Kyrgyzstan is starting to bury its dead after several days of political violence left at least 75 dead and 400 wounded.
As the country began two days of mourning on April 9, a crowd gathered at Bishkek's central square. The mood was somber among the approximately 1,000 people assembled near the national flag, which was flying at half-mast. "There is a real feeling of mourning here," Nurali Kadyrbayev, one of those remembering the dead on Bishkek's Ala-Too Square, told EurasiaNet. Many of the bodies of those who fell during the April 7 political violence in Bishkek were being transported by relatives to ancestral villages for burial.
Kadyrbayev was one of several people in the crowd who expressed anger at Kurmanbek Bakiyev, whose administration collapsed amid the April 6-7 clashes. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. "I was against the actions of the former authorities, the fact that they didn't see what the situation in Kyrgyzstan was, and that they didn't care," Kadyrbayev said.
The mourners gathered under bright spring sunshine as the prosecutor's office continued to burn in the background, but the executive office building, known locally as the White House, appeared secured. The previous night, another round of looting and unrest shook Bishkek as gangs of young men roamed the city center, shouting and whistling and sometimes firing guns.
A crowd of around 100 people was gathered near the parliament building not far from the wreckage of a burned-out car at 8:00 pm on the evening of 8 April, a EurasiaNet reporter witnessed. Several hundred more were running around nearby in groups of up to 50 or more.
The protestors appeared uncertain as to their aims. "We are rebelling," one young man told EurasiaNet's correspondent. "Are you Russian? You should get out of here," he advised as rioters ran past, some brandishing sticks and one brandishing an assault rifle.
The question about the reporter's ethnicity came as rumors circulated in the capital that some young Kyrgyz men were planning attacks on non-Kyrgyz ethnic groups. The rumors came to nothing, but they did reflect the pervading atmosphere of fear and uncertainty among the city's inhabitants.
"That first day [April 7], I was very afraid," one teacher told EurasiaNet on condition of anonymity. "I heard shots. This big mass of people [rioters] -- they are just young people who do not know what they are doing."
She also voiced the widely held gripe that the rioters were unnecessarily destructive, venting their anger not only on government buildings but also on small private businesses, and inflicting willful damage. "Why did they have to destroy everything?" she asked.
On the night of April 8-9, frequent shots rang out in the area near parliament until after midnight and there was sporadic shooting throughout the night. Six were reported killed. Volunteers recruited by the interim government to keep the peace appeared to have had mixed success, with some neighborhoods quieter than others.
At dusk on April 9 in Bishkek, there was uncertainty over what another night would bring. The future of the country remained uncertain too, as the interim government led by Roza Otunbayeva, sought to consolidate its authority, while Bakiyev remained ensconced in his southern stronghold.
After saying on April 8 that he would not resign and planned to remain in Kyrgyzstan for the foreseeable future, Bakiyev the next day was indicating that there was room for maneuver, telling the BBC Russian Service that he was open to talking to the provisional government. He added that he did not expect that the political crisis could provoke sectional conflict.
As Bakiyev softened his tone, criticism of the provisional government was aired. At a meeting of non-governmental activists on April 9, attendees complained that the provisional government appeared to be repeating Bakiyev's mistakes, one attendee told EurasiaNet.org.
"There was a lot of dissatisfaction regarding the new temporary government's decision on appointing the ministers already, about sharing power. They could at least call themselves 'acting' instead of 'ministers,'" said Adelya Laisheva, program director at Internews Kyrgyzstan.
"People told [a government representative] to tell the temporary government not to repeat what Bakiyev did. They were disappointed that a brother of [Ata-Meken Party leader] Omurbek Tekebayev was appointed," head of a region in the South, she added.
Another attendee described members of the provisional government as "too euphoric," and said that the new leaders needed to do more to keep their personal ambitions in check in order generate popular support for the provisional government.
As Bishkek sought to pick up the pieces amid the wreckage of damaged buildings and cars gutted by fire, the international community was mobilizing to offer assistance. An envoy sent by the OSCE chairperson-in-office has arrived in Bishkek and was meeting officials from the provisional government, a senior Western diplomat told EurasiaNet on condition of anonymity on April 9.
The envoy, Zhanybek Karibzhanov, was sent by the foreign minister of OSCE chairman state Kazakhstan, Kanat Saudabayev. More envoys are due: UN Special Envoy Jan Kubis is due to arrive on April 10, followed by an EU envoy the next day. The Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, of which Kyrgyzstan is a member, has also sent a representative "to shed light on the situation in Kyrgyzstan," the Interfax-AVN news agency reported.
Amid rumors that one senior member of the former administration, ex-Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongatiyev, had fled to Kazakhstan, the Western diplomat said he was actually in a Bishkek hospital, and that he had met his successor in the caretaker government, Bolot Sherniyazov. No further details were immediately available on the discussions. Meanwhile, a senior member of the interim government, Almazbek Atambayev, headed to Moscow for talks on April 9.
Ordinary people remain jittery. "I think it will get worse. ... There are people who want a normal life and want to see how the [provisional] government will bring a normal life. We do not know what will happen tomorrow," said the Bishkek teacher.
Joanna Lillis is a freelance reporter who specializes in Central Asian affairs.