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Tensions remain in Kyrgyzstan one year on from the violence

One year on from the violence which struck the south of Kyrgyzstan, the new president, Roza Otunbayeva, has laid a wreath to commemorate the dead.

Nearly 470 people died in the clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks and hundreds of thousands were displaced, with many homes destroyed in the cities of Osh and Jalalabad. Ms Otunbayeva was laying flowers at a memorial in central Osh, a marble statue of two women weeping and embracing each other, one Uzbek and one Kyrgyz.

Speaking to the BBC, Ms Otunbayeva said her country “took the moral responsibility for the ....tragic events of 2010”. However, she pointed to the progress since the ethnic clashes. After the popular uprising in April last year, Kyrgyzstan held its first free and fair elections since independence from the Soviet Union. The President spoke of debates in the new parliament where both Kyrgyz and Uzbeks have discussed events together, showing there is no “war between clans”.

However, in a separate speech the president also referred to those who might still seek to “earn political capital at the expense of the grief, blood and tears” of the innocent and she warned such people could spark new clashes. Human rights groups are also worried about the potential for renewed violence. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch highlight the frustration caused by the fact that those responsible for the killings last June have not been brought to justice. And the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights has raised concerns about the “ill-treatment and torture of detainees” in custody. Ms Otunbayeva has acknowledged the complaints over judges and corrupt policemen and has promised “purges” will take place.

Houses are still being rebuilt following the violence and the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR estimates that of the 375,000 people who fled, 20,000 are still living with the host families and around 60,000 remain in other parts of the country or abroad. Some may never return with tensions and mistrust still running high between the two communities.

The human rights organisations have pointed to the undermining effects caused by a lack of Uzbeks in positions of authority. One 17-year old who helps the police keep order in Osh admitted relations were difficult with no Uzbeks in their ranks. And though communities have started to talk again with each other, many say it is not the same as it was before, with the two sides keeping mostly to themselves. One headmistress told the BBC’s reporter of incidents where Kyrgyz and Uzbek children call each other names. In these cases, she phones the parents, blaming family influences for the children’s attitude. As one young man in Osh told another reporter, people love their country, but still have to “learn to love each other”.

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