Tuesday, March 28, 2006

One year on from the Kyrgyz revolution

Strangely, there seems to be almost no coverage on TV or in the press about it. OK, maybe it wasn’t as well publicized or dramatic as the ones in Georgia or the Ukraine, but you would have thought it would have crossed someone’s mind to just check in and see how this tiny state was coping one year after such a dramatic upheaval.

Well, I suppose the media can only take their cues from the country itself, and the response from the Kyrgyz people has been fairly muted. Oh, the government organized a big military parade, but that was less to celebrate the revolution and more to ensure no daring souls decided to go for a repeat performance. Because, well, things haven’t really changed much here. It’s difficult as a foreigner to really get a sense of how things have improved or declined over the last 12 months – I don’t earn a local salary, so I’m largely buffered from the daily ups and downs of price changes or job opportunities. However, the few Kyrgyz people I’ve spoken to (ok, this normally means taxi drivers, who are hardly representative of the population at large) seem to think that it’s either exactly the same or has got considerably worse. One I spoke to said that at least Akaev (ousted former president) was only corrupt in giving his family jobs, whereas the new guy has a much broader, less nepotistic attitude towards corruption. Which is nice.

Still, the signs aren’t good for the country. Only last week, a story came out that the government are applying for the same kind of debt relief status that would put them on an economic par with countries like Somalia and Uganda. In the south of the country, some people are earning money by scavenging uranium from a slag heap to sell to China. And Transparency International’s latest league table for non-corruption puts Kyrgyzstan in 130th place, with only countries like Somalia, Uzbekistan, Burma and Ivory Coast below it (and countries like Uganda and Zimbabwe above it!!). By any standards of social progress, these are not good signs.

But I’m not sure that the Kyrgyz people have the heart to do anything about it. Last year’s revolution was very atypical behaviour for a country that prides itself on its stoicism and general ‘life sucks, but what can you do?’ attitude. And you can’t really blame them for not wanting to do it again. So, you replace one set of dodgy chancers with another and the cycle continues. That’s the way it’s been and that’s the way it’s gonna be for quite some time…

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