THREE YEARS ON, ANDIJAN STILL WAITS FOR TRUTH. Three years after Uzbek security 
forces fired into a crowd of demonstrators, the chances of a proper independent 
remain minimal. By News Briefing Central Asia staff



Plague of locusts, water shortages and rising food prices conspire against a 
region where life is tough at the best of times. By IWPR staff in Central Asia 




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By News Briefing Central Asia staff


Three years after Uzbek security forces turned their guns on a crowd of 
demonstrators in the eastern city of Andijan, the chances that a proper 
independent investigation will be ever be carried out remain minimal. 


The government of Uzbekistan seems set on effacing the 2005 shootings from the 
country's historical memory. The public, meanwhile, block the event out of 
their own minds, for fear that remembering it will bring unpleasant 


May 13 was the third anniversary of the day government forces opened fire on 
demonstrators in the city centre. Officials said 189 people died and more than 
500 were injured, while independent human rights organisations claim the true 
number of dead was closer to 800.


The authorities accused the protesters of being members of radical Islamic 
terror groups which they named as Akramia, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and al-Qaeda. They 
proceeded to arrest anyone they deemed to be ringleaders of the protests, plus 
eyewitnesses, human rights activists, journalists, and anyone else who 
expressed views different from their own. 


The government responded to pressure for an independent international 
investigation by closing down the missions of foreign organisations assisting 
civil society and media development.


In November 2005, the European Union placed sanctions on Uzbekistan, consisting 
of a visa ban for several high-ranking officials held directly responsible for 
the violence, and an embargo on arms sales.


After his re-election last year in a ballot of dubious constitutionality, for 
the third term contrary to the Constitution, President Islam Karimov started 
hinting at plans to implement liberal reforms. He freed a few human rights 
activists under amnesty, he saw through a the abolition of the death penalty, 
and he let the International Committee of the Red Cross in to inspect prisons.


Analysts say these actions resulted in the almost complete lifting of the 
sanctions when the EU reviewed the matter on April 29. The visa ban was 
suspended for six months, leaving just the embargo on arms sales.


Yet three years on, Andijan remains a dark stain on the country's history, and 
is rarely even discussed openly by people living in Uzbekistan.


One street trader in Andijan said the mood was still one of "trepidation and 
the expectation of repression".


"If I talk about Andijan, I will draw down danger and problems upon myself," he 


An observer who recently visited the city commented on the "extremely 
depressed" atmosphere there. This was a society, he concluded, that harboured 
no hopes of a fair investigation. 


Meanwhile, the authorities studiously avoid mentioning the subject.


"No one talks about Andijan any more, not even President Karimov, who once 
talked about the 'terrorists' who seized control of [government] institutions 
in Andijan," said the observer. 


"The tragedy has been thrown on the junkheap of history."


Nadezhda Atayeva, the head of the Paris-based Human Rights in Central Asia 
Association, says there is no longer any chance of an objective investigation.


She explained how the authorities have "neutralised" society by purging it of 
its active members - human rights activists, journalists, and opposition 
supporters. Secondly, there can be no access to centrally-held comprehensive 
documentation, as it has been either hushed up or destroyed.


"The mass murder of people that took place in Andijan - as confirmed by human 
rights reports collated from eyewitness testimony - is a crime against 
humanity," she said. "The authorities therefore want to make May 13, 2005 a 
secret of history."


(NBCA is an IWPR-funded project to create a multilingual news analysis and 
comment service for Central Asia, drawing on the expertise of a broad range of 
political observers across the region. The project ran from August 2006 to 
September 2007, covering all five regional states. With new funding, the 
service is resuming, covering only Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan for the moment.)





Plague of locusts, water shortages and rising food prices conspire against a 
region where life is tough at the best of times.


By IWPR staff in Central Asia 


Already struggling with shortages of water and electricity and the impact of 
global food price rises, Central Asia has been hit by yet another curse - a 
plague of locusts that adds to other threats to the region's ability to feed 


Parts of the region, especially Tajikistan in the south, suffer from locust 
invasions on an almost annual basis. This year, an unusually warm spring is 
being blamed for the intensive reproduction cycle of the Moroccan locust 


Even though the winter was exceptionally cold across the region, the weather 
subsequently became so hot that vegetation rapidly dried out, forcing the 
swarms to migrate more rapidly than normally to satisfy their constant hunger. 


As a result, there are fears that efforts to contain the spread of the insects 
will be inadequate and they will cause significant to crops. 


In Kazakstan, the latest data indicate that the locust infestation has already 
damaged 200,000 hectares of land in the South Kazakstan region. Here it is 
livestock breeders who have been worst affected, forced to sell off their 
animals because the locusts destroyed their forage crops.


According to the agriculture ministry in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, more than 
50,000 hectares of land have been destroyed. The ministry does not have 
crop-spraying planes to attack the swarms, and is having to bring in private 
firms to do the job. 


There are no figures for Uzbekistan, but 150,000 hectares of farmland is known 
to have been attacked by locusts in Tajikistan. United Nations representatives 
say Tajikistan needs urgent help to combat the infestation, which is spread 
over four times the area occupied last year. 


The UN is allocating 13 million dollars for pesticide treatment, but says the 
country needs a total of 25 million if it is to save its crops.


Political analyst Rashid Abdullo argues that at a regional level, the war on 
locusts is ineffective because the various states no longer coordinate their 
actions. "In Soviet times, this problem was addressed comprehensively by all 
the [Central Asian] republics and neighbouring Afghanistan," he said. "Now each 
country tackles its problems alone on the basis of self-interest, and according 
to its economic and technical capacity to do so." 


This year's locust invasion comes at a time when parts of Central Asia are 
still recovering from severe energy crises caused by an abnormal winter freeze. 
In February, the Tajik government was forced to international funding after 
suffering losses of about 850 million dollars over the winter.


The destruction of new crops also comes in the wake of price rises that have 
affected food products in the poorest regional states - Kyrgyzstan and 
Tajikistan, where more than half the population lives in poverty. Last autumn, 
bread prices saw increases of 200 or 300 per cent.


Added to this is a ban on grain sales by Kazakstan, the region's breadbasket, 
imposed to keep domestic prices from going up in an environment of rising world 
fuel prices. Exports halted in April and are expected to resume only in 
September, and this is expected to create real difficulties for purchasing 
countries like Kyrgyzstan.


A former Kyrgyz agriculture minister, Jumakadyr Akeneev, says that at around 
60,000 tons, reserves of wheat are currently much lower than they should be. 
Food security is laid down in law in Kyrgyzstan, and the rule is that the state 
should maintain reserves of basic foodstuffs sufficient to feed vulnerable 
social groups for a three-month period. That means a figure of 250,000 tons of 
wheat, a staple item.


"There is currently a potential threat to grain security," said Akeneev.


Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiev asked for help with grain and wheat when he 
visited Kazakstan recently, but nothing has materialised yet and current stocks 
are running out.


"Everybody is hoping Kazakstan will set aside 300,000 tons of wheat, as 
provided for by a verbal agreement between the presidents of the two 
countries," said Akeneev. "Yet one should be realistic - there is no official 
contract saying this amount has to be supplied to Kyrgyzstan."


He added that 300,000 tons would see Kyrgyzstan though to its own next harvest 
in three months' time.


Akeneev believe the current shortfall could be relieved in future if government 
bought wheat from private farmers at a good price. The low prices paid in 
recent years have led farmers to curtail the area they assign to this 
unprofitable crop. 


It is hard to say how close Kyrgyzstan could get to ensuring its own food 
security, as it is not even clear how much land there is available. The 
official figures say at least 780,000 hectares, while agriculture ministry 
staff say the reality is much less than that.


Agriculture Minister Arstanbek Nogoev wants to create a "buffer-zone reserve", 
which would entail the government securing supplies of grain by contracting 
with farmers in advance of the harvest. The plan, which is included in a 
broader agricultural reform programme, is to end up with a reserve of between 
150,000 and 200,000 tons of wheat.


With large reserves, the state would then be in a position to step in and take 
action whenever it wanted to reduce the effect of fluctuating market prices. 


Kazakstan may provide a model, with a state agency that controls seven million 
tons, a quarter of all the grain grown in the country. "Only by creating an 
analogous agency in Kyrgyzstan will we be able to protect the domestic market 
from speculators and from fluctuations on the world market, and provide 
home-grown crops in the amounts that are need," said Nogoev. 


If Kyrgyzstan buys about 30 per cent of the wheat it consumes from Kazakstan 
every year, Tajikistan imports more than 40 per cent of its wheat. One reason 
for this is that much of the arable land available is given over to cotton, a 
lucrative export earner, rather than cereals.


Some economists say the country should switch from cotton to growing its own 


However, political analyst Parviz Mullojanov pointed out that even if radical 
restructuring of the farming sector were to be undertaken, it would take years 
to carry it though - whereas the food crisis is being felt now. 


He painted a gloomy picture of what would happen if further rises in food 
prices later this year were followed by more energy shortages, "The conjunction 
of these two factors could create very serious social tensions in most of the 
countries of the region, including Tajikistan." 


The prospects for a good harvest across Central Asia this year are made even 
less good by unseasonably low water levels. The extreme, prolonged frosts over 
the winter created huge demand for electricity, forcing the governments of 
Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to increase the rate at which water was let out of 
their mountain reservoirs to drive the generating turbines. 


The water level in the Toktogul reservoir, which generates 40 per cent of 
Kyrgyzstan's electricity, is at a critically low level and output has become 
erratic. Even the capital Bishkek is experiencing blackouts of 13 or 14 hours. 
The authorities say river levels are at least 50 per cent lower than is normal 
for this time of year, due to low rainfall and slower-than-usual melting of 


Baratali Koshmatov, director of the water management department in the Kyrgyz 
agriculture ministry, told IWPR that farmers had been asked to plant crops that 
need little irrigation, as a way of conserving water. 


Downstream from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the low river levels are also taking 
their toll on cotton, rice and wheat plantations in Kazakstan and Uzbekistan. 
Some 450,000 hectares of irrigated land is under threat in Kazakstan, and more 
than three million hectares in Uzbekistan.


The lack of water, and its effect on food and cash crops, affects all these 
countries. But Kazakastan and Uzbekistan can at least import the extra food 
they need, using revenue from oil and gas sales. Neither Tajikistan nor 
Kyrgyzstan has that option.


Firuz Saidov, an economist in the Tajik capital Dushanbe, said high world food 
prices coupled with the range of problems now disrupting life in Tajikistan and 
Kyrgyzstan - energy, water and locusts to name but three - could have serious 
social effects.


"To obtain flour, people will reduce their consumption of other foodstuffs," he 
explained. "The staple foodstuff is bread, so if it becomes unaffordable, it 
will have a major impact and will reduce the standard of living of the poorest 
sections of the population." 


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