Tajikistan: Evaluating Tajikistan's reconstruction 10 years after the civil war's end
|Publication Date||18 October 2007|
|Cite as||EurasiaNet, Tajikistan: Evaluating Tajikistan's reconstruction 10 years after the civil war's end, 18 October 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/473ae962c.html [accessed 20 June 2013]|
Joshua Kucera: 10/18/07
It has been 10 years since the end of Tajikistan's civil war. An expert panel, convened recently in Washington to evaluate the post-war era, generally lauded Tajikistan's reconstruction process. But panelists had differing views on the factors that contributed to stabilization.
One of the panelists, Vladimir Sotirov, the head of the UN Tajikistan Peace-Building Support Office (UNTOP), cited the decision to integrate former administration opponents into the government as a major factor that enabled Tajikistan to recover relatively quickly from five years of internecine conflict. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Sotirov also indicated that firm action taken by President Imomali Rahmon's administration against hold-out rebel groups enabled peace to take root.
Sotirov spoke at a panel at the Central Asia Caucasus Institute on October 17 called "A Decade of Peace in Tajikistan: Who Should Get the Credit?" He was visiting Washington as part of a trip to the United States to report on the end of the UNTOP mission. UNTOP formally shut its doors on July 31 – the first such mission to do so, he noted. (UN peace-building support offices are a relatively new invention and the three others that have been established, in Liberia, Guinea-Bissau and the Central African Republic, remain in operation).
Sotirov focused on the UN's role in maintaining peace in Tajikistan, such as the creation of political discussion clubs where former enemies could amicably discuss the country's future. Such a forum helped Tajikistan make up for the lack of democratic institutions, he said.
Other panelists were not as quick to apportion credit, noting that, as with the civil war, post-war actions of the major parties are still shrouded in mystery. One, Grant Smith, a former US envoy to Tajikistan, suggested that a full reckoning of the civil war's aftermath is not yet possible.
"When you look at how important these various players were in achieving the quite commendable degree of peace that's been achieved in Tajikistan, what their roles were – we really don't know because we really don't have some of the key facts," Smith said. "We don't have the personal recollections of the players, and we may never have them. The head of the Islamic Renaissance Party, [Said Abdullo] Nuri, has died. One of his top lieutenants is seriously ill. Unless people start recording in some means their recollections of that period, we may never know the answers to these questions."
Another panel member, S. Frederick Starr of the CACI, commended the UN on its focus on local government officials, which he said was an often overlooked aspect of development and democratization.
Sotirov described, for example, the UNTOP training given to 4,000 Ministry of Interior officials, including former opposition fighters who were integrated into the security forces as part of the 1997 peace deal. "They were lacking any experience, any professionalism, any knowledge and a lot depend[ed] on MoI personnel, especially in the aftermath of the civil war. Officers knew how to perform their oppressive function, but they didn't know their other two main functions ... preventative and protection of human rights of citizens."
Several challenges remain, Sotirov noted. The drug trade in Afghanistan is a potential destabilizing factor, as 10 percent of the drugs smuggled out of Afghanistan go through Tajikistan. Internally, Tajikistan faces slow progress on several fronts, including freedom of the press and prison reform.
Concerning press freedom, Sotirov acknowledged that progress has been halting. "You might find very interesting, critical and objective materials in newspapers. However, the newspapers do not reach people; they are just for the elite in the cities. They don't have influence," he noted. "The major influence is TV, which is very restricted, very controlled."
The International Committee of the Red Cross, which had worked to improve prison conditions there, left Tajikistan this year because it was unable to make any progress, he said. The ICRC left "with a lot of pain, a lot of regret," Sotirov said. "Because the international community was ready to assist. We organized several conferences on prison reform. But the request was only to 'give us money to repair the prisons.' But this is not the way the ICRC works; this is not the way of cooperation."
Sotirov said he was optimistic about Tajikistan's future. "There are two ways: further democratization, a long difficult way but finally this proves to be the way for sustainability of the peace process. The other is authoritarianism, it gives very quick results, on the surface everything is stable, everything is disciplined and going well. However, this is not sustainable," he said. "We hope the democratic trend will prevail."
Editor's Note: Joshua Kucera is a Washington, DC,-based freelance writer who specializes in security issues in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East.
Posted October 18, 2007 © Eurasianet