Wednesday, June 21, 2006

After Akmatbaev

Erica Marat reports for the Jamestown Foundation that following the death of Rysbek Akmatbaev, the Kyrgyz government has been able to control organized crime in the country:
"Organized criminal groups in Kyrgyzstan have significantly weakened since the death of criminal kingpin Rysbek Akmatbayev on May 10. According to Deputy Minister of Interior Omurbek Suvanaliyev, today Kyrgyz law-enforcement agencies are able to curb criminal organizations and thwart the merger of the political and criminal worlds. This is the first time since the March 24, 2005, Tulip Revolution that Kyrgyz power structures have asserted their dominance over criminal groups.

"Organized criminal groups in Kyrgyzstan spread their influence after the Tulip Revolution, as weak central power structures sought cooperation with the underground world. According to Kyrgyz experts, the presidential administration, members of parliament, the prosecutor-general, and various representatives of the judicial branch reportedly supported Rysbek. Many of the current members of parliament had known Rysbek before entering the political scene. MPs members active in the business sphere had first encountered Rysbek’s racketeering in the 1990s. 'Ninety percent of parliament members today feel more relaxed after the death of Rysbek,' a Ministry of Interior representative told Jamestown...

"Representatives of the Ministry of Interior assure the public that Kyrgyzstan today is able to fight organized crime and to prevent its infiltration of the state. Rysbek’s death dethroned his criminal network, which had extended from northern Issyk-Kul to southern parts of Kyrgyzstan. Other existing criminal organizations in Kara-Balta, Talas, Osh, and Jalalabad are reported to be declining as well. The faction led by the imprisoned Aziz Batukayev, an ethnic Chechen, is also losing membership...

"Indeed, removing one mafia boss has not solved the broader issues of drug trafficking and the shadow economy. However, the rise and fall of Rysbek during the last year was an important lesson for Kyrgyz political leaders. By resorting to the service of criminal kingpins, state officials risk becoming dependent on them."

This, incidentally, is what I meant when I said that Akmatbaev's death was comparable in scope to Rafiq Hariri's in Lebanon. It's hard to draw direct analogies, but I think the level of change in Lebanon has been somewhat overstated despite the dramatic protests, and that what's happening in Kyrgyzstan is slower but just as important for national leadership.


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