Interviewee: Evan A. Feigenbaum, Senior Fellow for East, Central, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations
Interviewer: Jayshree Bajoria, Staff Writer, CFR.org
April 9, 2010
A brief, violent uprising in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan has left dozens of people dead and forced President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to flee the capital. Opposition forces led by former foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva have declared a new interim government that dissolved the parliament and announced plans to hold power for six months. Events remain fluid as Bakiyev, hiding in the country's south, refused to resign.
CFR Senior Fellow Evan A. Feigenbaum, a former deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asia at the State Department, says the recent events reflect "widespread dissatisfaction" with the Bakiyev government. A combination of factors--poor governance, corruption, concerns over economic and political conditions alongside political maneuvering among elites--contributed to the anger that led to the overthrow of the government, he says. The fundamental challenge facing the interim government, "is to restore and sustain order but then set the country back on a path to democracy." Feigenbaum says the international community, including Russia, China, and the United States, must urge the new government on this path.
Kyrgyzstan is strategically important to Washington; it houses a U.S. military base at Manas--now a transit center--vital to its operations in Afghanistan. Feigenbaum says the base has served as a "political football in Kyrgyz politics for quite some time," but doubts the new government will close it. On Russia's role in the recent events, he says, "whatever influence external powers may or may not have, let's not forget that ultimately this is about the Kyrgyz people and about Kyrgyz politics."