30. Nov. 2005


Stabilisation through of democratisation and reconciliation, not without or even against them

Your impressions from Grozni. Any changes from previous visits? Which places did you visit in Chechnya? Did you talk with Chechen leaders (Alhanov, Kadirov)? What did you tell them?

Grosny is still a town of ruins. Although you see some newly reconstructed houses and many more cars the ambiance is still depressive and sad. We already suggest 15 months ago, that in order to avoid the reproduction of bad memories and the depressive mood you should collect all ruins, make an artificial mountain out of them and leave the space free and green until new buildings can be made. But such an empathy for the citizens the authorities are lacking.

We have been in Grosny, Centeroi and Achtkoi-Martan, visited three Polling stations, and spoke four times with Alchanow - totally five hours - and twice with Kadyrow for more than a hour. With Alchanow we considered all the difficult questions about the difference between the real and the democratic power and also the perspective to really start the reconciliation process and include also non-terrorist opponents as Zakayew. With Ramsan Kadyrow we really had a very tough talk, did allow us remarks he surely never had to listen to in Chechnya ever before. We told him that his power has no democratic legitimacy and that in exercising it does not respect human rights which exactly helps those he is fighting against.

Is it possible to have free and fair elections in war time? Any falsifications of the results? I was reading that attendance was not so high as announced.

These elections were surely neither free nor fair. But such attributes only mature democracy may get and nobody should be astonished that this is not possible in a war torn society like Chechnya in Russia, where the attempt to build democracy is only very young.

For free elections you need free citizens. For being a free citizen you should also be free of existential fears. This is what most people in Chechnya miss most: Many of them are afraid to loose again in a early morning their husband, uncle, sun or other children because they are kidnapped by private militias who terrorise the country. We spoke with three women in the streets of Achkoi-Martan and all of them went to the elections but all of them had such experiences, and expressed deep fears.

Further more the majority of the people are unemployed. The lack of such existential security undermine every election. That's why it is so urgent to start to include opponents, to overcome security forces which do not obey to the elected officials and who are not accountable before the Courts and why you have to reconstruct the economy, the villages and the souls of the people. The money for these purposes exists, but more then the half of it are lost to corrupted people.

For a fair election you need to have a fair chance to choose from all possible political options. One of the most interesting parties, the Republican one, which wanted to start to build bridges in this polarized and fragmented society was eliminated on the base of doubtful reasons. This limits the freedom of the electors and is not fair.

These elections are highly ambivalent: Its true, that even in Chechnya many people don't give up their hope and do hope that a parliament could help them out of their misery - and that's why its really true, that at least more then 30% went to vote. But under such conditions its hard to organise elections which lead to a real representative and legitimated parliament.

The basis freedom of speech, assembly and movement is not guaranteed for all. This and the permanent fears undermined also the pre-election campaign. There have been some party-meetings, but they discussed among themselves, not with each other on different programmatic analyses and visions. But in a society without basis processes of reconciliation this is perhaps also too much to ask for.

Has the "administrative resource" been used in Chechnya?

I am sure yes. Those who depend in their working life from the authorities are afraid to disagree and to show an open opposition. This we experienced in a staged meeting with so-called NGO´s which de facto were more than 50% GONGOs and where afterwards many real NGO representatives told us that they have been told not to say anything and how much they are afraid to publicly disagree because they have already lost family members and relatives to uncontrolled forces who are hardly ever made responsible for criminal acts.

New parliament is not the parliament of Chechen people. I'm afraid that is the parliament of Mr. Ramzan Kadirov. Did you share this opinion?

The big problem in Chechnya is, that the real power - private, semi-official security militias, which legitimate themselves by fighting "terrorists" - has hardly any democratic legitimacy and that the official power which at least some democratic legitimacy seems to be too weak to impose the legitimating will and the interest of the majority of the normal citizens. It s hard to believe that the new Parliament is able to change this situation.

We confronted the personal expression of the real power, Ramsan Kadirow, with these and other hard criticism; he faced it and responded in a very self assure and not very auto-critical way. And we discussed four times similar observations also with the much more thoughtful and sensitive president Alchanov who s position is extremely difficult. He seems also to be aware of specific traditional, in a certain way "pre-modern" elements of the Chechnyan society, which undermines the efforts to build democracy and establish human rights. Ramsan is profiting from such contradictions, president Alchanov, this was my personal impression, seems also to suffer about it.

The Kremlin should not delegate too many of its own responsibility to Ramsan Kadyrow. In doing this it does not only discredit core interests of the Russian society but also undermine basic values such as human rights and democracy what would exactly help those fundamentalist Islamic groups and terrorists, such as Bassayew, whom democrats have to bring to the Courts and justice.

What about the Chechens from Maschadov side? Did they take part in elections? Some of them yes, but I'm afraid they are only conformists. There were no candidates from Zakayev side.

Of course we could no go into the mountains to meet anybody as well we would not know, who there belongs to the real terrorist and who are fighter who do not use terrorist means. But when I consider that Maschadev has been very popular in the society I guess that even some of his sympathisers went to vote just in order to do everything possible to create a political structure which might be useful sometimes. One should really not underestimate the pragmatism of the Chechnyan people as the different Diaspora communities are doing. When you are faced daily which such a misery you just use any small changes with the hope it might help you out. That's why one cant deny a certain participation - I would guess between 30 and 50 %.

It was a real pity and is an expression of the lack of pluralism and inclusiveness that the Republican Party was prevented to participate - I guess they would not have been far away from positions Achmed Zakayev is also defending. I will ask him this of course, when I meet him in the coming weeks in London.

Is the constitution, president and parliament enough to stabilize the situation in Chechnya?

Stabilisation is a misleading word. A grave and even a prison are very stable - peace is something very different. Therefore you need real democracy, respected human rights, a reconstruction of the economy and the start of a reconciliation process in the society. Stabilisation comes after these processes of democratisation and reconciliation, not without or even against them.

The president has capacities for these processes, the constitution might be improved, what the parliament is able to do, we will see. But all need to get all powers under democratic control, what is until today not the case in Chechnya.

Chechen syndrome is spreading around the south of Russia (Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Dagestan). Kremlin policy is totally wrong. How to change it? What do you suggest? Are they ready to listen proposals from Council of Europe and EU? Is OSCE interested to solve the Chechnya problem or they are simply afraid of Moscow?

The OSCE is excluded because the Russian feel to be offended by the strong Americans there. The EU is in Moscow perceived to be a concurrent. The weakest of all these international organisations, the CoE is the only one, where the Russians at least partially feel also to be at home. That's why the CoE has big potentials to integrate Russia in the wider Europe which is its historical task and raison d'être.

We should establish a open and tough discussions process with the Kremlin. Because I do think more that they lack a real political strategy in the Causes - more than that this one would wrong. Nobody really seems to feel responsible within the Kremlin for Russia; they delegate too much too ambiguous figures like Ramsan Kadyrev who discredit by his was of using illegal force and power also the positive sides of the Russian interests. To establish such a Caucasian dialog with the Kremlin would be a great thing in interest of all of us. Dimitri Kosak is surely in favour of such a dialog as Konstantin Kosachew, but both seem not to be supported by the hard core fractions of the Kremlin who belong to the security sectors.

The basic point remains to be: You can only start a peace and a reconciliation process by including those you fought against as long as they now respect democratic means and standards.

What about the round table? When are you planning to organise the next session? Maybe in Grozni? I heard that you are planning to visit Zakayev in London (We can go together).

This debate will take place in the subcommittee in two weeks in Paris. We have to make a new step to be more inclusive and representative for the whole society in the 2nd Round Table too. The place and the date should depend from this opportunity.

Yes, I will try to be allowed to visit Zakayev in London as well as Kosak in Moscow from the committee. Both are crucial for any progress we want to make. I even asked Alchanev if he had a message for Zakajev. He asked indirectly the national authorities to consider his amnesty as a condition to be able to include him. This is nevertheless a little encouragement.

The more the crises in Chechnya is not really and politically faced it will infect the whole region - which already happened - and also countries on the other side of the Russian borders. This is the way: we should not give up to work and look for solutions - if not we will all be faced with the horrible consequences.

Elections in Azerbaijan: The opposition wants to repeat them. What's your comment about elections in Baku?

I will be Friday in Baku to discuss with the Central Electoral Commission and the Constitutional Court more cancellations and repetition. There was much fraud and there fore now big frustrations and disappointed hopes which create potentials of violence. What happened last Saturday by the inappropriate use of force by the police is unacceptable. But we have to be aware that in Baku the power structures face an fight between different oligarchic groups and to misuse and manipulate others for this struggle. And there are also people who want to organise provocations in order to bring Azerbaijan away from the European ways which the president is favouring but he seems to be not able to make all his governors and administrable directors to follow and support him.

But its true we have to see the North and the South of the Caucasus much more as a cultural unit with similar political problems and deficits. This many of us do not enough.

Andreas Gross

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