About the Author: Tatiana C. Gfoeller serves as U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan.
One week before the tragic events of June 11, my staff and I traveled down to Osh, Kyrgyzstan, to meet with government officials, students, and members of civil society. During that time, we visited a primarily ethnic Uzbek school that has an English language program that is supported by the U.S. Embassy Bishkek's Public Affairs Section. We were greeted by girls in traditional dress, and watched the children play basketball and show off their computer skills. When the unrest started in the South, in which over 300 people lost their lives and over 2,000 homes were destroyed, it was these children that I immediately thought of. We reached out to the school on June 12 and were pained to learn that the majority of the children had fled to neighboring Uzbekistan. We also learned that many of the teachers and students had had their houses burned to the ground. Clearly, the origins of the conflict remain a matter of intense debate and investigation, and it must be said that there were victims on both sides.
With the complex nature of the conflict in mind, the Embassy has been focused on providing humanitarian assistance and especially supporting reconciliation efforts in the South. Since the tragic events of June 11, I have traveled to Osh twice to view the consequences of the ethnic conflict and talk with people about opportunities for building peace and reconciliation. Time and again, I heard that there can be no peace and reconciliation until the process of rebuilding begins.
On July 27, the World Bank organized a donors' conference to aid the reconstruction of the southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad in Kyrgyzstan. This conference is an important step in coordinating the efforts of the international community. President Rosa Otunbayeva opened the conference and laid out her government's three primary objectives. The first objective is to lay the foundations for democracy, especially in light of upcoming Parliamentary elections. The second objective is to fight against corruption. And the third objection is to establish rule of law in the country. It was important for her to lay out these factors as it shows that Kyrgyzstan understands building the foundation for peace, and reconciliation is a complex process that requires a solid legal framework.
At the donors' conference, we announced a pledge of $48.6 million -- in addition to our existing bilateral assistance programs -- to work with the people and the government of the Kyrgyz Republic as they move toward a stable, secure, prosperous, and democratic future for their country. Our assistance will be directed to meeting immediate humanitarian needs, providing assistance to displaced and returning families, and addressing the roots of the conflict through community development and conflict mitigation programs with a focus on the southern regions of the Kyrgyz Republic. For me, and for the many members of my staff who have traveled to Osh in the wake of these events to offer help and assistance, this work is very personal -- I know the people whose lives we will be helping to make whole again.