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7 Oct, 2010 08:00

Kyrgyzstan on the brink of violence - again

Just days ahead of parliamentary elections, a fresh wave of violence has flared in Kyrgyzstan. A mob has stormed the headquarters of a leading political party in the capital Bishkek.

It followed a protest staged by relatives of those killed in riots that rocked the Central Asian country in April, and toppled the president.

They were angered by alleged claims the party was intending to reinstate the ousted president.

Sunday's vote will create the region's first parliamentary democracy.

But it comes just three months after a deadly ethnic conflict in the country's South.

In June, Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest city Osh fell into complete chaos.

RT talked to a local woman who asked not to reveal her identity because it is still not safe.

In June, just like many other Uzbeks in the ethnically divided city, her family lost everything.

Now they’re being forced to survive by taking any work they can find.

“There’s no stability. There’s still tension. No one trusts the government and how could we – after what happened? Those of us, who could, have already left, others are looking for ways to get out,” she said.

Today, burnt-down shops, destroyed pharmacies and abandoned cafes are a common sight in Osh.

Last June, armed gangs of mainly young Kyrgyz men destroyed shops, set cars ablaze and burnt down houses.

Pictures of Uzbek women and children running under a hail of gun fire were all over the Internet.

Officially, hundreds were killed and several thousand were injured by the time the country’s interim government managed to take control of the situation, mobilizing the army.

Four months on, the Uzbek areas are only now beginning to recover.

“Everything was burnt here, everybody is fleeing abroad to look for jobs. But we must rebuild before it gets cold,” a local man told RT.

Construction is being carried out amid the sounds of political agitation filling the streets.

Like the rest of the country, Osh is getting ready for the parliamentary election.

Fliers from 29 parties taking part are spread both in the untouched, mainly Kyrgyz-populated areas, and in the Uzbek sectors that resemble a war zone.

Many Uzbek districts of Osh were almost completely destroyed by the violence. Reconstruction is in full swing despite the lack of money and people. For many of the locals this is a race against time: to rebuild their homes before the bitter winter hits. And that for them is of a far greater importance than any election.

State funding is very limited, if in fact there is any. Many locals say the only help they are getting is from the Red Cross.

Aslan Tukhuev from International Red Cross Committee says “There are about 900 people engaged altogether in this process and we are paying them on a daily basis.”

Officially, over 3,000 businesses were affected by June's violence.

Many fear more unrest is ahead. Some locals say they have been getting SMS messages calling on them to ignore the vote.

The parliamentary election was announced six months ago, after President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and his government were overthrown by thousands of protesters and the opposition took control of the country.

Many analysts say the interim government has so far failed to provide the necessary stability, especially in the south, where most of the voters do not know what each of the 29 parties even stand for.