Turning up the Heat on the OSCE Police Advisors
Protests against the deployment of 52 unarmed OSCE police advisors in Kyrgyzstan’s troubled south appear to be growing in strength. On July 26, demonstrators outside parliament in Bishkek burned an effigy of an OSCE police officer. Simultaneously, in Osh, up to 400 people marched from the mayor's office to the police station, witnesses told EurasiaNet.org, demanding the government rescind its request for foreign police. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe approved the deployment on July 22 after weeks of appeals from provisional President Roza Otunbayeva. This growing opposition could intimidate the mission. In this heated atmosphere, it wouldn’t take much for a crazed nationalist to send the OSCE packing. One official even hinted ominously that Kyrgyz authorities could not protect the OSCE police."We do not have additional forces to ensure the security of the stay of these 52 OSCE police officers in the city of Osh," the southern region’s presidential advisor Viktor Chernomorets told Interfax on July 21 (via BBC Monitoring), echoing comments by former Defense Minister Ismail Isakov a few days earlier.Chernomorets added that the advisors were unwanted. "They do not know our laws, language and mentality, and there will hardly be any use for them," the Kyrgyz presidential adviser said.The statements from senior government officials are a direct threat to the power of Otunbayeva, who is unable to control the South. Behind the protests is a growing anti-foreigner sentiment in Kyrgyzstan. Many Kyrgyz are angry over foreign coverage of the June ethnic violence in which international reporters and observers almost unilaterally disagreed with the popular Kyrgyz discourse and said the vast majority of those killed were ethnic Uzbeks, not Kyrgyz. Expect a similar response to the OSCE-led independent investigation into the June events, scheduled to begin in August. The protestors, mostly young men, say they fear a repeat of the “Kosovo scenario." Others warn that the OSCE police presence would lead to a “real war,” or the “division of Kyrgyzstan," 24.kg reports.
“...Western forces stand behind the OSCE. In several months they will write in their report that the situation is complicated in Kyrgyzstan and they will raise the issue of establishing autonomy for the southern oblasts of the republic. Kyrgyzstan can solve its problems independently,” say protestors.
Despite, or perhaps due to, neighboring Astana's lackluster performance as chair this year, the OSCE is seen in nationalist Kyrgyz circles as a meddlesome anti-Kyrgyz body. Kazakhstan is also not popular in Kyrgyzstan after unilaterally closing its border following the April 7 uprising. The frontier remained closed for over a month, hurting many small business people and farmers across Kyrgyzstan.
David Trilling is Eurasianet’s managing editor.