UN appeals for Kyrgyzstan aid amid fears of fresh violence

2010-06-19 11:12

The UN today launched an urgent humanitarian appeal to help more

than 1 million people affected by ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan amid fears of

fresh violence in the volatile south.

A day after Kyrgyzstan’s acting leader, Roza Otunbayeva, admitted

that the death toll from the clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks was

probably 2 000 – 10 times the official estimate of 192 – residents of the

ravaged southern city of Osh said fears were high of new unrest.

As a senior US envoy prepared to meet with officials from

Kyrgyzstan’s embattled interim government, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

threw her support behind the Kyrgyz authorities’ attempts to restore order and

bring in aid.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the UN was launching a $71 million (about

R522 million) humanitarian appeal for Kyrgyzstan and that a separate appeal for

neighbouring Uzbekistan, where tens of thousands have fled from the violence,

would be instigated next week.

Ban cited “shortages of food, water and electricity in the affected

areas due to looting, lack of supply and restrictions on movement” and said

hospitals were running low on medical supplies.

John Holmes, the UN emergency relief coordinator, said he was

shocked by “the extent of the violence and appalled by the deaths and injuries,

widespread arson, sexual violence, looting of state, commercial and private

property and destruction of infrastructure” in Kyrgyzstan.

Describing the needs as “very great” Holmes urged all donors and

supporters to ensure that the appeal “receives a generous and rapid


The UN’s World Health Organisation said it was working on a

worst-case estimate that the crisis could affect up to 1 million people,

including 300 000 people displaced in Kyrgyzstan and 100 000 who have fled to


In Osh residents said they were bracing for new violence after

Otunbayeva promised that makeshift barricades around Uzbek neighbourhoods would

be removed.

Roads leading to most of the city’s Uzbek districts remained closed

off with cut down trees, burnt out cars and storage containers.

“If they come to open the access roads they will shoot at us again.

The army is against us, the state is fighting against us,” said 63-year-old

Pulat Shikhanov.

“We are not expecting anything good from this. This will restart

until they’ve chased out all the Uzbeks,” said the head of the local district,

Purdubai Barubayev.

The riots were the worst inter ethnic clashes to hit the

impoverished Central Asian state since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Victims

of the unrest say the violence is a brutal and orchestrated campaign by armed

militias of ethnic Kyrgyz targeting Uzbeks, who make up 14% of Kyrgyzstan’s

population of 5.3 million.

After visiting Uzbekistan yesterday, where he called for an

independent probe into the violence, US Assistant Secretary of State for South

and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake was to meet with Kyrgyz officials in the

capital Bishkek today.

Clinton said the US was working with the international community to

support efforts by Kyrgyzstan’s interim government to restore order and bring in


“Our bottom line is work with the international community to try to

support the provisional government in bringing about a resumption of order, work

with Uzbekistan..., work to get the humanitarian aid in as quickly and

comprehensively as possible,” the chief US diplomat said yesterday.

Clinton declined to comment on what might be the causes of the

ethnic clashes, saying: “I think it would be premature to conclude what the

source of this outbreak of violence is.”

Kyrgyzstan’s interim government has accused former president

Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was ousted in violent street protests in April, of hiring

“provocateurs” to instigate the deadly riots. Bakiyev has denied any


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