A Model of Reconciliation

Post-conflict Tajikistan could offer valuable lessons to her war-torn neighbour Afghanistan.

A Model of Reconciliation

Post-conflict Tajikistan could offer valuable lessons to her war-torn neighbour Afghanistan.

Tajikistan is providing inspiration for international organisations and local politicians endeavouring to build a stable future in Afghanistan.

The Central Asian republic allowed former opposition figures to hold key government posts after the civil war, and while the country is still stricken with economic and social difficulties, peace has prevailed.

Russian border troops carrying away the body of an Afghan drug courier on the Tajik Afghan border
Photo by Sergey Zhukov.

Five years after fighting broke out in 1992, the country's feuding leaders came to the negotiating table to set up a workable interim administration. Representatives of the government and the rebel United Tajik Opposition, UTO, signed a peace agreement on June 27, 1997.

Under the terms of the deal, UTO members took 30 per cent of central and local government positions in the Commission on National Reconciliation, CNR, which operated from August 1997 to April 2000.

Abdulmadjid Dostiev, deputy chairman of the Tajik parliament, and Said Abdullo Nuri, UTO chairman and leader of the Islamic Rebirth Party, were named as its co-chairmen.

Opposition members are still involved in the current government, although Nuri no longer holds office.

In an interview with a Tajik newspaper, Nuri said, "After the completion of the work of the CNR, I said that I was prepared to support the peace in Tajikistan and do everything that I could without having to occupy any official position."

Although the CNR was beset with tensions, these were largely limited to verbal and written complaints. Ivo Petrov, head of the UN Mission of Observers in Tajikistan, UNMOT, said, "The former opposing parties understood that resolving issues through force would be destructive for the country."

Inevitably, many CNR decisions were met with hostility from hotheads on both sides of the political divide. Disarmament and the return of fighters to their homes proved to be particularly difficult issues.

Some UTO field commanders such as Rizvon Sodirov and Rakhmon Sanginov were so outraged by the CNR that they resumed fighting against both government forces and their former comrades. A wave of armed attacks, hostage-taking and lawlessness swept through the country.

Yet the joint administration survived and former opposition figures still hold important posts. Khodji Akbar Turadjonzoda is the current vice-premier, Zaid Saidov is minister for industrial affairs and Mirzo Ziyoev is in charge of civil defence and emergencies.

Ziyoev's elevation to such a key ministry is the most controversial appointment to date. He commanded the UTO armed forces during the civil war and was a close friend of Juma Namangani, the feared leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, IMU. Namangani's close links with the Taleban and Osama bin Laden have done little for Zieev's reputation.

A series of scandals involving two of Ziyoev's staff members - one of whom was allegedly involved in hostage-taking while another was implicated in the murder of a senior government figure - caused further difficulties for the minister, but he has hung onto his post.

While the majority of UTO members have become experienced politicians, they are unpopular with voters and their CIS counterparts are cautious in their dealings with them.

Job security is also an issue. One opposition figure told IWPR that the only ex-UTO members who feel safe in their posts are those who have since joined the ruling People's Democratic Party.

However, these claims have been dismissed by Rakhmanov's press chief Zafar Saidov. "Many representatives of the former UTO have remained in the government. That is evidence that the president trusts them, and values their work and their human qualities. Their presence is also necessary to provide a social-political balance," he said.

The international community is also keen to see such cooperation continue. One diplomat working in Dushanbe believes that former UTO members should stay in the administration for the foreseeable future.

"This balance reflects the political situation in the country. Professionalism and experience are what matters - not the party they belong to," he said.

Saida Nazarova is the pseudonym of a journalist in Dushanbe

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