Update on situation in Zhanaozen
Debate over Zhanaozen Lessons for Society Continues
By Zhanar Abdullina and Altair Nurbekov
ASTANA, December 28 – The small town of Zhanaozen in the forbidding steppes of western Kazakhstan continues to draw the attention of people across Kazakhstan and abroad, after it was thrust into the spotlight by violent disturbances on December 16.
The tragic events on Kazakhstan’s Independence Day have evoked a wide response among the general public that keeps expressing a painful mix of sorrow, sympathy, anguish, concern and righteous anger. The tragedy has also entailed much deeper deliberations on the lessons which should be drawn from the incident to prevent recurrence of similar situations in the future.
In a column in the Liter newspaper, political analyst Sanzhar Bokayev wrote the tragedy in Zhanaozen remains the most widely discussed subject in Kazakhstan, and the one used most often by politicians seeking to score points now: “I was surprised to notice many of the candidates for Mazhilis were not embarrassed by the absence of accurate on-the-spot information. The key point for these people in such a situation was to attract public attention to themselves and accuse their rivals of inactivity.”
“This incident, above all, has again demonstrated the failure of the system to properly respond to the unexpected challenges unless there is the interference from the head of state, Nursultan Nazarbayev. But to qualify the events as “unexpected” would be, to say the least, inexpedient, because the conflict has been brewing since long ago. These kinds of challenges, however, thrown out to the people of Kazakhstan, further consolidate the society, which is proved by the fact that throughout all these days the people across the country have been expressing their concern, anxiety and said openly they understood the true reasons of what happened,” Bokayev said.
When asked about the lessons of Zhanaozen, Nurlan Yerimbetov, the host of the Ait-Park debate club said: “Zhanaozen has demonstrated that over the two decades of stability we have become complacent, while the system of state governance has failed to properly handle this emergency situation. That is the reason why there is so much fuss over the search for the guilty persons. I would like to mention that open and transparent discussions of the existing problems in Zhanaozen were initiated by the very “Samruk-Kazyna” National Welfare Fund. It was the first discussion topic of the “Expert” debate club, which resulted in a tough but much needed public discourse with the participation of the opponents of the authorities. The subject by no means benefited “Samruk-Kazyna”, and their civic attitude deserves respect. Unfortunately, the dialogue failed to continue both in the Government, and in the Parliament or any other state agency concerned. The saddest thing of all is that it was not taken up by the society.”
Senator Gani Kassymov, the leader of the Party of Patriots, thinks it is essential to find genuine instigators of the disturbances. “The head of state has already pointed at them. These people are linked to illegal oil production and embezzlement in the region. It is they who were interested in the riots aimed at destabilization of the companies. The government should pay close attention to the illegal turnover of oil in the region. I agree that “KazMunaiGas” company showed nearsightedness while dismissing the workers. But did the company have any other choice? Timur Kulibayev said the damage of the strike amounted to 94 billion tenge. This is a huge sum of money, and businesses should bear responsibility for the financial indices, not for the social protests. There are many paradoxes in our country though. For instance, the government takes on investment projects, while business structures are dealing with social responsibility. It should be vice versa.”
Deputy of the Majilis of the 4th convocation Bakhyt Syzdykova believes the sad developments in Zhanaozen will teach the people of Kazakhstan a lot: “First of all, we have realised one cannot hush up the problem – it should be discussed and resolved. I recall my proposing at one of the sessions of Majilis to establish a commission on the strike in Zhanaozen, but my idea found no support. Second, the events which took place there provide ample evidence of the absence of trade union as an active institution in our country that would protect the rights of workers and would likewise be respected by employers. Democracy is, above all, about culture. We have already gained democracy and freedom. However, we have not yet learned how to use them. Third, we have again seen that Nazarbayev is the true people’s president. He personally met those who protested in Zhanaozen, spoke to the mothers of the deceased and answered most embarrassing questions. And people do know that the President will help them”.
Commission Establishes Damage Costs & Compensation for Zhanaozen Families, PM Asks All Regions to Contribute 100 Million Tenge Each
By Gulnaz Kalikhanova
ASTANA – The December 16 mass disturbances in Zhanaozen caused an estimated KZT 2 billion in damage, not counting losses suffered by local entrepreneurs, Umirzak Shukeyev, chairman of the government commission on Zhanaozen and the newly appointed head of the Samruk-Kazyna Fund said at a government meeting led by Prime Minister Karim Massimov in Astana on December 28.
Shukeyev reported to the meeting of his visit to the town on December 27. He also said the families of those who died will receive one million tenge (US$1 = 148.28 tenge), while half a million will be given to the injured people.
Right now about 950 people are employed in cleaning and landscaping works in Zhanaozen, as well as the villages of Tenge and Shetpe.
“The town needs improvement and repair works, as well as construction of roads. For this purpose, we suggest to develop a special programme following the experience of our cities that are now leaders in landscaping. The Ministry of Economic Development and Trade and the akimat in conjunction with other bodies are invited to urgently develop a programme on Zhanaozen improvement and discuss how much money is needed for this,” Shukeyev said
While in Zhanaozen, Shukeyev called on the residents of Zhanaozen to join the restoration process by creating so-called community councils, in particular, under cooperatives of apartment workers.
“We need to mobilize people to order and discipline and let the town live its peaceful life and return to the peaceful regime. That’s why it is important to organize all co-ops and create a public council under each of them that will advance proposals for us to work on. During each of my trips I will visit two to three co-ops, talk to them, and receive feedback and signals from the population,” Shukeyev said.
Shukeyev also said he visited Zhanaozen’s major stores that had been robbed or destroyed during the riots. Talking to the heads of these stores, Shukeyev said the city department of entrepreneurship has created a commission for evaluating the costs of damage for each site. “We will certainly help you. Nobody will be forgotten. The amount of damage of each affected facility will be determined,” he said and called on entrepreneurs to submit applications for compensations.
Shukeyev also said the government commission will work on the issue of providing affected entrepreneurs with soft loans from banks and the “Damu” (Development) fund. “We will lower the cost of credit to the maximum, to seven percent at least,” he said.
At present, the city department of entrepreneurship has received applications for compensation on the part of 17 commercial sites amounting to KZT 284 million.
Following the meeting with entrepreneurs, Umirzak Shukeyev held a meeting in the town akimat (administration), currently located in a sport complex, with representatives of the civil society, businesses, and communal services.
Heads of seven subcommittees created under the government commission on Zhanaozen provided reports on the stabilization of the town. A subcommittee on restoration works said nearly all consequences of the riots have been eliminated. A total of 83 tonnes of burnt debris were removed from the town as a result of cleaning burned down buildings.
Shukeyev noted that the issue of reemployment of laid-off oil workers will remain under the commission’s control. He also said that 30 former employees of the KarazhanbasMunai oil company had already applied for employment in a new transport company under this oil enterprise.
“There is an increase of interest from the part of former workers of the OzenMunaiGaz. If three days ago, we had only 6 applications, today there are already 12 of them. I think people will make the right decision and take advantage of the offer to work in a new drilling company that will be set up in Zhanaozen,” Shukeyev said.
According to the town administration, housing and communal services in Zhanaozen are working in normal mode, providing the town with electricity and gas. To equip these services, the government has allocated KZT 83 million. In addition, about KZT 150 million were allocated for cleaning and landscaping the town.
The Zhanaozen administration said the akimat building will be renovated completely, while the Aruana hotel, which had almost burnt to the ground, will be demolished and rebuilt. Reconstruction of other sites will begin soon too.
The town’s employment department has sent about 50 people to reconstruction works in the akimat building. Restoration and cleaning works in the buildings of the OzenMunaiGaz company and the Aruana hotel involve about 140 people.
As of December 26, the Mangistau regional Stabilisation fund received 5,120 tonnes of food in total, including 4,437 tonnes for Aktau and 683 tonnes for Zhanaozen. Food fairs, providing 16 different items, were held in the villages of Tenge and Kyzylsai on December 24-25. As a result, more than 58 tonnes of food worth more than KZT 5 million were sold.
During the meeting, Shukeyev said locals have asked him to pass their request to President Nazarbayev, asking to keep the state of emergency till January 5.
“I will pass your request on to the President. In principle, I understand your concern. To stabilize the situation it is necessary to neutralize the underlying causes. We have put out the first fire, but we need to create conditions that will prevent such situations from happening again. That’s the main thing,” he replied.
At the meeting, televised live online via www.pm.kz/ru, the Prime Minister’s website, Karim Massimov instructed all the 14 regions of Kazakhstan to provide 100 million tenge to a special fund that will be created locally by the governor’s office for assisting in Zhanaozen.
Massimov also instructed the Ministry of Communication and Information to create and send a group of experts to Zhanaozen to set up centres for to provide conditions for timely coverage of the situation.
“There are now lots of gossip, rumours, speculations. Some out of ignorance, some on purpose, and others for some other reasons are fanning the flames around this process. At this stage we should ensure clear communication. Information must be legible, clear, open, and transparent,” Massimov stressed.
Speaking via videolink from Aktau, the Mangistau region’s governor Baurzhan Mukhamedzhanov also told the government that the situation in the region was stable.
Zhanaozen Violence Shocks Nation, Prompts Deeper Debate over Role of Civil Society
ASTANA, December 26 – Violent disturbances in the town of Zhanaozen on December 16, Kazakhstan’s Independence Day, have been met with a mixture of anguish, consternation, concern and indignation across the nation that has since long prided itself on its stability and growing prosperity. They have also prompted a much deeper debate over the need for a more vigorous public discourse and an even bigger role for the civil society.
The fact that a labour dispute between oil companies of Kazakhstan’s major oil-producing region and, as it now turns out, their unjustly dismissed employees evolved into mass rioting with tragic implications shocked virtually every single person across Kazakhstan. The grief of the families of the deceased has been shared by many people throughout the country. The public’s verdict is unequivocal: there is still a lot to learn, both for the government and for the society itself from this incident.
In a December 24 interview with Vremya newspaper, Yermukhamet Yertysbayev, the political advisor to President Nazarbayev, said he hoped that “in light of the recent events, the expedited creation of a civil society in Kazakhstan becomes a mainstream direction of our modernization”. This commentary becomes even more poignant in light of the fact that there are already 18,000 NGOs in the country dealing with issues ranging from youth activities to environment and the rights of people with disabilities.
For many people, though, it was extremely important that President Nursultan Nazarbayev has reacted to the situation, personally visited Zhanaozen last week, met with the locals there and carried out drastic management reshuffle, replacing the head of the local government and executives at KazMunaiGaz, the national oil company, and OzenMunaiGaz, its subsidiary. As Bakhyt Syzdykova, a former deputy of the Majilis emphatically wrote in her Twitter account, “The President is in Zhanaozen. I adore him.”
As the specially created government commission now works to restore Zhanaozen and resolve the labour dispute, people hope the rehabilitation process is on the way and is bound to bring stability. At the same time, they continue to ponder the reasons for the recent violence trying to come up with ways to prevent anything like that from happening in the future.
In an interview with the Express-K newspaper last Saturday, chair of the NGO Association of Zhambyl region Ainura Zaurbekova shared her concern: “Over the past week my family and I have been closely following the shocking events in Zhanaozen and the following steps by the authorities to provide peace and security. Everyone knows the situation there was heating up long ago. But even the long-drawn conflict did not give the protesters the right to go over the line.”
[According to the latest count from the Office of the Prosecutor General, 16 people died and up to 100 were wounded as a result of clashes between a mixture of striking oil workers and, as many people believe, provocateurs, on the one hand, and police on the other. In a small town of 90,000, a total of 46 buildings and facilities were either burned or destroyed during the day of looting and rioting on December 16.]
In turn, the head of the Shymkent Information and Analytical Centre “Sukhbat” Vladimir Zharinov said: “In a democratic society, there should be no bloodshed. I am convinced these well-organized disturbances have nothing to do with the real problems of workers who know the worth of every building in the town that they built with their own hands.”
The Liter daily newspaper did a sort of survey and posed the question “What lessons should we draw from Zhanaozen?” to a diverse group of experts making them come up with conclusions following the lamentable developments in the west of Kazakhstan.
“We should teach our young people some simple truth,” deputy of the Majilis of the 4th convocation Mayra Aissina said. “Our land has been cherished by our forefathers, and our goal now is not to let anyone embroil us into their shady tricks. We have everything to live a good life, both the conditions and opportunities. We only have to put all of these to proper use. Third, we should instill true patriotism into the future generations of Kazakhstan. Those young people who succumbed to provocation and arranged the rioting in Zhanaozen not only did much harm to their country, they also forgot about their grandfathers who lived in the most severe conditions to boost regional development in Mangystau.”
[The Mangistau region on the shore of the Caspian Sea is famous for its harsh climate and tough working conditions. The town of Zhanaozen is also famous for being a one-industry and almost a one-company settlement since the majority of its citizens are either employed or have a relation to the OzenMunaiGaz company. The company produces oil from the nearby namesake field which has been in operation for almost 40 years. Astonishingly, as the production at this rather old field continued to decline over the past decade, the population of Zhanaozen swelled from 60,000 in 2000 to 90,000 now, aggravating the problem of employment.]
Islam Abishev, akim (mayor) of Ust-Kamenogorsk in the east of Kazakshtan, said: “The only right thing to do in such a situation is to speak directly to the people. There is no need for lofty speeches, it is essential to pinpoint solutions. And this is exactly what our President is doing at the moment.”
Political analyst Aydos Sarym thinks the major message is clear: “The problems we do not solve today will blow up tomorrow. Those mines which we are not able to defuse tomorrow are inevitably going to go off in the future. Now we are all aware of the fact that one cannot always put their problems aside. Otherwise, this may lead to a genuine catastrophe that we saw in Zhanaozen”.
“Our people do remember the developments which took place on December 16, 1986. That is why we have been living in peace over the last 25 years. I strongly hope the people who are going to work in politics during the next decade will never forget the tragic events in Zhanaozen of 2011,” he added.
In an op-ed penned for the Liter, Senator Gani Kassymov, the leader of the Party of Patriots, wrote that he believes December 16, 2011, opened a new chapter in the life of Kazakhstan: “The case has revealed grave problems and major imperfections of interaction between the state and society and brought awareness of serious gaps in some particular spheres. During his extraordinary visit to the Mangystau region, Nazarbayev made it clear that people should know the truth, no matter how harsh it is. It is crucial to maintain objectivity, which the region apparently did not have before December 16. We must learn the lesson in order not to walk twice into the same water. All the akims and ministers should keep in mind that indifference is a serious crime.”
In that same newspaper, Anna Vakarova, a teacher of psychology, contended that in case people have issues with the government they should resolve them in a legitimate way, as far as they are the citizens of a democratic civil society.
Renowned violin artist Lana said: “I have always advocated only evolutional development and exclusively peaceful ways of resolving any disputes. No good will come from the bloodshed.”
And in an interview with the Kazakhstanskaya Pravda daily newspaper, Kydyrali Bolmanov, a famous Kazakh singer, producer and the creator of the Ulytau rock band, said: “Since ancient times the Kazakh people have always been known to be peace-loving, and we are alien to the atrocities that we have witnessed during the rioting. I am neither a political expert nor a politician to give an assessment to the events in Zhanaozen. However, my heart aches for my people and for those who went out onto the square. I strongly hope the situation is resolved in a peaceful way, and our people always remember that hatred and cruelty get you nowhere.”
President Promises Employment, Thorough Investigation in Zhanaozen
ASTANA – The government commission on Zhanaozen has two weeks to sort out the protracted labour dispute at local oil companies that led to mass dismissals and citizen’s growing dissatisfaction, and to ensure re-employment of the laid-off workers, President Nursultan Nazarbayev said on a visit to Zhanaozen on December 22. He also instructed law enforcement bodies to intensify efforts to identify and trace the instigators of the December 16 mass disturbances, according to Khabar news agency which shared more details from the visit in its December 23 evening broadcast.
“I came to express my condolences to the bereaved families,” the President told Zhanaozen citizens at a meeting that lasted till late evening. Emphasising that the recent tragedy is shared by all Kazakhstan people, the President, visibly very concerned with the situation and clad in promised that all existing problems on the ground will be solved in the shortest time possible. “I take this process under my personal control,” the President said.
The issue of employment, as it turned out, is the most pressing one for the locals, and the new leadership of the KazMunaiGaz company was tasked by the President to deal with it.
“We will provide Zhanaozen citizens with work, but if they are not content with it, there are other options. The country now has many new enterprises that opened within the Industrialization Programme. They offer new opportunities. If young people do not see prospects at home, they can go to work in other regions of Kazakhstan. We will help them in this – pay for travel costs, train them, and provide housing and jobs,” Nazarbayev said.
“We will open a new enterprise, a drilling company, next to the Ozenmunaigaz company. It will be built within a year and employ everyone with the same salary, as well as teach people new skills. Another production will open in Zhetybai (neighbouring town) too, so that people can provide for their families,” the President said.
According to the head of state, the simmering labour dispute resulted in such a severe problem in many respects because the Ozenmunaigaz company was entirely supervised by the KazMunayGas and did not have authority to promptly resolve disputes on the spot. In this regard, President Nazarbayev instructed to reform the management system of the latter.
“We will talk to oil workers and learn their problems and solve them,” newly appointed KazMunayGas Chairman Lyazzat Kiinov told the President. The new head of the KazMunayGas Exploration and Production Company also promised to fulfil all the instructions.
“Civil servants must be closer to people. Yesterday, I was in Mangistau. Due to the fact that some government officials had not listened to the people’s concerns such problems arose there. It is necessary to monitor the system of public service both at the level of local executive bodies as well as regional akimats (representative bodies). Kazakhstan civil servants must work for the good of our people,” President Nazabrayev told the Civil Service Affairs Agency’s Chairman Alikhant Baimenov as he received him on December 23.
According to President Nazarbayev, mass disturbances resulted from that fact that “third parties” exploited problems of oil workers to their advantage. He instructed a thorough investigation of all criminal cases: “Investigation is not a matter of one day. The provocateurs have done their work and disappeared. Half of them have already been detained, but those who had conducted the process in general did not appear in Zhanaozen at all,” the President told Zhanaozen citizens. “We will seriously investigate this case and examine each death individually. We will seek organizers in every part of the world, wherever they might hide. There will be a court and the guilty will be punished. While those oil workers who simply had succumbed to the crowd would be released if not guilty,” he added.
Nursultan Nazarbayev also met with the Zhanaozen police, who said that they avoided using force until the last moment: “When the news arrived that the rioters were going to burn a yurt (tent) with civilians inside, we were forced to take arms and go out. We shot into the sky, but some of the provocateurs yelled that the police had weapons with blank bullets that could be seized from us, so they started attacking us,” a Zhanaozen policeman described to the President how the police had to respond to the hooligans’ actions.
President Nazarbayev’s meeting with Zhanaozen citizens and his promises of early restoration had a positive impact on them. “Nursultan Nazarbayev, you are personally supporting our compatriots who returned to their historic homeland. We thank you for all of your work and for coming here at this point to support us and solve our problems,” Sarsen Mukashev, Chairman of Zhanaozen’s Association of Returnees said to the President.
A day after the President’s visit, the government commission headed by Deputy Prime Minister Umirzak Shukeyev met with oil workers there, the Khabar news agency shared.
“At the town’s cultural centre “Munaishy” (Oil worker), the government commission met with dismissed oil workers and listened to their recommendations and suggestions. In turn, the commission told workers about the President’s instruction to create a new enterprise here that will hire all laid-off workers while ensuring their wages are not less than at previous jobs.”
According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, the situation in Zhanaozen and the Mangistau region in general remains stable. The town is living a normal life, all government and private enterprises work as usual, while Aktau continues to deliver food and building materials. Over the last five days, not a single crime has been reported in Zhanaozen, the Office informed in a press release on December 23.
Zhanaozen Restoration and Investigation under President’s Personal Control
President announces major personnel decisions during his visit to Aktau and Zhanaozen
ASTANA, Dec. 23 – Kazakhstan has all the opportunities to restore normal life in Zhanaozen in the shortest time possible, President Nursultan Nazarbayev said during his visit to the Mangistau region on December 22. A high level meeting in Aktau and a visit to Zhanaozen resulted in a number of direct instructions to the regional administration and the executives of oil companies who failed to timely resolve labour disputes that had lasted for months. The course of work on restoring Zhanaozen will be under the President’s control, he informed during the visits.
The meeting on Zhanaozen events in Aktau brought together representatives of the region’s administration, civil society groups, and labour unions of oil companies, the President’s press service informed. In his address, President Nazarbayev said that the state will take all measures to restore Zhanaozen, ensure the normal functioning of critical infrastructure, and re-employ the laid-off workers. At the same time, he emphasized that a strict compliance with Kazakhstan’s legislation norms is a must.
Thanking Mangistau’s ex-governor Krymbek Kusherbayev for his work, President Nazarbayev presented a new akim (governor) of the region, Baurzhan Mukhamedzhanov, who assumed the new post with the consent of regional Maslikhat (local representative body). Mukhamedzhanov is a doctor of law, a former Senator, and a former Minister of Interior and Minister of Justice.
Nazarbayev reminded that the government commission on Zhanaozen, led by First Deputy Prime Minister Umirzak Shukeyev since December 19, had thoroughly studied the situation on the ground and developed an action plan. To implement that plant, the Government allocated KZT 3 billion and presently considers attracting extra-budgetary funds to help private property owners. At present, the situation in Zhanaozen has stabilized, President said.
According to President Nazarbayev, mass disturbances on December 16 were acts of a group of hooligans, who took advantage of the protracted labour dispute between the dismissed workers and the management of the “Ozenmunaigaz” company.
“The Government, the Samruk-Kazyna Fund, and the KazMunayGas Company did not fulfill my order on the timely resolution of the labour dispute. Unfortunately, they proved unable to resolve this issue. There turned out to be a lot of chance people in the leadership of the national company and its subsidiaries. All these have led to a decrease in the effectiveness of management. Therefore, I appoint Lyazzat Kiinov as new head of the KazMunayGas national company and Alik Aidarbayev as new director of the KazMunasGas Exploration & Production Company,” Nazarbayev said.
The President instructed the Government to comprehensively examine the actions of the authorized government bodies and the KazMunayGas company, to provide specific proposals to punish those responsible, and to reform the management system of the company.
In Zhanaozen, President Nazarbayev inspected the process of reconstruction works, visited sites destroyed during the riots, and met with the town citizens and law enforcement officials. In addition, he met the activists of the town and representatives of labour unions of oil organizations.
“Mass disturbances on the day of the 20th anniversary of Independence were criticized by all our people. Miners, metallurgists, labour groups across the country condemned the disturbances,” Nazarbayev said highlighting that “independence, peace, and harmony have always been the main values of the Kazakhstan people.”
During the meeting, the new head of KMG Lyazzat Kiinov assured all issues, including the re-employment of laid-off workers, will be resolved soon, while Alik Aidarbayev promised to promptly fulfill the President’s orders.
Nursultan Nazarbayev instructed the Government to address all the organizational and financial issues for the rapid reconstruction of the destroyed facilities in Zhanaozen. Other regions of the country expressed their desire to assist in the restoration of the town. In addition, Nursultan Nazarbayev noted that domestic businesses also will assist in the reconstruction and improvement of the town.
The Government and the Samruk-Kazyna Fund have to make decisions to endow the status of legal persons to the structural units of the KazMunaiGaz company to enable them to promptly solve social problems of labour collectives, the President said. He also instructed the government commission on Zhanaozen to identify all the reasons that caused dissatisfaction among the Ozenmunaigaz employees and citizens of Zhanaozen and offer suggestions on how to overcome them within two weeks.
The President said each resident of Zhanaozen has the opportunity to find a job at one of the enterprises created within the framework of the Programme for Accelerated Industrial and Innovative Development (PAIID).
Nursultan Nazarbayev instructed the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs to take all necessary steps to investigate criminal cases related to mass disturbances. At that, the investigation must be conducted openly and transparently with the involvement of a public commission headed by Omirzak Ozganbayev, Chairman of the Board of Veterans of the Mangistau region, the President said.
According to President Nazarbayev, the vast majority of experts, including foreign specialists, agree that the events in Zhanaozen were specially organized and planned actions “of a provocative nature, as evidenced by their meticulous organization and timing.” In general, overseas there is an objective understanding of the situation and the government actions to resolve it, the head of state stressed.
In conclusion, the President said the tragedy in Zhanaozen has become common for all Kazakhstan people and clearly demonstrated the importance of strengthening the stability and unity among citizens. Today, virtually no country in the world has escaped mass disturbances that resulted from the unprecedented global economic crisis, he said.
“Thanks to the unity of Kazakhstan’s people and consistent socio-economic policies, we have all possibilities to conduct the necessary work to restore normal life in Zhanaozen in the shortest time. In connection with this, I instruct all government bodies to organize a joint and coordinated work. Everything must be done quickly, in the shortest time. I will keep the course of investigation under personal control,” Nursultan Nazarbayev said.
Government Directs KZT 3 Bln to Zhanaozen, President Appoints New Regional Governor
ASTANA, Dec. 22 – The Government of Kazakhstan has allocated more than KZT 3 billion (more than 20 million dollars) to implement its special plan to deal with the aftermath of mass disturbances in Zhanaozen and restore the town. President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced this decision at a special top level meeting in Astana on December 22.
The plan of measures was adopted by the government commission created at the President’s request on December 19 and headed by First Deputy Prime Minister Umirzak Shukeyev. The commission has visited the Mangistau region, met with the public, and thoroughly studied the situation on the ground, Nazarbayev said at the meeting attended by Prime Minister Karim Massimov, Senate Speaker Kairat Mami, Head of the Presidential Administration Aslan Mussin, and heads of other state bodies.
President Nazarbayev highlighted that at present the situation in the town has stabilized. The government bodies are functioning normally.
At the meeting, Aslan Mussin reported on the implementation of orders given by the President at the Security Council meeting on December 17. At the same time, Umirzak Shukeyev informed about the work of the government commission and its results. Prosecutor General Askhat Daulbayev reported about the process of investigation to establish those responsible for organizing mass disturbances in the town of Zhanaozen. Following the meeting, President Nazarbayev gave a number of specific instructions.
After the meeting, Nursultan Nazarbayev flew to the city of Aktau for another meeting on Zhanaozen. The akim (mayor) of the Mangistau region Krymbek Kursherbayev was dismissed from his post following the President’s decree upon his arrival to Aktau. Baurzhan Mukhamedzhanov, the deputy of the Senate, was appointed a new governor of the region.
In addition, the head of the national oil company KazMunaiGaz, whose employees participated in the strike which lasted for several months, was replaced on the same day. “Today, in consultation with the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, the Board of “Samruk-Kazyna” has made a decision to terminate powers of the Chairman of the Board of the KazMunaiGaz JSC Bolat Akchulakov. Lyazzat Kiinov is appointed Chairman of the Board and member of the Board of KazMunaiGaz,” the Samruk-Kazyna Fund informed on its website. Before the new appointment, Lyazzat Kiinov was Kazakhstan’s deputy minister of oil and gas and headed the same company in 2002.
Zhanaozen Returns to Normal after Violent Clashes
ASTANA, Dec.19 - Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed on Dec. 17 a decree declaring a three week state of emergency in the town of Zhanaozen in the Mangistau Oblast following mass disturbances which left fourteen dead and 75 wounded, including policemen, on Dec. 16.
President Nazarbayev expressed condolences to the families of those who died and those who were injured and promised government assistance.
That day peaceful citizens who gathered on the central square at a children’s concert to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the country’s independence were attacked by a group of hooligans.
In flagrant violation of public order, the perpetrators also attacked the police, turned the Christmas tree upside down, destroyed the yurts (tents) and the stage arranged on the square for the festivities. They also set a police bus on fire. The group of hooligans then began beating up civilians, smashing and burning cars parked near the square, and looting ATM cash machines, shops and banks. A total of 46 facilities were burned down, including the mayor’s office, a hotel and the “Ozenmunaigaz” company building.
In response to the demands of the police to stop their illegal actions, the group of hooligans attacked police officers and tried to seize their weapons, prompting the police to use lethal force in self defense.
“All of these past years, we have been working to strengthen stability, peace and harmony in our country,” President Nazarbayev said at the extraordinary meeting of the Security Council on Dec.17. “These are our main values, due to which we have reached success. We will not allow any attempts to upstage peace and harmony in our home, shatter the achievements of our independence.”
In the linked protests at the Shetpe railway station in the Mangistau region a group of people blocked the railways tracks and threw bottles wity Molotov cocktails and stones at the locomotives, police officers. They set afire a train carrying around 300 passengers aboard. The police were obliged to use force to end the attacks. As a result, one person was killed and 11 wounded.
According to the Office of the Prosecutor General, criminal cases were initiated following the disturbances. The government set up an investigative team led by the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kalmukhambet Kassymov, which flew to Zhanaozen to take all necessary measures to prevent criminal acts, identify and bring to justice the organizers of the disturbances, and to restore public security and stability in the town.
“From the onset, the law enforcement bodies of Kazakhstan has ensured full openness and transparency of the actions by the authorities,” Yerzhan Kazykhanov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, said at a Dec.19 briefing in Moscow. “We express our deep condolences to the families of those who died.”
“All actions of the law enforcement bodies were within the limits of the law and weapons were used solely for self-defence,” Kazykhanov said. He also underscored that the labour dispute of striking oil workers should in no way be mixed with the actions of "bandit elements" who used them for their criminal purposes.
A special commission of the government and the national oil and gas KazMunaiGas company on Zhanaozen led by First Deputy Prime Minister Umirzak Shukeyev has been set up to help bring resolution to the oil workers’ strike. The commission already flew to Zhanaozen to start working.
Right now there are some 20 journalists in Zhanaozen, and all foreign media as well as diplomats and foreign visitors will continue to be welcomed in the town to monitor the situation on the ground.
Deeply saddened by the incidents, people across Kazakhstan strongly condemned the banditry. “With a sore heart and alarm, we took the news from Zhanaozen. Attempts by extremists, or even instigators, to destabilise the situation in our country have drawn the indignation of the entire people of Kazakhstan,” Albert Dolgorshinnykh, department head of the Karaganda State Medical University, told the Khabar TV channel.
“The fact the violence happened on Independence Day leaves in serious doubt their patriotism. In other words, they counter-distinguished themselves with the people of Kazakhstan,” Rustam Alpysbayev, Director of the Almaty Regional Youth Centre, said.
The government remains determined to protect the safety and security of people. The curfew will be in force for 20 days, however, if calm is ensured and all issues are resolved before then, it can be rescinded at any time.
Currently, the situation in the town of Zhanaozen and the region in general has been taken under full control.
Zhanaozen Slowly Returns to Normal
ASTANA – The situation in the town of Zhanaozen, as well as in the Mangistau region in general, is gradually returning to normal after mass disturbances that took place there on Dec. 16-17, officials have said over the past few days.
A government commission put in place by Prime Minister Karim Massimov on Dec. 19 continues to address socio-economic and other problems of the town, including seeking ways to resolve labour dispute with the striking workers of oil companies.
As of December 22, the communication and power systems in Zhanaozen have been restored, with all shops and markets continuing work as normal, the General Prosecutor’s Office informed on Dec. 21 in a press release.
A three-week state of emergency and curfew were introduced in Zhanaozen by President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s decree on Dec. 17. To stabilize the situation, a military unit commanded by Amanzhol Kabylov, Head of the Mangistau Region Interior Department and the newly appointed commandant of the town, has begun its work within the state of emergency.
“The town Commandant is taking active steps to clean urban areas (about 50 percent cleared) and reopen educational institutions, socio-cultural and other sites critical for population (all state bodies, the election commission, grocery stores, pharmacies, and the central market are functioning),” the General Prosecutor’s Office said.
In a Dec. 20 meeting with journalists, Commandant Kabylov said “forces and resources of the ministry of internal affairs, the ministry of defense, and personnel of the regional interior department have been pulled to Zhanaozen, totaling 10,000 troops. Checkpoints were put in place around the perimeter of Zhanaozen and 12 posts are operating in the town. Since Dec. 16 the protection of critical facilities and infrastructure is being ensured. Checkpoints and patrols have produced results. As Commandant of the city I can promise that we will ensure security.”
Commenting on Internet videos on Dec.21 purportedly showing police firing on retreating protesters some of whom are seen throwing rocks, Kabylov said the prosecution office has initiated its own separate investigation into the actions of the police while “the internal security department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs has launched an in-house investigation into charges of using firearms by the police.” All conclusions will be made public within one week, Kabylov said.
He confirmed eight people were arrested and five detained on suspicion of participation in mass disturbances. “Lots of weapons were seized” from the rioters on-site and in the houses of some townspeople, Kabylov added, as officials displayed some of the weapons for the visiting media, including pistols, self made guns, iron bars and bottles with Molotov cocktails. It was also noted that rioters on Dec.16 used kettles to bottle flame fuel downright on the main square.
Meanwhile, the Mangistau region akimat (Mayor’s office) managed to restore power systems in Zhanaozen to provide the town with electricity and phone service. On December 21, the Ministry of Communication and Information said lines of communication in the Mangistau region were restored. “Access to the Internet and cellular communication was absent due to the damaged telecommunication systems and disruptions in electricity supply caused by the unrest. According to the operators, communication services are operating in full in the normal mode now.”
On Dec. 20, Prime Minister Massimov listened to the first reports of the government commission on its work in Zhanaozen. The commission that includes heads of central and local executive bodies, as well as national companies, is led by first deputy prime minister Umirzak Shukeyev.
“First of all, we need to return the town to a normal rhythm and restore all the damaged and destroyed facilities as quickly as possible. We must make sure there is no shortage of essential commodities, food, and medicine,” Massimov said opening the Cabinet meeting.
In a video address, Shukeyev informed that the commission had created seven subcommittees to fully deal with the aftermath of the events. “To ensure food safety, the Ministry of Agriculture and the regional akimat determined the current balance of food and developed rapid and systemic measures to ensure uninterrupted provision of the necessary food to citizens. For this purpose, the ministry of agriculture and the “KazAgro” Holding allocated KZT 570 million.”
“There is no scarcity of food and the rise in prices is not noted. Bakeries are provided with enough flour. Thus, there are no disruptions in the supply of bread. The supply of heat, gas, water, and electricity is fully resumed, as well as that of the telephone service. Measures to restore the banking system have been taken. The public transportation is operating as before (the riots),” Shukeyev said.
The commission has also determined the amount of damage. Preliminary estimates showed the amount could reach about KZT 1.9 billion, as a result of the damage inflicted on 41 facilities.
The Government will allocate more than KZT 1.2 billion for the immediate needs of Zhanaozen. A corresponding decision was made at the Cabinet meeting following the report by the minister of emergency situations Vladimir Bozhko. “The working group has developed a draft decision on allocation of funds for immediate needs, according to which it is necessary to allocate funds to the regional akimat for the cleaning of the town, to compensate for transportation costs, for the purchase of fuel and equipping the state bodies.”
In addition, Bozhko introduced a draft resolution that envisions reservation of the budget funds in case citizens who suffered from the events and experienced loss of property or some other damage request assistance.
With regard to the activity of the production branch of the Ozenmunaigaz company, Shukeyev said its work has been restored and the personnel is back to work. He assured that this process will be under constant control of the commission. According to the General Prosecutor’s Office, “on Dec. 21, 2011, all employees of the Ozenmunaigaz and the Karazhanbasmunaigaz reported to work.”
The commission attaches great importance to ensuring provision of prompt and accurate information. Starting from Dec. 20, broadcasts covering the situation in the town and the ongoing restoration work have begun on the ground. Along with this, the commission plans to hold daily briefings and press conferences by the town Commandant.
In addition, Karim Massimov instructed the Minister of Communication and Information Askar Zhumagaliyev to ensure transparency and accessibility of information to the media about events in Zhanaozen.
According to the General Prosecutor’s Office, since the beginning of the state of emergency not a single fact of use of firearms by the law enforcement bodies has been allowed. On December 22, the Office confirmed the previously reported number of victims and established that 15 people died as a result of mass disturbances in Zhanaozen. The list of victims has been posted at www.prokuror.kz.
Commenting on the situation, Prime Minister Massimov said “the Government has taken rapid measures, but the deep causes of the established situation need fuller investigation. The corresponding work and suggestions will be put forward in order to prevent such events from happening in Zhanaozen or any other place in our country.