.

But Adakhan Madumarov, the leader of the Kyrgyz opposition, says the protesters are unlikely to call off their action, which recently culminated in a blockade of strategic north-south highway, until President Askar Akaev resigns.

Some opposition figures say the demonstrations might have calmed if the government had acted swiftly to prosecute all those responsible for the Aksy deaths on March 17-18 and acquit the opposition deputy Azimbek Beknazarov, whose arrest had sparked the unrest.

Soon after the killings, the authorities made a vain attempt to appease the protesters by releasing Beknazarov on bail.

Speaking after the resignation of the government, Akaev blamed the tragedy on "irresponsibility... and a deficiency in the democratic qualities of state agencies and the law enforcement system".

But the president also pointed the finger at "cynical politicians" who were "deliberately inciting the people of the Aksy region to disorderly behaviour".

Bakiev said his government was not directly responsible for the Aksy incident, but admitted making some mistakes, particularly in failing to keep closer control over the law enforcement agencies. He said he resigned in order to force those directly responsible for the bloodshed to follow suit.

Although Akaev had harsh words to say about his administration, he defended the former interior minister, Temirbek Akmataliev and the ex-head of the national security service, Kalyk Imankulov, who had only been in their jobs a few months when the tragedy occurred.

Imankulov admitted that his department was not fully briefed on the situation in the Akys area prior to the fateful demonstrations. He said only one security official had been working in the region, which is home to some 130,000 people, and that no informers were in place.

Akaev was clearly hoping the resignation of the government on May 22 will be enough to calm the situation, apparently believing that the demonstrators' main demands have now been met. "The Aksy residents wanted the government to fall, not the president, " said one parliamentary deputy close to the authorities.

Protests continue, however, and it seems Akaev's move may be too little, too late. Opposition parliamentary deputy Bektur Asanov said he had visited demonstrators in the south with Madumarov.

"Thousands of protestors there assured us they intend to stay until Askar Akaev steps down - the resignation of the government will not stop them," Asanov said.

Kubat Otorbaev is an independent journalist

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