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Uneasy calm in shattered Kyrgyzstan

media Ethnic Uzbek refugees cry while waiting for permission to move to Uzbekistan at the border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan near the city of Osh, 16 June, 2010 Reuters

A US envoy is due in Kyrgyzstan to deal with a worsening humanitarian crisis in the region. The country  began three days of national mourning on Wednesday to honour the nearly 180 people killed in ethnic violence that began six days ago. RFI's Marjorie Hache spoke to correspondent Regis Gente in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh.

Many areas of Osh are in ruins, and Gente believes the quiet on Wednesday belies the extent of the danger there.

"In the last 48 hours, the situation has been much calmer.  There have been no killings, but in reality things are still very tense,” he said.

Gente has heard rumours that the local government, which is still faithful to the former regime, is planning to exert new pressure on the local population. He told RFI that peope he'd met feared "there may be new pogroms."

When asked about the owners of shops and houses burnt to the ground, local policemen have been frank with Gente.

“Every time," said Gente, " it [the victim] was Uzbek, and not Kyrgyz.”

Gente explained that that the violence is thought to have been orchestrated by former president Kurmanbek Saliyevich. It’s believed that Bakiyev doesn’t want the provisional government to legitimise its position through a referendum, currently set to take place on 27 June.


Correspondent Regis Gente in Osh 16/06/2010 - by Marjorie Hache Listen


 According to Gente, the so-called "ethnic riots" are more political than ethnic.

"In this case first it is not between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz," he said. "The Kyrgyz killed a lot of Uzbeks and probably very few Kyrgyz."

Gente told RFI that although international aid has finally arrived in Osh, the problem is getting it to the refugees and other people in need.

“The Uzbeks are afraid that the Kyrgyz will kill them, and so on, " he said. "They are living within their areas as in ghettos, and they don’t want to go out.”

Some local people have suggested that Russia should provide military assistance, since, according to what Gente has heard, "they are the only ones able to control the situation.”

A group of refugees also showed Gente a 20-minute film depicting “parts of the army” allowing Kyrgyz to attack Uzbeks.

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